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CT dealers unite for new 'boutique' show

The April 23-25 Spring Boat Show in Essex combines a variety of new and used vessels with a VIP atmosphere

Soundings Publications has been named exclusive media sponsor for the Spring Boat Show, which takes place April 23-25 in Essex, Conn.

The Brewer Dauntless Marina docks (right) in Essex. Conn., will play host April 23-25 to the Spring Boat Show.

"Essex will be a great venue for this new spring show," says Bill Sisson, editor of Soundings and Soundings Trade Only magazines. "And I think the wide variety of boats and the fact that brokers and dealers can show both new and used models will be strong selling points. From trawlers and tugs to sailboats and express cruisers, this little show will offer the public a good number of quality builders and models."

The Spring Boat Show will bring together Soundings and Brewer Dauntless Shipyard & Marina with five Essex-based dealers and brokers - Boatworks Yacht Sales, Wilde Yacht Sales, Eastland Yachts, Hank Aldrich Yacht Sales and Prestige Yacht Sales - showcasing a nice variety of vessels. More than 50 vessels will be on display, including sail and power, new and used from 25 to 72 feet. The show will run 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. each of the three days at the Brewer Dauntless Marina on 9 Novelty Lane in Essex. Admittance is free.

Though area dealers have talked about such a show for years, this seemed like the right time, says Doug Domenie, general manager of Essex-based Brewer Dauntless Shipyard & Marina (

"Definitely this is the time for boat dealers to create their own opportunities to showcase their boats," says Domenie. "And Essex is such a great destination. It will be a spring kickoff for the town, as well as a very successful local show, which we plan to grow in coming years."

The suspension this year of the Newport (R.I.) Spring Boat Show as well as Brewer's acquisition of the Novelty Lane location combined to make this the right time to launch a small regional show, he says. Plus, in this economy, the industry needs to work together to create new opportunities.

"A lot of our work here at Brewer comes from the boats sold locally. Really, we're a small industry and we need each other to do what we can to make the consumer happy," Domenie says.

"What we have to do as an industry is make the experience as positive as possible for consumers. At a 'boutique' show like this, we can treat every boater like a VIP."

Essex itself is unique in how many dealers there are in town, says Ben Wilde, president of Wilde Yacht Sales ( - who sees the variety of boats as one advantage of a regional show.

"And we may see that concept of a regional show grow," says Wilde. "There are certain people who don't want to go to a big show. I think this is an event that can really develop."

Wilde will be showcasing 32, 37 and 42 Nordic Tugs at the show, in addition to 21- and 29-foot Ranger Tugs.

Consumers will likely see vessels at the Essex show they wouldn't see at other shows - namely, brokerage boats, says Dick Nolan, owner of Eastland Yachts (

"A lot of boat shows don't allow - or limit - the number of used boats, but many boaters these days are looking for a used vessel," says Nolan, who has exhibited at a number of larger shows this season. "The Spring Boat Show allows us to offer a greater variety to the consumer. And the fact that it's free is a great feature because the consumer can come in without a big financial commitment and see a variety of boats."

Eastland plans to display between 10 and 12 boats - both new and brokerage - including the Nonsuch 26, 30 and 33, a Freedom 40, Legacy 52 powerboat, Najad 390, and vessels from Hallberg-Rassy and up to three Sabre models.

Essex is a wonderful venue in which to display boats, says Hank Aldrich of Hank Aldrich Yacht Sales ( And even in this era of online listings and boat searches, there's something special about coming out to a show, he says.

"You can do all of your research online, but ultimately you have to come out and look at the boat," says Aldrich. "Here you'll have a variety of high-quality vessels in one spot."

Aldrich's brokerage will have a 1986 Egg Harbor Sedan on display, as well as five other vessels at the nearby Brewer Dauntless yard: a 2007 27-foot Sea Ray Amberjack; a 1978 32-foot Trojan Sedan; 2007 36-foot Sea Ray Sedan Bridge; 2007 53-foot V53 Viking Sport Cruiser; and a 1982 61-foot Hatteras Motor Yacht.

The smaller setting will allow dealers to give boaters more individual attention, says Tom Pilkington from Prestige Yacht Sales (

Prestige will be showing vessels from its American Tug and Hunt Yachts lines, including the American Tug 34 and 41, Hunt Harrier 25 and 29, and a Surfhunter 29 hardtop coupe. Prestige is planning to have the Hunt 52 on hand as well.

"There are times at the bigger boat shows we have to hire people just to manage traffic, walking visitors through the boat. Here we will have the time to spend with the consumer," he says. "And who wouldn't like to go to Essex for the day?"

The village's maritime history lends itself to an event that appeals to boaters who want to expand their knowledge base, says Clute Ely, president of Boatworks Yacht Sales (

"This show is for people who want to learn in a casual, fun environment with a number of experts in their fields and a broad array of high quality products," says Ely. "It will be a fun, family-friendly atmosphere where you can also walk around the village, have lunch at one of the local restaurants or take in the Connecticut River Museum."

Boatworks Yacht Sales plans to show about 20 boats, including several Grand Banks models: a 47 Eastbay FB, 41 Heritage EU with Zeus pod drives, a 59 Aleutian, and a 72 Aleutian SC, currently being shipped from the factory in Malaysia. "We will also have a couple of new Cabos for the sportfishing crowd," he says, a 36 Express and a 40 Flybridge model with Zeus pod drives.

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This article originally appeared in the Connecticut/New York and New England Home Waters Sections of the May 2010 issue.