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Providence Boat show offers respite from winter

More than 450 boats, 250 exhibitors on hand at the Providence Boat Show held in January

More than 450 boats, 250 exhibitors on hand at the Providence Boat Show held in January

People from all over New England came to the Rhode IslandConvention Center and the adjoining Dunkin’ Donuts Center for the 13th annual Providence Boat Show, held Jan. 12 to 15, and had a great time checking out the new boats and gear.

Joe Paquette, of Bristol, R.I., came to the show hoping to buy a bigger boat. He owns a 24-foot Bayliner but was looking to upgrade to a 30-foot Bayliner, or maybe a Four Winns. “The show’s a lot bigger this year and it seems like there are a lot more boats here, which is good,” Paquette says.

Bob and Edie Gastall, of East Greenwich, R.I., had recently returned from a chartered sailing trip in the British Virgin Islands before going to the show. The Gastalls, who own a J/24 named Greyhound, were also looking to buy a larger boat. “We chartered a 35-foot Jeanneau and just loved it,” Edie Gastall says. “Now we’re looking at similar boats, both new and used. It’s nice to be back and to see all the new boats.”

More than 450 boats were on display at the show, representing nearly 200 brands. Boats ranged from a 7-foot kayak to a 47-foot sailboat. More than 250 exhibitors were also on hand and there were a number of free seminars examining topics such as boat maintenance and exploring the sub-Antarctic island of South Georgia. Show organizer George Hawkins estimates that between 22,000 and 24,000 people turned out for the show.

“Putting on the 2006 show felt like the old days,” Hawkins says. “It was very successful. We’re very pleased and it looks like the new season has gotten off to a good start.”

One way Hawkins says he knows his show was a success was that most of the dealers were smiling all throughout the show. “This show helps get their business going in January, and the dealers had no complaints,” he says. “You can tell if it wasn’t a good show if people are slamming things around. Not this year. Everyone was jovial.”

Pete Messier, co-owner of Boat World in Warwick, R.I., says this year’s show was particularly successful for him. “Our results were pretty much on target compared to previous years,” Messier said a few days after the show wrapped up. “We sold about 25 boats at the show and we’re still busy selling two or three boats a day since. We get a lot of residual business, especially the bigger boat buyers.”

The owners of South Attleboro Marine in North Attleboro, Mass., say they also found people were ready to buy boats. “I’ve been going to the Providence show since 1984 and I can tell you that we had a better year this year than in the past,” says Albert Addessi, Jr., president of the dealership. “We usually sell between 12 and 13 boats but sold about 20 boats this year, ranging between 18 and 25 feet. It was a good show for us.”

Hawkins says he’s glad the 2006 Providence Boat Show was a success, and is already looking forward to next year’s show. “About June 1 we’ll really start crankin’ it up for the ’07 show,” he says.