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Providence show attracts thousands

The 14th annual Providence Boat Show, held Jan. 11 to 14, drew thousands of New England boaters to the Rhode IslandConvention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

The 14th annual Providence Boat Show, held Jan. 11 to 14, drew thousands of New England boaters to the Rhode IslandConvention Center and Dunkin’ Donuts Center.

Attendees at the show, which is under new ownership, could browse new boats and gear displayed by some 280 exhibitors.

Mike Mack of Laconia, N.H., poked around on a new 21-foot Sea Swirl Striper center console at the Don’s Marine display on the show’s second day, a Friday afternoon. Mack and his wife have owned a similar Striper 2110 for three years.

“I want to see the difference from this boat to my boat,” says Mack, who is 38. “I’m going to bring my wife down tomorrow; she wants to go with a 24- or 26-[footer].” Mack, who fishes out of Chatham, Mass., describes the Providence show as nice and clean. He and his wife will decide between another center console and a cuddy boat.

Over at the Dunkin’ Donuts Center — a high-ceilinged venue that accommodates fully rigged sailboats — Diane Gilchrist and Robert Nelson took the opportunity to inspect both powerboats and sailboats. The Rhode Island couple currently sail a Pearson 26.

“We’re looking to upgrade,” says Gilchrist, who is 45 and a resident of Johnston.

Gilchrist and Nelson, who also attended the Providence show last year, are entertaining the thought of living aboard a powerboat in the future.

“We’re looking at some Sea Rays in the convention center,” says Nelson, 47, of Westerly. “And then we’re looking at the sailboats to see how I can upgrade mine before we switch over.”

There were about 400 boats on display between the two sites, ranging from 8 feet to 47 feet. The show also offered a variety of seminars and demonstrations.

The 2007 Providence show marked the first year under the ownership of the Newport Harbor Corp., the same organization that puts on the Newport International Boat Show and Newport Spring Boat Show.

“It certainly was good to get in there and see the venue, see everything put in place,” says Nancy Piffard, show director at the Newport Exhibition Group — Newport Harbor Corp.’s trade and consumer show division. “We only ever saw it on paper [before] — we certainly learned a lot.

“We’re thrilled to have the show, and we have most of the same exhibitors from the Newport International and the spring show, so it was a natural fit.”

Attendance figures were not available at press time, but Piffard estimates the total somewhere near, or slightly off, last year’s attendance of 22,000 to 24,000. Traffic was up over the weekend but tapered off Sunday afternoon on account of the Patriots NFL playoff game.

“Saturday was great — one of the best days for attendance in the history of the show,” says Piffard, who reckons more than 7,000 boaters showed up that day. “Sunday, of course, you had the game, so people started to clear out by 3.”

Rob Lyons, owner of Ocean House Marina in Charlestown, R.I., reports a good show despite a lack of record crowds. Ocean House is a dealer for such boat lines as Hydra-Sports, Maritime Skiff, McKee Craft, Polar Kraft, Hurricane and Vanguard.

A few days after the show ended, organizers announced a change — the 2008 show will be held Jan. 3-6. Soundings will have more on that next month.