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There was no lack of ‘new’ at the Fort Lauderdale show

Despite the economy, builders rolled out some innovative boats and products

Soundings editor Bill Sisson, managing editor Rich Armstrong, senior writer Jim Flannery, senior reporter Chris Landry and staff writer Melanie Winters worked the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show to compile this collective report.

Despite ideal weather, attendance was down at the Fort Laudeerdale Internatinal Boat Show, and it was no secret as to the primary cause.

As the economy sputtered, the 49th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show — one of the largest in the world — opened its gates in late October to thousands of browsers and would-be buyers.

Innovative propulsion systems, high-end sportfishing boats, express cruisers, passagemakers and luxury yachts drew consistent interest throughout the Oct. 30-Nov. 3 show. Megayacht row, where foreign accents lend an international flavor, attracted its typical stream of curious browsers to the face dock.

In the sportfishing arena, Regulator Marine unveiled its largest center console yet — the 34-foot SS, which comes packed with all the fishing equipment you’d expect from the North Carolina builder. But it also has creature comforts such as wraparound seating in the bow and a full berth that extends forward in the stand-up head inside the console.

Regulator Marine unveiled its largest center console yet - the 34 SS.

During a media presentation, company president Joan Maxwell pointed out the curved, frameless console windshield that gives the helmsman a clear view ahead and the “largest cockpit in its class.” Twin 350-hp Yamaha 4-strokes are mounted to an Armstrong bracket to free up cockpit space.

Naval architect Lou Codega designed the 34, as well as all other Regulator models. The boat cruises at 31 mph and gets 1.4 miles per gallon. Base MSRP is $229,000.

Center console builder Jupiter Marine International introduced its first express boat — a 39-footer with a forward berth, dinette area, galley and head with private shower. The Palmetto, Fla., company builds four center consoles: 29-, 31-, 34- and 38-footers.

“You can take this boat on a weeklong trip and live on it,” says Jupiter president Carl Herndon. “The boat is totally self-contained. It has everything you need.”

Jupiter will hang triple Yamaha 350 ($499,990 package price) or 250 ($476,490) 4-strokes, as well as twin Yamaha 350s ($459,770). With a trio of 350s, the boat cruises at 40 mph, with a top speed of 59.

While some boatbuilders were stressing improved fuel economy, not every boat on display was rigged to sip gas.

Everglades, which also started out building center console boats, introduced its first two express models — the 320EX and 350EX, both powered with Yamaha 4-strokes. The boats have fully enclosed helm decks with tempered front and side windshields and air conditioning. The 320EX with twin 350 Yamahas cruises at 31 mph and gets 1.1 mpg. It tops out at 51 mph. Performance data on the 350EX was unavailable.

Grand Banks used the show to introduce its 41 Heritage EU trawler, not only to Floridians but to the international audience, as well. “The 41 EU is our first yacht deigned entirely in-house, our first built with resin vacuum-infusion, first with the E-PLEX system, and our first with Zeus drives,” says David Hensel, director, brand and marketing. The 41 EU is the first [of any] trawler to use the Zeus pod-drive system, which provides advantages in handling, performance and efficiency.

Fishing-boat builder Pro-Line Boats, of Crystal River, Fla., came in with a double-barreled plan to increase its market share among conservationists, divers and entry-level buyers. It showed its new line of Pro-Lite 17-, 20- and 22-foot center consoles and 18-, 20- and 22-foot flats boats with floorboards, bulkheads and transoms, built of Coosa composites.

The lighter weight of the boats yields better fuel economy, and they can be powered by smaller engines and towed by a minivan. Equipped with just the basics, the line is “very aggressively priced,” says company general manager John E. Walker.

Pro-Line also introduced its new specialty line of 26 Super Sports and 32 express boats with hull graphics by marine-life artist Wyland. (He uses only the one name.) Wyland, an avid diver, expects to start helping customize the line for divers. Part of the proceeds from sales goes to the Wyland Foundation, which promotes environmental education.

An observation from strolling the docks was, in general, the bigger the boat, the more foot traffic it received. The 55 Sundancer was among the models Sea Ray exhibited.

Tiara introduced the 3900 Open, a fishing and cruising yacht powered by twin Cummins MerCruiser QSC 8.3-liter diesels (600 hp). The boat replaces the 3800 Open.

Illustrative of the cruise/fish mission is the mezzanine seating on the port side of the cockpit, which the 3800 did not include. The 3900 is also beamier by a foot than the 3800. The windshield design has been modified, too, with the front glass extending all the way to the hardtop. The 3800’s windshield stopped short of the hardtop. The space between could be filled with a clear plastic curtain. MSRP with the 600s is $622,000. With CMD 550s, MSRP is $589,900.

Tiara also was promoting the addition of the Volvo IPS propulsion system on its 3600 Open, on which the hull has been modified to accept the pod drives. And company executives also announced what may be the industry’s first factory-sponsored and endorsed certified preowned program.

“It’s about building image and enhancing the resale value of a Tiara yacht,” says Nick Bischoff, Tiara’s vice president of sales and marketing. “We wanted a competitive advantage over our No. 1 competitor in the market — and that’s preowned Tiaras.”

The European design influences could be seen in U.S.-built express cruisers and sport yachts. The Four Winns V408 turned heads with its large cabin windows, atrium window above the forward berth, retractable coupe-style hardtop, and a swim platform with a see-through section for gazing at marine life.

The windows allow a great deal of natural light into the cabin and its two staterooms. You can go forward along the side decks as well as through a large centerline windshield opening. “The boat really has a world flavor,” says Four Winns vice president of sales and service Rick Fulmer. “We’ve listened to our customers around the world.”

The V408 is available with Volvo Penta gasoline power in twin IPSG 550, 500 and 600. The boat at the show, with twin IPSG 500s, carried a retail price of $744,278.

Sessa Marine continued to strengthen its presence in the U.S. market with its new C 46 Open Hard Top, which the company says was awarded Boat of the Year 2007 honors at the London Boat Show. The boat derives its name from its retractable hardtop. The cabin features an aft stateroom with three large windows on each side to “bring the outside inside,” says Sessa sales manager Giuseppe Meneghetti. “You can actually see through the entire boat from one side to the other.”

With twin Volvo Penta IPS D6 diesel power, the boat retails for $925,000.

Vicem, the Turkish builder of classic Down East-style express cruisers for the U.S. market, is partnering with Sanko, a $2-billion-a-year Turkish textiles and manufacturing conglomerate, to build Frank Mulder-designed superyachts. Vicem is building a 150-footer capable of 28 knots and has a 120-footer designed for a top speed of 55 knots on the drawing boards.

“We are moving into a whole new world,” says Vicem executive director Turgut Konukoglu.

Globalization was much on the mind of Bertram CEO Giovanni Vacchi. The new $2 million Bertram 54 is both a tough fishing machine and a luxury cruiser, says Vacchi. It rides on the traditional Bertram deep-vee hull and stores 25 rods, but the yacht also is finely finished inside in white-oak paneling and sports a big, open and airy wraparound windshield, power-actuated aft windows, an aft galley for entertaining, anti-rolling gyros, and comfortable staterooms.

In the electronics exhibit area, Raymarine debuted its new A Series chart plotters and fishfinders, which incorporate the technology developed for its larger series lines into compact

(5-, 5.7- and 6.4-inch) displays for smaller boats. Features include sunlight-viewable displays that are rugged and submersible, AIS compatibility, preloaded charts and aerial photos, a tilt swivel bracket for quick removal, and “Fan Beam” transducer that delivers an extra wide view of the bottom in the company’s HD digital sonar technology. Pricing for the individual units ranges from about $1,100 to $2,000. Look for a complete report in next month’s issue of Soundings.

Foreign companies were looking beyond the recession to a rebounding U.S. market. Fifteen Italian companies were represented at the International Yacht Builders’ Pavilion and at Club Italia, a guest lounge on the superyacht docks. “This year we decided to be here in force,” says Carlo Ferrari, the Italian trade commissioner in Miami. “As long as people eat and work and sleep, there will be a market for boats.”

Other new boats introduced include two trawlers, the Ken Freivokh-

designed Selene 62, powered by a single John Deere 6125AFM diesel, and the steel-hulled Real Ships Expedition 77, powered by twin big-block John Deere 6125AFM diesels. Look for more on these boats in a future issue.

Propulsion innovation proved to be a driving force at the show, with ZF Marine unveiling a system that controls low-speed steering and power via a helm joystick, bringing pod-like maneuverability to conventional shaft-driven boats.

Attendance figures for the show were unavailable at press time, but producers expect the numbers to be down by a single-digit percentage. That’s better than the double-digit decline the show was expecting, says Efrem (Skip) Zimbalist III, chairman and CEO of Active Interest Media, parent company of the show’s producer, Show Management Inc.

“That’s a victory in today’s economy,” he says.

Meanwhile, international hotelier Blackstone Group announced plans for a $500 million makeover of the show’s 38-acre principal venue. Blackstone says it will renovate the 180-room Bahia Mar Beach Resort and Yachting Center and build a 299-room Waldorf Astoria hotel, a 180-unit residential high-rise, and 100,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space on the property. The new Bahia Mar will continue to accommodate the boat show with its 250-slip marina and a new bilevel 90,000-square-foot exhibit area at dockside, part of which will be underground. The makeover should be completed in five years, says Zimbalist. The boat show has a contract to remain at Bahia Mar through at least 2020.

This story originally appeared in the January 2009 issue.



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