We bought our first family cruiser at the New York Boat Show 16 years ago. My husband was working in Manhattan at the time, so he asked me to meet him at the Javits Center on 11th Avenue. I bundled up our two young children for the trip from Connecticut on a cold winter day, packed the stroller, filled the sippy cups and hit the road. Two hours later, our foursome was happily navigating the bustling halls of the exhibit space toward the Sea Ray booth. There we signed a contract for a Sundancer, rang the ship’s bell to ceremonialize the closing of the deal, and then climbed aboard the boat to take photos with friends who had met us there to celebrate what felt like a mini milestone for our family.
If you’ve had a similar experience, you know that a boat show is a great place to start and finish the search for a new ride. This year, however, many of us will have to find other ways to shop for boats.
As the Covid-19 pandemic forces organizers to cancel a number of shows around the country, these events are moving off the docks and onto digital screens. The transition from water to web began months ago, during the initial lockdowns and on the eve of the spring boat show season. Some marine industry pros worked quickly to help boaters navigate the unprecedented disruption in events. Active Interest Media, the parent company of Soundings, was among them. AIM launched its own digital boat show in April and the response from our audience was both positive and immediate, with a 28 percent boost in online engagement across our titles. Boaters, it seems, like the fact that our virtual show is open 24/7 and updated regularly.
We’ve continued to build out our digital show with new features. You’ll find everything from video boat tours and product demonstrations to educational seminars and interviews with industry experts on subjects ranging from boat purchases to operation and maintenance. You’ll also find details about the new models debuting this season. (Some of those boats are covered in this issue, too. Read “First Look” on page 56). To access this content, go to soundingsonline.com and click Digital Boat Show on the menu bar at the top of the home page.
We’ll continue to update our digital show for as long as you need it, whether your favorite event is cancelled, or you’re not yet comfortable attending a public event. If you plan to buy something through a virtual venue, I suppose there’s at least one disadvantage: You can’t wind up for a good clang on a ship’s bell at a public show. But even so, a boat purchase is always something special, regardless of how and where it’s made. I’m sure you’ll find another way to celebrate the milestone.
This article was originally published in the October 2020 issue.