The Future Is Now - Soundings Online

The Future Is Now

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Mary South

Our industry recently returned from its largest annual event: the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. I usually dread FLIBS — mostly because of its size. We’re talking in the neighborhood of 100,000 visitors, 1,500 boats and more than 1,000 exhibitors across seven locations that span 3 million square feet, with everything from 8-foot RIBs to the 257-foot Lurssen-built superyacht TV. So it’s important to breathe deeply, wear comfortable shoes, have a plan and pace yourself.

Much to my surprise, this was the best FLIBS ever for me. New show producers had introduced colored and alphabetized zones to make getting around easier, and even as a FLIBS vet, I found that helpful. Also, the weather was delightful: clear skies, a steady but gentle breeze and air that was warm but devoid of the humidity that normally causes visiting Northerners to wilt, body and soul, as the day progresses. 

This is also my 10th anniversary as a marine journalist, and I realized how many people I really look forward to seeing, even briefly, on the docks — colleagues from my Yachting years, many boatbuilders, designers, marine photographers and publicists.

“People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.” Anton Chekhov 

Two things that seemed to dominate the show, from my perspective: outboard engines and advanced technologies. Many builders are introducing new versions of recent builds with outboard power. The Ranger Tugs R-27 on our cover is an example, and MJM Yachts, whose outboard-powered 35z we featured on our October cover, now has a 43z with outboards. (It makes Volvo Penta’s acquisition of outboard manufacturer Seven Marine look pretty darn smart.)

There were all kinds of new technologies at this show. The most integrated example is Hinckley’s revolutionary Dasher, a luxury dayboat with a carbon-epoxy composite hull and carbon stringers that’s powered by dual BMW i3 lithium ion batteries. The Dasher utilizes 3-D printing technology in the construction of the helm console, and it features Hinckley’s hand-painted Artisinal Teak, with all of the beauty, much less weight and none of the upkeep of the real deal.

I didn’t see it, but Soundings senior editor Gary Reich got a personal tour of the 76-foot Adler Yachts Suprema. A modern and comfortable flybridge yacht, it’s powered by an HMS hybrid engine. A 1,376-gallon fuel supply allows a range of more than 3,500 nautical miles at 8 knots. Even the props are carbon fiber on this baby!

And then there were the electronics and apps. The endless stream of innovations in electronics would seem to suggest that any lubber will be soon able to drive a boat. Of course, that’s not true. I just heard a story about an acquaintance heading out of a crowded harbor with a guy at the helm who watched his chart plotter the entire time, instead of the moored boats and anchor lines that were right in front of him. There’s no app for common sense.

I have always loved gadgets and electronics, and I saw some at FLIBS that were very cool, delivering the promise of increased safety and enjoyment afloat. (A few of the best were embargoed at press time, but you’ll hear more about them as soon as we are cleared to tell you. For now, see our new electronics and technologies feature on Page 34.)

Yet I admit I walked away from that massive sea of composites and technology and thought longingly of my own wooden West Pointer, with its simple setup of chart plotter, VHF and cooler. I don’t know about you, but I feel inundated ashore — by relentless marketing, constant digital connection, a news cycle that reports a nation, and a world, that seems divided and constantly combative. The simpler my connection and proximity to the peace of the sea, the better. My next move may be a rowboat.

But no judgments here: I’m for whatever gets each of us out there and enjoying it.

This article originally appeared in the January 2017 issue.