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It's Showtime

There's No Place Better Than a Boat Show to Lose Yourself in a Fiberglass Fantasy
story by Amy Wideman • photos by Steven J. Conway

When Moises and Maggie Arcia started seriously thinking about a new boat, they knew right where they wanted to look: the Miami International Boat Show, a gala affair of unlimited fiberglass where they were guaranteed to find all the information they needed to make an informed decision. The Arcias had been tipped off by their salesman and friend Mike Acosta of MarineMax, who year after year ranks among the boat show's most charismatic figures and who will tell you, if there's one place to learn about boats, this is it.

Sea Ray's massive presence at the winter boat shows is undeniable - and perhaps nowhere more than in sunny South Beach during the annual Miami show. With both an indoor display at the Miami Convention Center and an on-water showing at the Collins Avenue display, it's a perfect opportunity to peruse the newest models and rub elbows with enthusiastic Sea Ray owners. If you go, don't miss Friday night's Sea Ray Owners Club Party, where great food, killer cocktails and lively conversation will warm you up for the weekend ahead.


Before you visit any boat show, it's smart to do a little planning. Hence, you'll find a list of helpful tips at the end of this column. It's not that we think you'll be blinded by the track lighting or buried by the avalanche of literature being passed out, but just like any adventure, it pays to come prepared.

All told, boat shows are so much more than an invitation to shop - they're an invitation to enjoy yourself. What fills that impressive convention hall is a whole lot of knowledge, a whole cast of friendly sales people and a whole bunch of sprawling red carpet - all of which combine to make you feel like a celebrity just for paying the nominal entrance fee.

"As sales representatives, we're here to be very hands-on, very instructional with everyone who walks through the door," said Mike, demonstrating the myriad functions and amenities of the new 420 Sedan Bridge the Arcias are rapidly falling in love with. He took them up to the captain's station, where they got a bird's-eye view of the enormous room. "It's really the attendees chance to better understand what's available, on a wider scale than usual. We encourage them to look at this, try this, test this - get a feel for what they like and need."

Boat show organizers echo the same theme, and reiterate a benefit of shopping in the off-season: getting a much needed "boat fix" right when the weather is at its most hostile. "The show is not only a great way to get a taste for warmer weather, but it's the best place for finding deals on everything you need to prepare for summer adventure," said Jennifer Faulk, show manager for the Chicago Boat, RV & Outdoors Show. "Our tradition over the past 75 years has been to provide the ideal atmosphere for anyone looking to buy, look or to just have fun."

In the spirit of buying, looking and having fun, a few ideas:

    • Often you can get discounts on admission by purchasing your tickets in advance. (Check on the show's website or in local boating publications.) And consider going
      on a weekday, when the crowds will be thinner and you'll have better access to the gear and get VIP attention.

    • Do your homework! Research models on and print out your favorite highlights, along with any questions that come to mind. It'll make seeing the
      models "in the flesh" that much more fun.

    • Contact a sales representative ahead of time and consider making an appointment to carve out a few minutes of one-on-one time.

    • Plan your attack: pick up a map of exhibits, circle the Sea Rays and any new technologies, gadgets and accessories you're curious about, and devise a path. Even if
      you stray from it, this way you'll have key points to fall back on.

    • If you have young, excitable kids, consider leaving them at home. Children often lose interest before their moms and dads do; yes, there are a lot of climbing surfaces
      - but this ain't no jungle gym.

    • Wear comfortable, supportive shoes and make them slip-ons! (You'll be asked to remove them before boarding.) Comfortable feet mean a happier you.

    • Bring a notepad for jotting things down, and a tote bag for all the brochures you'll pick up. A digital camera can be a great tool for jogging your memory later, too.

    • Eat something before you arrive, or pack a snack and a water bottle. Convention center fare tends to be overpriced.

    • Above all, go with an open mind. As Mike said, "Boat shows are great places to keep current on the trends, talk shop and get your questions answered." You get out
      of them what you want - even if it's just the chance to do a little active daydreaming." Echoed Moises, palming the helm of that Sedan Bridge, "I look forward to the
      shows to see everything new Sea Ray's doing. Looking around at all this - it's terrific."

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