The 2014 boat show season starts with the Annapolis Sail and Powerboat Shows in mid-October and the Fort Lauderdale Boat Show (FLIBS) at the end of October. According to our friends at Anacortes Yacht Charters, who exhibit at Annapolis, it was a very strong show with a lot of interest in cruising the Northwest.

While Annapolis was rainy and blustery, FLIBS was sunny and beautiful. Boat show attendance broke records and was up 26%.

FLIBS is a fantasy show for many. Where else, other than Monte Carlo, can you see such an extensive collection of superyachts for sale and charter? Most of us in the Northwest are looking to add the next sailing dinghy or RIB to our boats. For superyachts, the challenge is finding a place to store and launch a personal submarine!


Finding the right place for the personal submarine is the new challenge for superyachts.


This is not your father’s Boston Whaler. This mean fishing machine sports three 300hp Mercury outboards on a 37′ hull will all the amenities.

By the way, did you know that Washington State is now builds more large yachts in the U.S. than any other state, measured by footage? Delta, Christensen, Northern Marine, Westport, and Nordlund are all large yacht builders based in Washington with projects underway. Quite a number of Washington and B.C. made boats were on display at FLIBS.

Luckily, our friends at PassageMaker magazine host an area at FLIBS for mere mortals like us with practical cruising boats. Many locally built brands were featured, like American Tug, Ranger Tug, and Nordic Tug. West Coast-based Asian-built boat companies like Grand Banks, Selene, Fleming and Nordhavn were also well represented.

We saw several trends emerging at FLIBS. Downsizing from large yachts seems to be in vogue. I watched a number of older cruising couples looking at the Back Cove 37 or the Ranger Tug 31, talking about their desire to downsize to something that sleeps 2 and entertains 6-8. The Back Cove 37 (built by Sabre in Maine) is a good example of this with seating for 6-8 in the helm area and cockpit. The seating is open and airy with good visibility. The head, a galley, and sleeping for two is below. One model has an "Alaska bulkhead." In Florida and on the east coast this door is used to hold in cold air from the air conditioning system.

Grand Banks showed their beautiful new East Bay 50 with what I will now call the “Florida bulkhead” to hold in the cold air if you desire. It also had a retractible rear canvas cover for the cockpit. In fact a number of boats, including Back Cove, were showing variations on this design. Basically, the rear canvas rolls out from the pilothouse over the cockpit on two stainless rails, providing sun or rain protection. This is a brilliant design to shade the cockpit but still allow the cockpit to be open for fishing or when the boat is moored. It looks clean and makes a lot of sense.

East Bay 50

Retracting, self-supporting canvas cockpit covers are a new development for boat designs. This one is on the East Bay 50.

Keep an eye on Mainship, now called Marlow Mainship – America’s Trawler. Mainship’s reputation hasn’t always been strong. Last year, the line, along with Hunter sailboats, was purchased by David Marlow of Marlow Yachts fame.

For those not familiar with David Marlow, he is a former Grand Banks dealer. When he had a falling out with Grand Banks, he founded his own company, and began designing and building a truly impressive line of cruising yachts. David is one of the best marketers in the boating business. You will see him at east coast boat shows with his trademark white straw hat with a blue band sporting a blue blazer and tan slacks. He has become an icon known for building quality boats on par with Fleming Yachts.

The Hunter and Mainship lines are starting to show why David is willing to put his name in front of the brand name. The new Marlow Mainship 32 and 37 incorporate unique touches, and high quality materials. The picture below shows a drop down ramp on the transom. While not the first to do this, the reverse rake adds flair to the boat.

Marlow Mainship

Marlow Mainship raked transom and ramp.

The interiors are a Marlow work in progress. Three times the Marlow sales rep said, “Mr. Marlow is looking to try ______ in the next boat we build.” The boats will be continually improved. As it is, you can see how the quality and the fit and finish has improved. Keep an eye on Marlow Mainship for some innovative ideas.

The crowds at FLIBS were upbeat and enthusiastic. It appears that more super yachts will be considering Inside Passage cruises going forward based on the sessions I attended. The word is out about the excellent cruising area we have—our secret corner of North America is no longer a secret.

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