Miami Boat Show Tips

A well-formed strategy will lead to success and fulfillment-and maybe a new yacht-when the boat show comes to Miami.

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We've all seen them. As most of the crowd meanders aimlessly down one boat show dock and up the next, these people are moving with the same purpose as a man with a winning lottery ticket in his pocket. While the midafternoon heat fells the faint of heart, these soldiers continue to walk the line, looking at the yachts they came to see. They are seemingly immune to the various charms of the modernday marine traveling circus that is the boat show, be it the 200-foot-long temple to one man's taste, the beer tents, or most temptingly, a multitude of boats and marine equipment laid before a true yachtsman's feet. The difference between these people and the vast majority of boat-show goers is that they come with a strategy, and they stick to it. Depending on a boat buyer's situation, a show can be a wise investment of time and resources. As with any investment, expectations have to be set. The best way to do that is with a plan, and it needs to be more spelled out than "Get a good deal at the boat show."

Where to begin? Why not ask the experts, the people who work the show like it's their job because it is their job. They have the inside track on where to go, and how to go about finding what you need. You can bet the professionals don't suffer bad boats or poor equipment, just as they don't suffer fools. If you're there to conduct business, they will notice. And you'll get the treatment-and the deal-you deserve.

Real Refreshment

If you've got a thirst for a new yacht, then Collins Avenue is a long, cool drink indeed.

Miami Beach is home to the Yacht and Brokerage show as well as the Miami International Boat Show. These events are worldclass showcases for the yachting community and attract an international audience. "Miami has more of an international crowd than you get at Ft. Lauderdale," says Sean Fenniman, a sales executive at Allied Marine. "The venue is fantastic, you're right there on Collins Ave."

Collins Avenue has been there through thick and thin, but this year may be special. "I'm looking forward to a great Miami Boat Show because I've just seen a resurgence in the market," says Roy Sea of Ocean Alexander. "And I think the buyers have been literally sitting on their wallets. Maybe they got tired of the doom and gloom or maybe they feel more optimistic."

People are buying boats, and it's the smart money that's on the prowl. "I think what you're going to find this year in Miami is the very nicest brokerage boats, the very last of the new boats that were built when everybody was fat and happy and the companies were healthy," says Fenniman. "Because you've got to think the gestation period was 18 months for some of these larger boats. So those boats started construction and were built when those companies had grandiose dreams and fat bank accounts. This is probably the last of the old-economy boat shows."

How will you get in on the action? Make your plan by finding the boats you're interested in seeing in person-the Internet is a great way to focus your search in advance, but of course a buyer's broker can be a big help.

Expert Advice

Sean Fenniman Sales Executive Allied Marine

"The best parking is at the public parking garage on West 42nd between Royal Palm Ave. and Sheridan. Park there, walk over the bridge [on 41st Street], make a left turn on Collins, head north, and you get to walk the whole show."

"The factories aren't ever going to crank back up, at least not in the near-foreseeable future, to the level that things were. This is your last, best chance to see all the models in one location. At future boat shows, I think boats are going to be sold more out of catalogs than having the physical boats there. Very rarely will you walk into a boat show and see an example of every model that a builder builds. Next year I doubt you'll see that-it's the end of the era. Everybody's who's going to survive is getting leaner and meaner and going to on-sale production instead of build-to-spec and dealer inventory."

"There are boats in current dealer stock built during good times when they had an economy of scale. To build that boat today will certainly cost a good bit more than what they cost to build two years ago, even a year and a half ago. We've got '08 models that people will get a hell of a deal on. And once that '08 or '09 model gets sold, to replace the same boat with a 2010 model, it's not 5 to 10 percent more, it's 20, 25, 30 percent more."

Hot Tip: "You want to be there for the Monday of the show, February 15 this year. That's the best day for the show [because] truthfully, you've got the least crowds. If it were me, I would come preview and look at everything on Thursday, take a second look on Friday. Saturday and Sunday are just fun days. And then you come back Monday-that's the day to make the deal."

Miami Debutantes

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Lazzara will show off the Motor Cruiser 76, featuring a four-stateroom layout, the company's signature "country kitchen," and a power package featuring triple 600-horsepower Cummins Zeus pod drives. Lazzara Yachts; www.lazzarayachts.com

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Marlow Yachts will be premiering the new Voyager 76LR, a goanywhere vessel for owners with offshore cruising on the itinerary. Marlow Yachts, (941) 729-3370; www.marlowexplorer.com

The Smart Refit

Replacing older equipment and electronics may be just the way to spruce up your proven ride.

The boat show isn't just for boat buyers. Miami, in particular, is an exhibition for all things marine. Here is where the newest and latest gear and electronics all are introduced, in booths staffed with people who want you to know more about their products.

"The beautiful thing about Miami is that each of the rooms have remained consistent for many years," says Karl Anderson, a marine journalist and expert fi shing captain who oversaw the build and fitting out of his latest charge, Brier Patch, a Merritt 72. "Go to those rooms and you can ferret out who's got what."

Buying equipment and electronics is like any shopping excursion. Stay focused and you'll accomplish your goals. "Make a list: this is what I do [with my boat], this is what I want, this what I really need," says Anderson. "Don't go by what you think you're going to do [with your boat] ten years down the road."

This event offers a special advantage for equipment buyers. "If you're doing a refit, Miami gives you the opportunity to go look at different boats," says Anderson. "Don't just go look at the pretty new model of boat, look how they executed it, and how they did installation of hardware. And look at the type of hardware that they're using, because there's some really new, neat hardware that the boatbuilders are using. Pay attention to how other people are doing it. You'll see good ideas."

Expert Advice

** Karl Anderson Captain Brier Patch**

"If you're looking for accessories or doing a refi t on your boat, the Convention Center is the warehouse-it's got it all. You've got to feel your way around, but you'll get a good cross-section of what's out there. The Convention Center is like the supermarket, you want to hit the outer aisle to get all the good stuff."

"Now you know which setups will work [for your needs]. Consider what, 1) I can afford, 2) is the most practical, and 3) which is the easiest retrofit. You want to fi nd the setup that's not going to require major surgery to install or rewire."

"Find the smaller upscale custom builder or limited production builder: He's going to have better hardware and he's going to have better rigging and you're going to see different things in those boats to really help improve your boat."

Hot Tip: "At the Marriott Biscayne Bay on Saturday, February 13, is a seminar with the top 20 to 25 billfish captains. Representatives from custom builders and electronics manufacturers will be there. It's like a show within a show, and a great way to spend a Saturday." www.billfishexpo.com

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Electronic Organizer**

Digital devices help you get the most out of your compressed time at the show.

At a boat show, it's easy to let all the yachts you see run together in your mind, their many attributes joining to form your ideal yacht, a frustrating concept when it goes unfound. One solution is to use a Flip video camera (shown, $230; www.theflip.com) to record your own walk-through videos. This tiny device holds up to one hour of video, complete with sound, so you can do your own narration of likes and dislikes and review the footage later on your laptop. Uploading is simple, thanks to the USB connector that "flips" out of the camera, eliminating wires to bring, tangle, or-worst of all-lose.

Digital cameras and camera-enabled cellphones also allow you record the attributes of the yachts you see. Just be sure to keep the images filed in such a way that you can identify them later.

The mapping applications for GPS-enabled smartphones, such as the iPhone, BlackBerry, and others, help you find your way back to that boat deemed worthy of a second look. Just make sure to drop a pin-like a waypoint-when you're there, and you'll turn the docks, widely considered a maze of poor signage, into an easy-to-follow itinerary of yachts you'd like to revisit.

Other available useful apps include restaurant search devices, such as UrbanSpoon, checkbook-balance apps, and others, but we suggest you get familiar with these before you try to use them to your advantage in Miami. The most useful widgets: Those that tell you the weather forecast, so you'll know if you need a hat or a jacket for the day. Now that's good advice.

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Harbor Fun

Intrepid Boats 245 is a small boat that's built like her big sisters- quality construction and fine fit and finish. Twin-outboard power and forward seating make it a versatile addition to any fleet. Intrepid Boats, (954) 922-7544; www.intrepidboats.com

The Race Is On

There are deals to be had, but you can't tell the players without a program.

Depending on the size of the boat you're looking for, you may need to visit the Miami Beach Convention Center, Sea Isle Marina and Yachting Center, or the brokerage docks along Collins Avenue, where the larger, in-water yachts are shown.

Once you get on site, lay your hands on a show program. "When they come to the boat show itself, it's almost like going to the racetrack," says Mike Joyce, CEO of Hargrave Yachts. "The program for the show is almost like a track program. You can open it up and you can look and see they've got it sorted by builder, they've got it sorted by length they've got it sorted by other criteria, so you can almost handicap the boats that are at the show."

But not even the Kentucky Derby has this many horses in the race. Where to begin? "Our advice to people is to take time to think," says Joyce. "Are you in the market for a boat now? That makes a difference. Do you have any actual requirements? That makes a difference. Are you looking for a certain speed, a certain draft, a certain price range? Whatever that may be, you come to a boat show and you're overwhelmed: Oh my God, look at all these boats, I don't know what to do. The fact is, if you have two or even three requirements, all of a sudden the list of 500 boats comes down to the fact that there may be only two boats in the whole show that fit your requirements."

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Expert Advice**

Mike Joyce CEO Hargrave Custom Yachts

"If you're in the market for a boat, do you know what you're prepared to pay? And if you do, have you thought about it ahead of time? What happens is, frequently people come to the show and haven't thought about it. And someone else at that show is absolutely ready to just pull the plug on the boat and move on with their life. And the [price] comes out and the guy says, 'Well, I don't know, is that a deal? I'm not sure, I gotta go home and think about it.' And then when he gets home and tells his friends they say 'You could have bought it for what? Call the guy now.' They call up and it's 'Oh no-it sold at the show, I missed that deal.'"

"Circle the boats you really want to see and start there. Because what happens is, you don't stay focused and just start getting on this boat or that boat. All of a sudden you just lose your focus and like so many people, you go home and you say 'I don't even know what I want anymore.'"

Hot Tip: "Most people don't know what they're prepared to pay for something. So, when they get the deal and they're staring it right in the face, they haven't thought about it ahead of time and they miss some of the best buying opportunities they'll ever see."

Oasis Found

In the heat of the moment, sometimes it's better to take a step back, calm down, clear your head. The boat show is no different, and negotiations on your next yacht can get pretty intense. If only there was a place where you could switch gears and cool off, fi nd a change of scenery just to keep your perspective, maybe even see a friendly face- that's what you need. Wait. . . there, at the end of the dock. . . through the sweat of your brow, you see it: clean, crisp refreshment-the Budweiser tent.

Places to Eat Coffee and the Paper: News Café 800 Ocean Drive Miami Beach, Florida (305) 538-6397

Everybody loves News Café, and with reason. The food is reliably good at this sidewalk joint, whether you come for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or periodicals from all over.

Meaningful Pauses We Love: Sushi Doraku 1104 Lincoln Rd Miami Beach, Florida (305) 695-8383

The ambiance here is super groovy with its anime wall mural and amber-lit fl oors, but it's Miami's best sushi that makes this worth a lunch-time visit.

A Great Way to End the Day: Blue Door at the Delano 1685 Collins Avenue Miami Beach, Florida (305) 674-6400

The Chef, Claude Troisgros, is a Frenchman from a famous cooking dynasty married to a Brazilian, and his cuisine, as a result, is delicieux! Or should we say delicioso?

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Catching Glances The Viking Yacht Company will be bringing the 76 Enclosed Bridge Convertible to Miami for her first public display. Viking Yacht Company, (609) 296-6000; www.vikingyachts.com