Show & Tell: Inside FLIBS

The best advice and most exclusive stories from those who know FLIBS.

September 22, 2015

One Man’s View

“Truth is, I can’t recommend the perfect steak or the best mojito around Fort Lauderdale. For all the years I’ve been shooting the boat show (I’ve lost count how many), all I really do is trot from one place to the next taking thousands of pictures. And that makes this shot from 2014 extra-­special. A client set me up in a 14th-floor room at Bahia Mar with a sunrise view of the show — very desirable for anyone, but especially for a photographer.” — Billy Black, Marine Photographer Billy Black
Show Details Dates: Nov. 5-9 Tickets: $43+ (two-day pass) Go to: Forest Johnson
Forest Johnson

The Big One

Aquila, formerly known as Cakewalk, made history in 2010 as the largest yacht ever displayed at the Fort Lauderdale show. At nearly 281 feet, rising six decks high and with space for more than 20 crew, she’s the biggest yacht by volume built in the United States (Derecktor Shipyards, Connecticut).

The Barefoot Pro

From her office window, Dee Kraley can watch boats all year long enter the [Bahia Mar Yachting Center][] in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Later this month, she’ll watch more than a billion dollars’ worth of yachts move in for the 56th annual [Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show][]. “My slip-on shoes,” says Kraley, director of U.S. charter marketing for [Camper & Nicholsons International][], “will be on and off, on and off, when the show starts.” Kraley has walked this turf hundreds of times, and she’s among the insiders who, on the following pages, take us for a private stroll inside and outside the show.

First mistake: “When I arrived in Fort Lauderdale for the first time, I got out of my jeans and went straight to shorts, a polo shirt and boat shoes.” But see why Jonathan Kirby quickly discovered he wasn’t prepared.

The First-Timer: Into The Fire

Jonathan Kirby was planning for this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show eight months in advance. Last year he had four days. Kirby, 28, had hardly unpacked his fishing gear (above) after moving from Boston to Augusta, Maine, to start working as marketing manager of [Southport Boats][], when his boss said he needed to “go right to it.” So, his fourth day on the job, Kirby was on a flight to south Florida and a stunning career introduction. •?It all happened so fast. My first morning at the show I took a picture of an 85-foot sport-fisherman as the sun was coming up and sent it to my friends up North. They were texting back, “What is this? Where are you anyway?” They had no idea my new job had taken me to the biggest yacht show in America.? •?The biggest surprise was when I arrived at 6 a.m. and saw all the people working. Cleaning people. Electricians. Craftsmen. You don’t realize unless you’re part of the show how many people and how much work goes into putting it on. •?One thing I’ll never do again is come unprepared for the walking and standing. My boss told me I’d be on my feet, but I had no idea. The backs of my legs were shot by day three. Right after the show I bought a pair of Sperry Billfish shoes. I’ll have them on this year. ?•?I didn’t expect all the swimsuits. They shouldn’t have surprised me, but I guess after coming from 40-degree weather in Maine … they did.? •?It must be intense to get all those yachts into one place like that. I’ve never seen anything like it. It made me wonder how they do it — and excited to come earlier this year to see it happen in person.

Navigating The Food

Fort Lauderdale is nicknamed “the Venice of America” because 165 miles of navigable waterways run through and around the city. But you could also say greater Fort Lauderdale earns the moniker because of some 4,000 restaurants. Which makes finding reputable food a skill. Here, a few boat-show veterans give up their favorites.

“During setup for the show, Coconuts is a favorite for lunch. It’s within walking distance, which is good because you can’t expect to get anywhere quickly outside the show. The restaurant has fresh catch, but you can’t miss the coconut shrimp.” — Sally Doleski, Ocean Alexander
“The best sandwiches in the world are at Primanti Brothers, a little dive about five minutes north of the show. The place originated in Pittsburgh where I went to college, and it serves Iron City beer.” — Larry Polster, Kadey-Krogen Yachts
For Starters: “I used to work at Quaker Oats, so breakfast for me is creamy oatmeal with wild Maine blueberries and maple syrup, on board our MJM 50z at Dock B.” — Bob Johnstone, MJM Yachts

The Yacht Jockey: Moving Scene

By the time he was 5 years old, Rick Kellogg was captaining a 7-foot sailboat on Old Hickory Lake near Nashville, Tennessee. The water cops sometimes escorted him home, thinking he’d stolen the boat. Now 46, Kellogg has flown airliners, helicopters and hot-air balloons. He’s captained 160-foot yachts and now runs an 85-foot ketch, Wild Flower, for a private owner. Of all his experiences, nothing compares to being part of the setup for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. •?It’s the most mind-­boggling thing I’ve seen, logistically. Miles and miles of docks are brought in. Pilings have to be driven into the seafloor. Think of all those generators and the wiring. You turn around to buy a Coke and it’s like you miss part of a city being built.? •?Getting the boats in place is choreographed to the minute. All I do is follow the dance moves. Be on time, get a boat into a spot, and then hustle to a cab and grab another boat. I’ve put in as many as six boats for Luke Brown Yachts. ?•?There are hundreds of captains involved. We have a billion dollars’ worth of boats in our hands, so the camaraderie is thick.? •?I’ve dinged a boat. You get that much fiberglass and horsepower, plus some current, something’s bound to happen. A couple years ago a yacht was coming in and lost its stern thruster. It was heading for another boat and there was no stopping it. Like slow motion, smack.? •?The end of the show is amazing too. You see those megayachts on display, but maybe you don’t realize … they move. To see 15 of them moving onto the ICW at the same time, it leaves me awestruck. Everyone should see it once.

Game Plan “Move-in day for boats at the center of the show is two weeks before opening day. At that point they’re locked in and staying for the long haul. To do the show right, attendees need three days minimum. Take one day to suck in the scene, another day to narrow your focus and a third day to get down to brass tacks.” — Capt. Rick Kellogg

Lessons Learned

The city of Fort Lauderdale claims more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually. Boat-show organizers expect about 1,500 boats on display and 125,000 visitors gawking at them. Combine mass quantities of sun, fiberglass and people, and a few survival tips are in order.

“I’ve learned you need to have really good sunglasses and a lot of patience. The glare of the sun on all those white glossy hulls can hurt the eyes. The line for a taxi can be long, so give yourself a couple hours to get to dinner.” — Sally Doleski, Ocean Alexander
“If you’re serious about the show, avoid the weekend stroller crowd. Go on the first or second day, skip the weekend, and come back on Monday. Lots of local families come to sightsee on Saturday and Sunday.” — Dee Kraley, Camper & Nicholsons

The Trendsetter: A New Day

Forgive Brett Keating for getting her years mixed up. Ask about the time she first got lost at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show and she says, “It was … I’m not sure which year.” Then she admits, “The show has been like [the movie] Groundhog Day for me, kind of the same year after year.” Keating vowed to shake up the re-re-repetition when she left Ferretti earlier this year to join the staff that manages the show ([appropriately called Show Management][]).? •?Going to the Ferrari Challenge opened my eyes to what could be done for super VIP guests. There was access to the pit, opportunities to meet the drivers and get into a car, limo service and a lounge with farm-to-table gourmet food. So this year, we’re hiring QuintEvents to help put on a new experience inside the Fort Lauderdale show: limo service in the form of ­water taxis, yacht captains giving exclusive tours and new entertainment every year. It will never be the same.? •?Think of the?food-truck?concept. That’s what you’ll see with the food stands — specialization. There’s talk of fish cakes and gourmet sauces, things like that.  But you can still get a hot dog and lemonade if you want to do that.? •?The number-one question asked at the show is “Where’s the bathroom?” It will be a lot easier to find them this year. Little things like that make a big difference.? •?My favorite secret place apart from the show is the little pool-deck restaurant at the Marriott Harbor Beach Resort. It’s as far as you can walk, past all the other restaurants, to the edge of the beach. You can literally put your toes in the sand with a margarita in hand. I can’t think of a better way to end the day.


When The Sun Goes Down

We know where all these insiders will be during show hours. This is where they hope to be — and what they’ll have in hand — when the sun goes down.

Spirited “For local flavor I’ll order rum on the rocks at Bahia Cabana, next to the show. People walk right past it on their way out to find the high-dollar places.” — Capt. Rick Kellogg
Mixed “A Grey Goose cranberry soda at Martorano’s, 5 miles up A1A from the yachts.” — Steve Gale, Marinemax of Stuart, Florida
Cold “At Coconuts with a cold Corona on the way out of the show.” — Ron Nugent, Westport Yachts
Celebrated “With a Dark ’n Stormy on one of our yachts during the last hour of the show.” — Bob Johnstone, MJM Yachts

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