New York Boat Show Report January 1997

New York Boat Show Report January 1997

New York Times
January 10, 1997

Depending on What's for Sale, Dealers Are Optimistic

NEW YORK -- A blizzard stopped the New York National Boat Show in its tracks last year. But boating devotees are back, again under a threat of snow, again gawking and pawing over the 1,000 boats on display at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center as if it's May in Miami.

The midweek crowd, which was mostly male compared to the more family-oriented customers who come on weekends, milled around on about six acres of floor space. On display were boats and marine accessories that filled every niche in the market. Huge motor yachts and small cruisers sat cheek-by-jowl with fishing boats, jet skis and inflatables. But was anyone buying?

Michael Duffy, the manager, said that manufacturers at the show, which began Saturday and ends this Sunday, were upbeat, especially compared to those at last year's weather-plagued affair.

"We had to close the show for two of its nine days last year because it snowed 21 inches," Duffy said. "Now people are calling us who heard a weather report about one to 2 inches being forecast for late this week, and they're asking us about a blizzard."

Some dealers in New York seem optimistic about 1997, but it depends on what they are selling. Norm Robinson, New York state district manager for Sea-Doo, which manufactures personal watercraft, said Wednesday that he had sold more than 100 Sea-Doo jet boats at the New York show so far. With 11 models to choose from, buyers are putting up anywhere from $4,699 to $7,999 for the small but speedy boats.

But sailboat manufacturers have not found the New York show to be much of a bonanza at all. From a full showroom of sailboats on display in 1990, the New York exhibition has been reduced to only two sailboat manufacturers: Beneteau, a French company, and Bauteck Marine of St. Augustine, Fla.

Beneteau, which showed five Beneteau yachts in New York last year, brought only the cross-section of a 38-footer. "For people around New York, the boat show is more like going to a museum," said Myles Gordon of the Great Hudson Sailing Center, a Beneteau dealer in Manhattan. "It's more like entertainment for them. There were so many people crawling around our boats last year, we couldn't find the buyers. Some of the people on the boat didn't even know it was for sale."

Sailboat manufacturers have migrated to Atlantic City, N.J., where the annual Sail Expo show, scheduled for Jan. 11-19, has offered buyers a place where they can mingle with other sailboat enthusiasts, and think long and hard about their purchase.

New York, on the other hand, seems to be more of a hard sell. Powerboat customers flock to the show looking for a deal. Ed Rudyk, a retired telephone technician from Clark, N.J., was at the New York show thinking about buying a bigger boat than the 16-foot outboard he owns. Fishing as he does off Sandy Hook, N.J., Rudyk wants a boat that is reliable for ocean fishing. He said he is looking at 18-to-20-foot boats for about $15,000.

Then there are those people who come to boat shows with money to burn. What kind of person would buy the biggest offering on the Javits Center floor -- a 50-foot cruiser worth $700,000? "A rich person," said Matthew Barbara, owner of Surfside 3 Marina in New York. Sea Ray's 500 Sundancer is just such a boat. By Wednesday, Barbara said he had already sold two.

But then boat shows are about much more than boats. There are so many other things to buy: anchors, weathervanes, binoculars, mops, boat shoes, life rafts, waterproof jackets, engines, docks, marine stereos, portable toilets, galvanized nuts and bolts, teak oil, water skis and even cellular phones.

Surely one of the most sought-after products in the high-tech booths is the laptop computer marketed by Ocean PC, a Seattle-based marine electronics company, and sold by Seatronics of Hampton Bays, N.Y. Made of titanium, the Panasonic CF-25 computer is said to be shock-proof and water-resistant, both attributes that are likely to come in handy on a stormy day at sea.

Copyright 1997 The New York Times Company

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