Boat show season set to get started
About 51,000 vessels are registered in Lee County and more than 21,000 in Collier County.
With hundreds of square miles of inland waterways, more than 100 coastal islands and the expansive Gulf of Mexico, this area is a boater’s paradise.
In Bonita Springs, boaters enjoy exploring Estero Bay, the Imperial River, Spring Creek and all the little back bays with pristine nooks hidden among dense mangrove islands.
There are so many places to go by boat that boat dealers from around the state set up shows big and small to lure both first-time boat buyers and those looking to upgrade or change their vessels.
In 2016, boat shows are scheduled everywhere from Bonita Springs and Fort Myers to the mega show in Miami.
Closest to home are the two shows scheduled for 2016 in Bonita Springs. The Southwest Florida Marine Industries Association puts on its yearly show in the field by the dog track off Bonita Beach Road Feb. 25-28.
“In Bonita we are going to have an expanded fishing area,” said John Good, show manager. “There will be about 20 dealers and a lot of product. We are not an in-water show so we don’t have boats over 35 feet.”
The ninth annual Bonita Bay Boat Show is a bit smaller and more intimate. It also offers visitors a chance to peek inside the gated community and eat at Backwater Jacks restaurant.
“We get to offer local dealers in our area here at our site,” said Tibe Larsen, marina manager at Bonita Bay Marina.
There will be marine vendors, rods and reels, apparel, marine canvas, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, and Ace Hardware with marine stuff and grills during the event that runs Feb. 19-21.
“What is unique is we provide a beer and wine and appetizer party for the public and our residents Saturday from 4-6 p.m., Larsen said.
“The public is welcome to the show and to Backwater Jacks for lunch and dinner.”
Larsen said another benefit of the show is all the dealers are from Bonita Springs or Fort Myers Beach so customers who purchase a boat have the benefit of being near the dealer in case of any problems or concerns or to simply learn more about their new vessel.
Local dealers include Fish Tale Marina, Marina Max and Bonita Boat Center.
“Instead of a dealer that is far away that you don’t see anymore, our dealers create a relationship with the customer,” Larsen said.
Another plus about this show is that it is free.
“We were the first ones in Bonita Springs to have a boat show,” Larsen said. “It is a great atmosphere.
The first boat show of 2016 is in Charlotte County and runs Jan. 14-17. About 15-18 local dealers and up to 300 boats will be on display.
“This is our 15th year,” said show manager John Good. “The show is not a whole lot different. I think what is new is all the new products out there. There is so much new technology. We will have more boats in the show than ever.”
Good said a wide variety of vessels will include center-console fishing boats, flats boats, skiffs, deck boats, pontoon boats, family-cruising boats, catamarans, and more. Plus, an assortment of marine products, boat lifts, marine supplies, fishing tackle, clothing, sunglasses, gift items, repair services, and financing will be available. Port Charlotte’s Fishin’ Frank will give fishing seminars and the Coast Guard Auxiliary and U.S. Power Squadron will have boating safety Information.
The biggest boat show each year is the Miami Boat Show, scheduled this year for Feb. 11–15. The show is moving from the Miami Beach Convention Center to Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin.
“It has direct access to the water,” said Christine Siervo, communications director. “It will be one location where you have everything. There will be tents inside and boats on water at the docks.”
Siervo said the new location had been a longtime popular venue, but has not been used since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
“They are bringing that area back to life,” she said. “If there ever was one venue that encompasses what a boat show should be it is this. It encompasses everything you need.”
The Miami show will feature more than 1,200 boats on land and in the water, with more than 400 slips. The deep-water basin will accommodate larger boats. On land, in the approximately 600,000 square feet of exhibitor space, boat lovers can find marine accessories, electronics, engines, nautical gifts and apparel and services, as well as on-the-water boating workshops, daily seminars, and fun ways to test the waters, including paddle sports demos.
The show will also showcase historical boats, including the boat from the television show “Miami Vice," and the sister ship to Ernest Hemingway’s boat.
This show will also debut a new culinary experiences, including a wine bar, beer garden, and roasted pig barbecue.
“It is really delicious food compared to the usual convention center food,” Siervo said.
People can come by water taxi to the show and can use the water taxi to go to the area where sailboats will be displayed.
The Strictly Sail Miami portion of the show that will remain at Miamarina at Bayside Marketplace features more than 125 sailboats, dozens of daily seminars, and the latest sailing gear.
The Miami Boat Show is celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2016. It began in 1941 under one tent with 50 boats.
The 28th annual Yacht and Brokerage Show in Miami Beach has a new name this year: Yachts Miami Beach. It takes place the same dates as the Miami Show, but is a completely different event. This in-water show spans more than 1.2 million square feet of space over a mile-long strip of Indian Creek Waterway from 41st Street to 54th Street along Collins Avenue, and features hundreds of new and pre-owned vessels. New this year is a location at Island Gardens Marina on Watson Island that accommodates deep draft vessels up to 500 feet.
Other boat shows include the 31st annual Palm Beach International Show featuring everything from 8-foot inflatables to superyachts more than 150 feet long. The same company also puts on a boat show in Sarasota.
Ending the year is Southwest Florida’s largest show, the 44th annual Fort Myers Boat Show, Nov. 17-20, at Harborside, the Fort Myers Yacht Basin and Centennial Park.
If you go
Charlotte County Boat Show
When: Jan. 14-17 (Thurs-Sun 10-6, Sunday 10-5)
Where: Charlotte County Fairgrounds, Port Charlotte, 2333 El Jobean Road, Port Charlotte
Cost: Free admission $5 parking
Info: swfmia.com/charlotte-county-boat-show/ 239-656-7083
Miami International Boat Show
When: Feb. 11–15 (Premier Day: Thursday, Feb. 11, 10 am– 6 pm; Show Days: Friday, February 12—Sunday, Feb. 14, 10 am–8 pm; Monday, Feb. 15, 10 am–6 pm)
Where: 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, FL 33149. Located on Virginia Key minutes from downtown Miami.
Cost: Premier Day $35, Adult (age 16+) $20, Two-day pass (Friday–Monday, Feb. 12–15) $35, Five-day pass $85, 15 & younger free.
Info: miamiboatshow.com/show-info/ 954-441-3220
Yacht and Brokerage Show
When: Feb. 11 - 15 (Thurs. Feb 11, 10 am - 7pm, Fri. Feb. 12, 10 am - 7 pm, Sat. Feb 13, 10 am - 7 pm, Sun. Feb. 14, 10 am - 7 pm, Mon. Feb. 15, 10 am - 5 pm)
Where: On the Indian Creek Waterway at Collins Avenue (S.R. A1A) From 41st to 54th streets -
Info: showmanagement.com/miami_boat_show/event 954-764-7642
Bonita Bay Boat Show
When: Feb. 19-21 (Fri-Sat 10 am-6 pm, Sun 10 am-5 pm)
Where: Bonita Bay Marina
Bonita Springs Boat Show
When: Feb 25-28 (Thurs-Sun 10-6, Sunday 10-5)
Where: Bonita Springs Dog Track
Palm Beach International Boat Show
When: March 17-20 (Thurs noon-7 pm, Fri-Sat 10 am - 7 pm, Sun. 10 am. - 6 pm)
Where: Evernia St./Flagler Drive (waterfront) and North Clematis Street/Flagler Drive (waterfront)
Cost: not available
Suncoast Boat Show of Downtown Sarasota
When: April 15-17 (Fri. - Sat 10 am - 7 pm, Sun., 10 am - 5 pm)
Where: Marina Jack’s Marina Plaza, Sarasota
Cost: Not available
Fort Myers Boat Show
When: Nov. 17-20 (Thurs-Sun 10-6, Sunday 10-5)
Where: Harborside, the Fort Myers Yacht Basin and Centennial Park