BOSTON - Prognosticators are looking for any signs that consumer confidence is growing, any small indicators that the economy might be expanding.
Certainly one of the most disposable income purchases is a recreational boat. If this segment of the economy shows even modest expansion, critics will applaud as the investment in boating - and the purchase of a new family boat - is a significant expression of personal confidence.
Opening day crowds, braving a wintry weekend debut, were solidly positive as this year's version of New England's largest indoor boat show kicked off Saturday in Boston. This year's show runs through Feb. 18 at the Boston Convention Center.
Boating has become a family experience for many participants and this year's show went long on displaying the numerous virtues of enjoying time on New England's vast assortment of lakes and ponds as well as our extensive coastline.
Potential buyers are treated to expansive displays of the latest Yamaha twin-jet-driven boats packed with performance features and the kind of low-draft access that is extremely convenient around the beach. Strikingly handsome bow-riders from premium makers Cobalt and Chris Craft pursue the premium end of this family-friendly market, while SeaDoo and SeaRay each produce top-selling models that capture a variety of budgets. SeaRay's latest black-hulled SLX250 proved to be one of the show's more stunning models, a sleek do-it-all family ski/tube/wakeboard boat that packs the high quality ratings that SeaRay has accumulated.
Boat deals abound at the show as the industry banks on recording the majority of its new boat sales at visual displays just like the Boston show. Coastal boaters are familiar with Wellcraft; its top-selling 252 Coastal was over $25,000 off the suggested price of $119,630 with twin Yamaha 150-hp outboards. SeaRay's 260 Sundancer, a New England favorite for years, lists for $136,395 but was on sale for `only' $99,900 with a 300-hp 350-MAG I/O engine.
There are also the big cruisers at the show, boats such as Formula's 35-foot 350SS which carries a 10-foot-9-inch beam and twin 8.2-liter MAG V-8 engines. The Formula was a cool $148,000 off from list price with a show special of $274,900.
Nearby was Maine's own Back Cove 30, one of the more luxurious vessels on display. Built in Rockland, the Back Cove uses a typical Downeast-style hull, yet it sports the latest in premium cruising amenities. Several `shoppers' were pleased, and proud, to learn that the Back Cove is built in Maine. Look for the Back Cove at next month's Portland Boat Show, as there is apparently no shortage of customers waiting for this yacht.
For sailors, Hunter's 33-foot sailboat, Cruising Magazine's Boat of the Year in the under 35-foot class, makes a dramatic statement. This benchmark sailboat was featured for $127,650, or only $646 a month.
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