Boat-show season takes place throughout the fall and winter months each year, extending into the spring in some areas. If you live within driving distance of a large body of water, chances are that a local, regional or international boat show is coming to a venue near you.
A boat show offers the unique opportunity to compare boat models in one convenient location. In addition, it can serve as a one-stop shop for a variety of marine electronics, services and accessories running the gamut from anchors to zincs. The bigger shows can be a little daunting, however, in terms of the number of products on display and the amount of ground you will need to cover to enjoy the whole experience. To take full advantage of your day at a boat show, it’s a good idea to do some prep work in advance.
Here are 8 tips on how to make the most of your boat-show experience.
1. Start by visiting the show’s website to check the dates and times that the show will be open. Review the health and security rules so you will know what to expect at the entrance. Consider attending on a weekday to avoid the weekend crowds and have more time to spend with the exhibitors you plan to visit. Some shows begin with a VIP or preview day that costs a few dollars more and may be worth the price of admission if the number of attendees is limited.
2. Review the exhibitors list on the show’s website and make a note of any manufacturers and dealers whose products you particularly want to see. Whether you are shopping for a boat, electronics or an accessory, be sure to add more than one model to your list for comparison’s sake. Some boat-show sites break out the exhibitors by category, which can help you to discover brands you might not have been aware of before.
3. If a map of the boat show is available on the website, print it out and plan your route in advance. This can help you to avoid backtracking and potentially save you some time. Some of the larger boat shows also offer an app you can download to your smartphone and include a built-in interactive map. Check out the food offerings at the show and add a lunch break to your schedule – preferably in a spot where you can get off your feet for a bit.
4. Many of today’s boat shows offer informative seminars on fishing, water sports and other boating-related topics that are free with the price of admission. Add the times and locations of any sessions you want to check out to your list, so you won’t miss them. Some shows also feature an indoor or outdoor pool where you can watch exciting live demonstrations of new water toys.
5. On the day you attend the show, be sure to wear your most comfortable pair of shoes and be ready to cover some ground, especially if it’s a large show. Some exhibitors might ask you to remove your shoes before stepping into a boat, so consider wearing shoes that are easy to put on and take off. Also, choose clothing that will allow you to climb into a boat with ease and scale the ladder to a flybridge if necessary.
6. If you already own a boat and are looking to upgrade its electronics, bring along a photo of the helm station and a list of its measurements to ensure the instrument(s) you buy will fit the dashboard. If you plan to purchase any other new accessory for your boat, such as a Bimini top, having a list of the boat’s specifications and dimensions available also will save you time at the show. Similarly, if you are shopping for a replacement part such as a propeller, be sure to include the old part’s model number and measurements. Knowing your boat and engine combo’s current performance details, such as the maximum engine rpm and top speed, can be helpful when shopping new equipment, too.
7. Prepare a list of questions that you want to ask the manufacturer or dealer for every product you are shopping at the show. Boat shows can be hectic, especially on the weekends. If you know in advance the questions about topics such as options, warranty and service that you want to ask, you will be sure to get the answers you need.
8. Keep an eye out for new technology. Innovative manufacturers such as Mercury Marine typically introduce their latest products and systems on the boat-show circuit each year. Some even offer hands-on demonstrations of new equipment at their booths. If you check the social media sites of manufacturers you follow while you are on the show floor and search for the boat show’s hashtags, it might lead you to new discoveries.
With a bit of advanced preparation, attending a boat show can be both fun and rewarding. If you are in the market for a new boat, marine engine, accessory or piece of electronics equipment, it can offer a great opportunity to evaluate a variety of products and find the one that’s right for you.