I am usually a little skeptical of “new” boats being last years’ models with a touch more freeboard, another foot in length, or a few more bells and whistles. This year’s Newport International Boat Show had its share of those new boats, but what really struck me was the gadgets and trends. The coolest new gadget was an underwater camera that could be hung over the side on a cable, or better yet placed in its own remote control vehicle, the HydroView by Aquabotix. You can control the $3,995 Hydroview with your iPhone or laptop to check out your boat underwater, or just view video from beneath the waves. The AquaLens camera alone (with led lights) retails for $475.
The second best new gadget was the Garmin GPSMAP 5215 unit with touch screen. Touch screens aren’t new, but the ability to touch an object on the 15-inch chart display and go to it without pushing other buttons was new, simple, and cool. This Garmin gives you the ability to interface the Bluechart G2 charts with Sonar/Radar/Weather sensors and add features like auto guidance routing. The auto-guidane feature allows you to touch where you want to go while automatically giving you a route that avoids hazards. The 5215 is fabulous, albeit a bit pricey ($6,099)—and scary to a traditionalist like me, who loves electronics but doesn’t use them solely without paper backup. Who knows, maybe I’ll learn to let go with technology like this.
The trends from boat builders were threefold. First, almost every large new sailboat, at least the cruising ones, had a fold-down stern platform. The second is ever more powerful powerboats. I’m not sure who needs four 350HP engines on the transom of a 36-foot boat, especially given gas prices these days, but I guess if you’re buying one of these new boats it is all about impressing other people with your power.
The third trend was wood. Not just wood but wood trim to excess, all highly varnished. Even the giant RIBs, a class previously devoid of wood, had enough wood trim and teak flooring to put a Wally Yacht on notice. The wood trend extended to a comeback of sorts for the numerous “traditional” boat builders, those builders of classic wooden boats such as the Artisan Boatworks and the modern look-alikes such as the Callinectes Runabout. The highlight of the show for wooden boat buffs was the Rockport Marine restoration of the 1924 William Fife designed schooner Adventuress, WOW!
As usual, I had fun re-connecting with acquaintances in the boating industry, seeing the new products, and gauging the crowds’ reactions and moods. I did miss my buddy Jeff’s annual after-show party, but otherwise it was a great show.