Boat shows: maximize your visit

I’m a relative newbie to the boat show world, but I’ve learned a lot since I first attended 4 years ago- 8.5 months pregnant and praying that the heat combined with walking would motivate River to make his grand entrance. This year we visited the Newport Boat Show–arguably one of the best!–and had a blast. These are the top pointers we use ourselves to get the most out of a boat show visit.

View of the boat show from our hotel room–see below about booking last minute!
Know why you’re there

We went to this year’s boat show with a very specific goal in mind: buy a roll-up inflatable dinghy for Robin Hood. We have been towing our 13 ft Boston Whaler behind her, but for a longer trip–especially one that includes crossing the Gulf Stream–we need a dinghy that we can store somewhere on Robin Hood. Our old one was stolen and it’s finally time to replace her. We did our research ahead of time and came armed with questions.

The whaler is passable tow-behind for coastal cruising. She’s very heavy but makes up for it once we reach our destination. Also the kids LOVE to ride behind us on a calm day if we are motoring. a win/win!
Get business cards…and bring your own

If you aren’t ready to buy that very day, grab a business card and keep in touch to likely get the same boat show sale price in the coming weeks. Most dealers will still honor the deal they were offering at the show, if they know that you visited them and made your selection there. Bring your own cards as well–not only are there numerous drawings and lotteries to enter in, it can offer a great business forum depending on your line of work. Since we are hoping to rent some moorings, and maybe even dock and cabin space space, next summer, we made some great contacts–all of whom sail right past our cove all summer.

Hey look its our friend’s book! Networking opportunities are everywhere!
Dress appropriately 

This one is pretty obvious, and your own mother has likely been schooling you on this point since you first learned to zip your own fly. The salient item here is shoes: you will be asked to remove your shoes before boarding every single boat. Since checking out the boats is fun, and also probably why you are there, do yourself a favor and make it a simple process. You will also be walking A LOT, so comfort is key.

Shoes off before you go aboard!
Book early- or late

If arriving by boat, book your dock or mooring early. The reasons for this should be fairly self-explanatory! 🙂 If planning to stay in a nearby hotel, and you’re able to resist advance planning, use a last-minute service like “hotel tonight” or “”. We booked our hotel on our drive down to the show and got about 70% off the price the hotel had been asking for just two days before. More money to spend on the boat!!

We booked our room last-minute, literally as we drive over the bridge to Newport
Whether boat or hotel- definitely spend a night

Boat shows are invariably in cool cities and bring a fun adventurous group of people together. So whatever your accommodations, schedule in at least one night and hit the town. We went to one of our favorite Newport spots, Forty 1 Degrees North, for outdoor dinner and drinks overlooking yet another collection of gorgeous boats. We met some cool sailors discussing their own Caribbean sailing trips and traded stories. From there we hit up Zelda’s and the IYAC for tequila and pool: for me a winning combo every time. Well, at least for a little while.

racking up some wins at IYAC
Pick brains and take notes

There is just so much stuff to see at these shows. While walking around and talking to people it’s useful to take notes on certain items that you make want to learn more about in the future. Or, if you’re like me, take pictures!

There is so much to learn when this many knowledgable people are in one space
Cash money!

Last but certainly not least, bring cash. There are a ton of food stands and bars. (It’s a crowd of sailors, after all!) Bring cash and you can sip your dark n stormy while cruising the docks filled with dream boats. That’s my 2 buy lots of boats and go cruising!

Drinks and snack break!
PS: Don’t neglect to visit the broker’s show, which is usually one of our favorite parts. New boats are fun to see, but a short walk away you will usually find the separate broker’s show where used boats ACTUALLY FOR SALE are all on display!

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