Thursday’s boat-show circuit for the average boating scribe started and ended at the Miami Beach Convention Center, beginning with the J.D. Power customer satisfaction study results. I missed the bulk of the event (I think I was posting Wednesday’s blog), but the engine and boat manufacturer press releases tell the story:
Evinrude, Honda, PCM, and Volvo Penta scored highest in the four engine categories, two-stroke outboard, four-stroke outboard, sterndrive, and inboard, respectively. In the seven powerboat categories, the top scorers were Bass Cat (Bass Boats), Grady-White (Coastal Fishing), Regal (Express Cruiser), Sea Ray (Small Runabout), Cobalt (Large Runabout), Bennington (Pontoon), and Nautique, by Correct Craft (Ski/Wakeboard). One encouraging note for all boat buyers was that both surveys found that customer satisfaction for all engine companies, on average, has improved over previous years.
West Marine highlighted six new products they’ll be promoting in 2009, including a West Marine AIS B unit that indicates on your chartplotter the position, size, and names of ships and other boats while transmitting your ID info in return. Another safety item is the Marinco Galvanalert, a short add-on to your yellow dockside electrical plug-in that immediately detects and signals problems (using LED lights) if problems exist with a marina’s wiring. West’s product development VP, Chuck Hawley, who did the presentation, also made a good case for Pettit’s antifouling paint, Vivid Eco with Econea, a biocide that replaces copper with an environmentally friendly substance that degrades quickly. Speaking of the environment, West also announced a Green Product of the Year award of $10,000 cash, open to West suppliers and to be awarded in 2010.
Speaking of promoting good green practices, Interlux handed out some $55,000 for their Waterfront Challenge awards to groups in six regions. Grand prize of $30,000 went to Sea Scout Ship #41 from Lorain, Ohio, which perfected (and put to good use) a lightweight, long-handled aluminum trash scooper useful for cleaning up trash along beaches and marinas. Troop leader Richard Gash told me they hope to use some of the award to buy new sails for the Mariner 36 they sail all summer, although if they can trade for a larger boat that can sleep more scouts, they may do that instead.
For a change of pace in the afternoon, I detoured to Miami Beach Marina for a Sperry Top-Sider test event for the company’s new ASV Solution series shoes. A team headed by Marketing VP, Karen Pitts, showed us prototypes of both athletic and traditional boat shoe styles designed to absorb shock and vibration, particularly for powerboaters who spend long days on their feet. To prove their point, they outfitted us with samples and sent us for a 15-minute ride on a Contender 33 ST. We zipped out of Government Cut at about 40 despite the standing waves created by wind against outgoing tide, headed up the beach and back at about 50, then came back in through the Cut at close to 60. Although we didn’t run up to West Palm Beach and back to do a full-on fatigue test, I’d say the patent-pending plate-and-cassette heels on these “Anti-Shock and Vibration” shoes did their job, although at 60 mph I felt so light on my feet I thought I might just lift off the deck and wave like a flag, assuming I could keep my grip on the T-Top. The shoes go on sale this summer.
Boston Whaler’s introduction of it’s biggest model yet, the 370 Outrage, capped off the day of press conferences. This luxury high-performance hybrid offers a combination fishing platform and family cruiser with a dedicated fish prep area and bait wells aft and an iPod-enabled comfort zone for sun worshipers forward. Whaler’s holding an on-water test event in March, so stay tuned for more on this remarkable boat. It’s definitely not your father’s Boston Whaler.