If you want to see some serious innovation, just look to the world of boats—our articles on 10 Great Innovations in Modern Sailing and 10 Great Inventions and Innovations in Boating provide the proof.

This year over 40 new boats and boating products were entered in the NMMA Innovations Award contest, which highlights the best and the brightest to hit the market at the Miami Boat Show. These products were judged by a panel of six boating writers, including yours truly. Just eight of those 40-plus products emerged as winners.

Here’s what impressed us.

sea ray venture 370

Can you see the Verado outboards powering this Sea Ray 370 Venture? Neither can we. But trust us, they're in there.

Sea Ray BoatsSea Ray Boats was the big stand-out to the judges, with the 370 Venture. Boats.com first told you about this boat in our 370 Venture boat review when the model was launched late last fall, and the panel of judges agreed it was one of the most innovative creations we've seen in recent years. The Venture is an express cruiser which is powered by a pair of Mercury Verados. No surprise at the choice of powerplants, since Mercury and Sea Ray are both owned by industry giant Brunswick. But those Verados aren't hanging off the transom, they’re housed inside of the boat—under a pair of sunpads. Unique? Absolutely. Innovative? You bet.

To find out more about Brunswick's attitude towards innovation as they build more new boats, watch our exclusive interview with CEO Dusty McCoy.


Boston Whaler - Brunswick didn't hold its innovations to the Sea Ray brand - Boston Whaler also garnered recognition, with its 230 Vantage taking top honors for powerboats under 25 feet in length. The Vantage wowed judges with its innovative seating, including a convertible passenger’s seat which featured amazingly stout hardware. Some other Vantage highlights include a bow boarding ladder hidden in the anchor locker, a fold-away transom bench seat, and a head compartment in the passenger’s console. If you want to learn more about the Vantage, check out this Short Take Video we filmed on the boat, read the full Vantage 230 review, or visit Boston Whaler.

boston whaler vantage dual console

The Vantage series, new from Boston Whaler, was another big hit for Brunswick at the Miami show.


Harris FloteBote - In the pontoon boat category, Harris Flotebote – yet another builder under the Brunswick umbrella - took the prize with their Crowne 250. This is one of the few pontoons around with an arch and partial hard top, because low bridges over inland lakes often mean anything more substantial than the common Bimini restricts the waterways you can use. How do you get around this issue on the Harris? Just press a button, and the top slowly lowers itself. Judges also liked the Harris’s strong construction and plush seating. You can learn more at Harris Flotebote or get a first-hand look at some of Harris’s other models in our Video Boat Review section.

harris floteboat crowne 250

The arch on the Harris Flotebote Crowne 250 tilts down, at the press of a button.


The Smartplug replaces those clunky old twist-to-lock shorepower cords.


Smartplug - Mechanical and Electrical systems may not be the most glamorous category in the world, but no doubt the folks at Smartplug think it’s a good one. Their 50 amp Smartplug won it, thanks to their safer, stronger plug design. Shorepower cord plugs are notorious for causing shorts and fires, and the Smartplug uses better connections which lock in place without the clunky push-and-twist we usually have to go through. Check it out at Smartplug.

For more of what impressed us, read NMMA Innovation Awards, part 2.