Combining tradition and innovation at the Newport Boat Show



Here are some of the main innovations, organizations and nods to tradition presented during the convention.


Sonny III, Photo courtesy of Sonny

The 51st edition of the annual Newport International Boat Show concluded on September 18 and was one of the best to date. The new normal was the old normal: four days of maskless crowds in glorious New England fall weather, everyone watching, talking and buying boats and navy-related gear. The event is more than a “show”. It’s a nautical convention. If you have loved boats like me for 40 years, this is an opportunity to immerse yourself in all things marine by seeing and talking to knowledgeable and passionate people.

More, Newport is known for its architectural charm, good food, plentiful drinks and recreational activities on the water.

Here are some of the main innovations, organizations and nods to tradition presented during the event.

Photo courtesy of Zar

It’s the Maserati of inflatables. Designed with patented hull shapes and built by Italian craftsmen, these fast and highly styled rigid inflatables are not just meant to serve as mega yachts. Many people buy them as runabouts. During a test, I had a blast gliding over the waves, accelerating like a hurricane and turning corners with surgical precision. Just be sure to get an Italian model, not a smaller one, now made in China.

Photo via Chris Craft

This legendary Florida builder is still making state-of-the-art powerboats after 148 years. They go fast and are very stylish. For example, their Launch model has a real retro vibe, one that reminds me of Gina Lollobrigida in a headscarf making waves on an Italian Riva. For those not looking to fish, a Chris-Craft should be on your boat shopping list.

Photo via Seakeeper

These clever mechanical devices help eliminate up to 95% of boat roll. They can be fitted to new builds or retrofitted to existing yachts. By eliminating instability, people prone to seasickness can get out on the water.

Photo via Burger Boat

These yachts were once the pinnacle of yacht building in America. They declined for a while, but are now as good as ever. They have a new line of 50ft cruisers, but several buyers are working with them on custom builds. If your dream includes owning a classic from this Wisconsin yard, take a look at some of the deals previously held. Burger’s revitalization is the story of the revival of American yachting.

This club has 362 rental pitches. Boat ownership is not for everyone. Liabilities and costs are often prohibitive, so having the ability to use, not own, is a great way to get in the water. According to the show’s staff, they are “growing up like crazy”.

Photo via Hinkley Yachts

How not to admire and covet a Hinckley with its Maine know-how? Using underwater technology from long ago, this new offering combines diesel power, which charges the batteries, and a Dual disc system that allows the yacht to operate silently. Ideal for muted use in ports and at anchor. One is under contract, and I’m sure many more will be sold. Hinckley uses its timeless 40ft picnic boat hull with this new powerhouse.

Photo via J Boats

J’s is the largest racing boat manufacturer in America, if not the world. Their fleet of one-design boats set the standard. The new model, the J9, is an easy-to-sail race/day boat designed to get a solo sailor or small crew up and down the water with the least amount of effort. Made in Bristol RI, this J offering looks nothing but fun.

Photo via Flux Marine

This RI-based startup is working on cutting-edge technology to electrify outboard motors. They have numerous patents and are taking pre-orders for a range of sizes. When it all comes together, this company will make being on the water a greener experience.

Photo via the landing school

Change your life or learn new skills that bring you closer to a Zen experience. Head to Maine and attend this school of marine technology. When you graduate, you need to master a number of skills; such as wooden boat building, composites, marine systems or yacht design. Students often make lifelong friends while enjoying rural Maine.

Photo via Marshall Marine Corp.

These Massachusetts-based builders use traditional techniques like hand-laid fiberglass and wood trim and interiors to craft several types of the highest quality small boats. Their catboat is instantly recognizable on the water, as is their Sakonnet 23. Nothing cutting-edge here, just old-school quality and classic design.

Photo via X Shore

Yes, there must be a Tesla of boats, and Swedish X Shore is that brand. These all-electric, well-designed boats are unique. From their natural cork trim to their high bows, X Shore designs for the next generation of yachts. They are quiet and very easy to handle. Their high-performance model claims a range of 100NM and 30 hours of battery life. There are many layout and decoration options. As more and more marinas are equipped with electricity, X Shore is destined to capture a greater share of the market.

Photo via Saber Yachts

Another quality boat builder in Maine, Saber is a legendary brand. They started with sailboats and have become an international source for motorboats. (They have a simpler line called Rear cove.) This 58 is now their flagship and worth considering by anyone (5 have already been sold) who wants a customizable yacht, large, coastal or offshore. Saber also has an extensive support network and is a real feast for the nautical eyes. I have one of their old sailboats and it still turns heads.

Photo via Souport Boats

Even though there are at least a dozen other manufacturers of center console and dual console boats on the market, Southport has some exclusive designs. Their deep V hulls provide a smoother, quieter and safer ride. Southport has a dedicated customer base and therefore holds its resale value among the highest in the industry. Their DNA may have been fishing boats, but their foray into pleasure craft was a smart move.

Anyone who owns a boat needs insurance. This company is recognized for supporting boaters in all their diversity. From large super yachts to wooden classics, they work to find insurance that suits your needs. Always a big supporter of the Newport Show, they can also answer any insurance questions beyond the boats.

Photo via Lyman Morse

This Thomaston, Maine-based shipyard is known for its high-quality custom builds and refit work. They collaborate with the best designers and engineers, and the result is that they can do almost anything related to boats. As an independent yard they are a rare breed these days. I once bought a used boat there and they made an essential part from scratch in an hour.

Sonny III, Photo courtesy of Sonny

Offered by Camper & Nicholsons, this is the yacht of my dreams. Cold molded construction by Brooklin Boat Yard of Maine in 2018, she measures 91 feet of pure, classic elegance. Its maintenance is impeccable. It shines from all surfaces. The all-cherry interior consists of four cabins, a huge saloon and a fully equipped galley. With two outdoor seating areas, Sonny III has room for plenty of company. I guess his current request of $4.75 million is about a third of a new build. Frankly, there are few yachts in the world like her.

This super cool boat is offered by Parallel Marine and looks like sheer fun for the speed obsessed. For a very affordable price, you can imagine yourself skipper of the America’s Cup. I want one and need to find friends to follow the plan. She attracted many admirers.

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