It’s time to dream about boats again: The Mobile Boat Show is back


It’s been a crazy few years for the yachting marine industry, and the Mobile Boat Show’s return after a year lost due to COVID isn’t exactly a return to normal. But it’s a return to more familiar waters, at least.

You won’t see crowded boats outside the Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center this year. The volume of exposed inventory is somewhat lower than in previous years, due to supply chain issues. Some of the main living room space is taken up with toys you may not have seen there in years, such as kayaks, golf carts and lawn equipment.

But smaller does not mean smaller. The Palais des Congrès is still full of boats. And according to Melissa Miller of the Gulf Coast shows, the recent state of the world – war, inflation fears and rising gas prices – hasn’t dampened demand that soared two years ago when the pandemic hit.

“We have a great selection,” Miller said. “I’m super surprised to see this room full of boats again, from what I heard six months ago.”

In 2020, the Mobile Show, which usually follows Mardi Gras closely, was one of the last major public events held before the scheduled shutdown in . “We finished Wednesday and Friday the world had stopped,” Miller said.

Holiday trips, concerts and anything involving group gatherings were banned. But the wide open spaces appealed to me. Bikes and kayaks have become staples (and rare). At the public landing stages, the car parks overflowed.

“It was great for the shipping industry, but it also crippled the shipping industry,” Miller said. “Because it kind of ate up all the inventory.”

Two years later, Miller said, much of what you hear about the auto industry is also true for boats.

“The demand is still high, people are sticking to it,” she said. “The second-hand market is crazy. People are trying to buy new boats, used boats, anything to get out on the water. You could make a lot of money with your used boat, but how do you replace it?

Many hulls are made in the United States, she said, but much of the equipment needed to complete them — engines, electronics, hardware — has been caught up in supply chain shortages.

On the plus side, show organizers know there are a lot of relatively new boaters on the water and they are adjusting the show’s feature mix to accommodate them. An example: a Power Squadron navigation simulator will be on hand, as well as the presence of the Coast Guard and the Alabama Marine Police.

As always, the show features a mix of boats and boat-related accessories, with vendors lining the upper and lower concourses of the Convention Center. It also offers entertainment and activities including the Fetch-N-Fish dog show, marine life touch tables, guide corner, live music and more. A full program is available at www.GulfCoastShows.com.

Festival hours are noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $10 for adults, free for children $15 and under. There is a $2 military discount.

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