With over 2,000 miles of tidal coastline, plus miles of navigable rivers and great lakes, Florida is a boater’s paradise. It’s no wonder the Sunshine State has 985,005 registered ships, more than any other state.
The pandemic-fueled surge in boat sales has fueled the marine industry since the spring of 2020. The only thing holding it back has been the tight supply of new boats.
The 48th annual Stuart Boat Show – Jan. 14-16 along the Dixie Highway and in the water along three marinas – will feature dozens of boat dealers from Treasure Coast, Palm Beaches and Space Coast. All will display the latest models they can put together, but potential buyers will need to bring one thing: patience.
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Boat show season
Boating in Florida is big business. According to National Association of Marine Products Manufacturers, boating generates an annual economic impact in the Sunshine State of $23.3 billion, supporting more than 92,000 jobs and 6,200 businesses.
The Stuart Boat Show is the premier showcase for Treasure Coast’s robust marine industry, said Michelle Miller, executive director of the Treasure Coast Maritime Industries Association, the nautical chamber of commerce which presents the boat show every year.
“We look forward to another smash hit show. It’s a great outdoor family event and every year, All sports productions makes it bigger and better and adds a new twist to it,” Miller said.
The show has been sold out since September, she said, with more than 180 shipping companies planning to attend. As always, viewers can expect to see hundreds of boats of all makes and models on land and in the water, combined for over $1 billion in sales inventory. In addition to boats, attendees will find the latest in personal watercraft, safety equipment, marine electronics, inboard and outboard motors, fishing equipment, finance companies and insurance, nautical clothing, jewelry and accessories for any nautical adventure.
The fair will not require visitors to wear masks or show proof of vaccination, but will offer handwashing and sanitizing stations.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association reports that 95% of boats sold in the United States are made in the United States. Of these boat building businesses, 93% are small businesses. Like the majority of boats on display at this year’s Stuart Boat Show, 95% are trailerable, measuring under 26ft.
A Treasure Coast maker that fits this bill, Bluewater Sport Fishing Boats in Fort Pierce, has been exhibiting at the boat show every year since the company was founded in 1996, said founder and president Paul Skilowitz.
“For us, it is always important for us to support the spectacle of our hometown. The fact that we have been there for so long, people are used to seeing us there in our prime location near the entrance at the north end of the show,” Skilowitz said. .
Like the Stuart Boat Show, Bluewater is family-oriented, Skilowitz said.
“We have a large group of owners who live on the Treasure Coast and the Palm Beaches. Additionally, we get a mix of people who come to the Stuart Boat Show with the goal of buying a new boat,” he said. -he declares.
A few years ago Skilowitz sold a boat to a couple from North Carolina who went to the Stuart show so they wouldn’t have to worry about the traffic and other expenses of the big boat shows in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale or Miami.
“Stuart is a special show in that regard. People love coming here because it provides a comfortable, relaxed environment,” he said.
Skilowitz said he will have a 35-footer, a 28, two 25s and maybe a 21 if parts arrive in time. Like others in the shipbuilding industry, Skilowitz was challenged by high demand; supply chain disruptions, which create a shortage of parts and materials; and reduced staff. Recent expansions of Maverick Boat Group and Pursuit Boats, both located a stone’s throw from Bluewater, have sapped some of Skilowitz’s workforce, which has 24 employees. Being a smaller builder, Skilowitz said, means “you get the crumbs” when it comes to supplies and outboard motors.
But, he said, Bluewater is in good shape.
“I don’t advertise, so all of our boats are sold by word of mouth. I knew when my wife and I started this business that we weren’t interested in being the biggest builders in the business, but I wanted to build the best boats. Our integrity and closeness to our consumers is what works best for us.”
Stuart Boat Show
When: January 14-16
Time: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Or: 54-290 NW Dixie Hwy, Stuart
Admission: Adults, $15; veterans, $13; children 12 and under, $8
No COVID-19 restrictions, but there will be sanitizing and hand washing stations throughout the show. Pets are not accepted.
Car park: North side — A small lot at the corner of Wright Boulevard and the Dixie Highway. South Side — Park at Witham Field off Monterey Road and take a free shuttle.
Road Closed : Dixie Highway between Northwest Fern Street and Southwest Albany Avenue starting January 10. 17
Ed Killer is TCPalm’s outside writer. Sign up for his newsletter and other weekly newsletters at profile.tcpalm.com/newsletters/manage. Friend Ed on Facebook at killer ed, follow him on Twitter @tcpalmekiller or email him at[email protected].