Folks who come to the boat show often come for different reasons and experience the show in different ways. Some people come for the deals, the dream of owning a boat, seminars, the chance to walk aboard a boat you'll probably never be able to afford, for commercial purchases, and more.
This is our third winter show here in Seattle (there is another annual outdoor-only show in the Fall on Lake Union). Our first show was before we had purchased and moved aboard our sailboat. The second was our upgrade show - what can we buy at a discount for the boat? Now, the big number three.
Any local boaters who attend the show annually probably have discovered what we found out back on our second tour - it doesn't change much year to year. Especially if you already own a boat and you're not looking to upgrade. The layout and vendors are very similar to past shows (I'm sure it's not worth the headache to move things around each year) and even the seminars (which are great & free!) have a few repeat performances.
So, we do what we love doing - we pick a handful of things at the show to feature. We look for different things than we've featured in the past. Our choices are not based on advertising, discounts, or freebies (although we're not against getting free boaty stuff!). It's basically, what looks interesting? We finish this post up with some suggestions to make the show better and attract even more people, especially a younger demographic that the industry needs to survive. Let's have a look!
In some ways similar to Northwest's own OAR Northwest, Epoch Expeditions is another crazy, adventurous, and educational outfit that rows across oceans and more. Check out their website to see how you can get involved in their next expedition on land or sea!
Coeur D' Alene custom wood boats are shiny, smooth, & sweeeeeeet.
They're the best thing to come out of Idaho since Sarah Pali - err - I mean, potatoes. Check them out here and get started on the boat of your dreams!
Although I like wearing my Xtratuf boots around town after a long day of sailing/working/kayaking, my wife will be happy to know I can fit into the new xtratuf shoes instead…pow!
It turns out a recession is the perfect time to launch a hot tub boat company. Made right here in Seattle, these boats are perfect for a little Lake Union cruise/soak. Rentals are available…Best birthday present ever. Reserve now!
I don't think Hobie gets the serious look it deserves when you're talking about Northwest sailing & kayaking. These boats could fly you up and down the Puget Sound…the only tricky part - where to store the boats when you're not using them - these things are pretty giant. If I lived in a house by the water I'd get one for sure.
Not one, but two big sailboats inside this year. Signature Yachts & Beneteau made a nice showing with a couple of beauties - a 37' and a 45'. Touring the decks and down below was great but, despite the hassle, they've got to put the masts up indoors. I heard more than one group of people explaining that these were in fact sailboats…:)
A different post, but related, was about the state of sailing in the Sound - is sailing (versus power boating) getting less popular here in the Northwest? Does our boat show reflect this?
Amber (captain wifey) and I talked and brainstormed about what was lacking at the show for us, keeping in mind that shows mean different things to different people. We came up with a few suggestions for future Seattle boat shows…7 ideas to move the show into the future and attract more guests, buyers, and young sailors.
- Sponsors. We need GoPro. Puma Ocean Racing. Heck, even Red Bull. Do they pay us to show up in some capacity or do we pay them? Whatever it takes. Puma brings a Volvo Ocean Race Volvo 70 virtual sailing experience (I just made this up, it might exist...think water-ride meets video games...3D...splash!). Get REI there and offer REI members some sort of discount (plus they would market the heck out of it on there end). Get the Seattle Aquarium involved. Did you know in the Spring there are literally thousands of jellyfish floating around at Shilshole? We learned that after we bought a boat. People need to be sold on the experience...on the crankies!
- Guests. The America's Cup is happening just down the way this summer...did we hear about it at our boat show? I didn't. How about the Deadliest Catch dudes? Surely they could have an exhibit to entertain! Crazy Coast Guard Rescue presentation...
- Seminar Alley. So, the seminars are great. Sailors, fishermen, boaters, and more share their experience for a small, friendly audience. Wouldn't it be great for them to have a section of booths where guests could walk through, see pictures, talk to the presenters, all at once? I know this doesn't sell anything in the short term but it would really be refreshing to stroll and chat with folks who aren't trying to get me to spin some wheel to get a free cookie.
- Tattoos. Sailors should have tattoos. Get Anchor Tattoo to set up shop and hook pirates up with a boat show party favor they won't forget...
- Bring back the wakeboard challenge. Or something like it. A trapeze group is one thing (that really has nothing to do with boating...). Crazy individuals standing on wakeboards for 72 hours is quite another (and good training for standing watch on a long ocean crossing one day). Lure weary standees out of the contest with gift packs from sponsors before the 72 hours is up…"Step off now for a GoPro gift pack!" (and a nap).
- Start small - get people interested in small watercraft. Besides the awesome Hobie display and the I-would-never-be caught-in small inflatable sailboat brand at the show, where are the other kayak folks? Pygmy? Innova? What about SUPs?
- Boat launch headquarters. You know that booth in REI with the national park dudes that can answer any question and sell you maps like crazy? We need a centralized place at the boat show where people could buy (and maybe trade) charts, ask questions, look at interactive maps of the Puget Sound and plan some trips. A lot of this stuff is at the show but it needs to be pulled together and the presentation spiced up a bit.
- More video. OK, this one is a little vague...Well, the thing is, after going to this show, do I have a sense - a feeling - of boating in the Northwest? Of what it looks and sounds like to, I don't know, sail a boat from Shilshole to the San Juans? To surf some freighter wake in Elliot Bay? To race with the Thunderbird fleet on Lake Washington? To sailgate a Husky game? Do I come back from the show thinking about this stuff? No. More video might help. Giant flat screens are cheap these days and with everyone mounting GoPros on everything...and them being a sponsor (hypothetically)...Northwest Boating Short Film Contest anyone? The only videos we noticed were powerboat sales videos showing the boat cruising in South Carolina or somewhere not the Northwest.
This is the kinda stuff that, for us at least, would breathe new life into the show. It would make us want to come and spend money even though we already have a boat (and no money:) Sure, half of it is too expensive to pull off but it is the direction the Seattle Boat Show needs to go to modernize for the next generation of Northwest Boaters!
~Paul & Amber ETC