VIDEO: Exhibitor calls Connecticut show “wave of the future”

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The weather was not inclined to cooperate, but most everything else about the fifth annual edition of a small weekend boat show on the banks of the lower Connecticut River suited its exhibitors just fine.

The Essex (Conn.) Spring Boat Show was a boutique-style event that Randy Altemus of Prestige Yacht Sales called “the wave of the future.” More than 50 new and used sailboats and powerboats from 23 to 60 feet were on display on two docks at Brewer Dauntless Marina. Admission and parking were free.

Altemus said the style of shows such as the Essex event enables exhibitors to tailor their boats to the visitors they expect to see. Those who attended the Essex show, which ran from Friday through Sunday, are knowledgeable, highly qualified and can afford the four Beneteau Oceanis performance cruising sailboats and the two Hunt and two Southport powerboats that Prestige brought to the show.

“It’s a good show and we look forward to attending it each year,” Altemus said. “We’ve never failed to sell one to three boats a year.”

Altemus said the difficult winter the Northeast experienced has hurt the brokerage market and put the spring selling season “a month to six weeks behind schedule.”

He said buyers, who are now returning, “know what they want and usually go right to it.” Still, he added, a brokerage boat has to be in good condition and priced right “or it will sit.”

Chuck Ramsey was at the show, trying to help his broker, Leslie Quarrier of Boatworks Yacht Sales, sell his 1987 Island Gypsy 44.

“I bought it from Leslie 17 years ago, and my wife and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, spending 40 to 45 days per year aboard,” Ramsey said, “but the average age of my crew is now 73 and the boat is getting too big for us.”

Ramsey said he and his wife don’t plan to get out of boating.

“If I can get an offer on this, I’ll turn around and put an offer on that 38 Blue Star I’ve been eyeing in the next slip over,” he said.

Industry veteran Bob Johnstone, founder and CEO of MJM Yachts, was on hand in support of broker Ben Knowles of East Coast Yacht Sales, who was exhibiting a 2014 MJM 40z.

“We’ve had conversations with three qualified buyers already,” Johnstone said Friday afternoon.

Johnstone said MJM has sold 175 of its innovative, narrow-beam power yachts since it was founded in 2002, including 46 of the 40-footers, the company’s most popular model.

Jim Eastland, the founder and former owner of Eastland Yachts, said Sunday that the spring is a good time of year for an event such as the Essex show.

“People put away their snow shovel, and they’re thinking about going sailing,” said Eastland, who still works for the dealership as a salesman.

“It’s worth a couple of boats every year,” Eastland said as he sat aboard a Hallberg-Rassy 39 that the dealership was exhibiting.

For a time, the sun broke through thick afternoon clouds as Eastland spoke. Saturday had been rainy and chilly, and although Sunday was dry, the low-50s temperature had a chilly feel because of the largely overcast skies and a breeze off the river. Nonetheless, the parking lot at the marina was filled to capacity.

John Keenan, of the Essex Marine Group, acknowledged that Saturday’s rain limited the number of visitors, but he said “the people who were really interested battled the weather.”

Keenan said he had taken people on demonstration rides Saturday and Sunday on the Southport center console the dealership was exhibiting.

“If they’re serious, I’ll take them out,” he said. “I have a rain jacket.”

Look for a wrap-up report about the Suncoast Boat Show in Trade Only Today on Tuesday.

— Jack Atzinger and Rich Armstrong

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