As the Palm Beach International Boat Show continues to grow, so do the boats it displays. The four-day (March 17-20) show was the largest in the event’s 31-year history and saw an increase of 8 percent in the total number of boats and a 31 percent boost in the number of boats over 100 feet. The number of vessels from 80 to 100 feet increased by 32 percent, and there was a 6 percent increase in the number of boats under 100 feet.
The show featured its largest yacht ever — the 253-foot Silver Fast.
“Palm Beach has become a big-boat show — it’s where you bring your big boats,” says Chuck Cashman, MarineMax executive vice president of sales, marketing and manufacturer relations. “We brought more big boats, and we sold more [in] dollars.”
Attendance increased by nearly 30 percent during the first two days, but inclement weather prevented the heavy crowds from continuing through the remainder of the weekend, show organizers say.
Despite the weekend rain, exhibitors were happy with the show’s appeal to qualified buyers, says Efrem “Skip” Zimbalist III, CEO of Show Management, which produces the event.
Big boats are selling well, says Cashman. “We were up 30 percent in overall sales dollars, but a little lighter — about 5 percent — on units sold, compared to last year,” he says. “We sold a couple of big boats at the show, and that made a big difference.” He says the trend of larger boats selling “has been evident at all of the shows.”
MarineMax sold an 84-foot Azimut and a 70-foot Hatteras, Cashman says. A 112-foot Ocean Alexander was the dealership network’s largest yacht at the event. MarineMax consists of 59 dealerships in the United States, and it sells such brands as Azimut, Benetti, Sea Ray, Boston Whaler and Scout.
Weather-wise, Sunday was not a bad day, says Cashman. “But the forecast called for 100 percent rain, so I think some people just stayed away.”
They kept coming to the Vicem display for all four days, says Gary Smith, co-president of Sarasota Yacht & Ship in Sarasota, Fla., the distributor of Vicem in the Americas.
“This was our best Palm Beach in recent times,” says Smith. (It was Vicem’s 16th year at the show.) “Three new builds will come out of this show,” he says. “Foot traffic was pretty consistent throughout, and the quality buyers were there.”
Vicem had five yachts on display, including a new 65 Classic Flybridge customized for a 6-foot, 7-inch former basketball player.
With four staterooms and three heads, Patrick Caldwell and his wife, Rebecca, will have plenty of room for their three grandchildren, ages 7, 5 and 3. “I can’t think of a better way to enjoy my family,” says Caldwell, 72, who will have 7 feet of headroom in the forward master stateroom and head.
Denison Yacht Sales presented 24 boats, including a mix of brokerage and new yachts from Hatteras and Beneteau. “We walked away with three boats under contract, which was about on par with last year,” says Denison Yacht Sales president Bob Denison.
“Foot traffic seemed much lighter than last year,” says Denison. “I heard the show announced a 30 percent increase [in attendance] from the 2015 numbers for the first few days of the show. Those extra feet on the dock must have been at a different section of the show than our locations.”
Quality, not quantity
The Palm Beach show is owned and presented by the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County and managed and produced by Show Management. (Active Interest Media owns Show Management and Soundings Trade Only).
“I think the Palm Beach show is traditionally known as a quality, rather than quantity, show,” says Denison. “This year supported that thought. Light traffic, but higher-quality conversations and offers overall. We brokers love the Palm Beach show because it’s an easier show to work. Parking is easy. Great restaurants. Nice hotels. Manageable traffic. At the end of the day, though, contracts written at Palm Beach are nowhere near what happens at FLIBS and Yachts Miami Beach.”
The show has steadily grown since the Great Recession, and it now has more boats and in-water slips and a larger on-land footprint. This year there were an additional 30 slips at a new pier at the show’s northern end at Palm Harbor Marina that held some of the largest yachts.
This was the seventh year that Nautical Ventures came to the show with its Aqua Zone, a 40,000-gallon pool that accommodates demonstrations of hovercraft, jet boards, kayaks, standup paddleboards and other water toys. PassageMaker magazine’s CruiserPort seminars delivered education for cruising boaters; Hook the Future presented IGFA School of Sportfishing seminars and youth fishing clinics.
At least three boat companies announced new product at the show. In addition to Vicem Yachts, The Hinckley Co. and Bertram Yacht made news with their T34R Runabout and 58 Bertram, respectively. Bertram will follow its first boat — the 35 — with a larger convertible model, which is expected to be splashed in late 2017.
The company plans to launch the Bertram 35 this summer, with a sneak peek May 6 for the media at the Lyman-Morse shipyard. Bertram retained Lyman-Morse Boatbuilding in Thomaston, Maine, to build prototypes of its initial designs. Michael Peters Yacht Design in Sarasota, Fla., has designed the vessel.
Tooling for the Bertram 58 will start later this year. The project shows “our commitment to covering the full Bertram range with updated models that evoke the Bertram legacy,” says Tommy Thompson, Bertram’s product development manager. Based on the iconic 1980s Bertram 54, the 58 will have updated naval architecture from Michael Peters.
Peters’ firm also designed the underbody of the Hinckley T34R, the third runabout model for the high-end boatbuilder. The T34R joins the T29R and T38R Convertible.
Six-time Hinckley owners Toby and Ron Greene christened the T34R demo boats — a metallic brown hull with teak and stainless accents — at a media introduction at which company interim president and CEO David Howe spoke about the builder’s growing work force, which is at an all-time high. This spring, Hinckley will complete its 1,000th jetboat.
The T34R with twin Yanmar 320s will top out at 34 knots and cruises at 31 knots.
Tax law under fire
Politics made an appearance in Palm Beach, as well. U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D- Fla., promoted legislation April 18 at the show that would allow sellers of foreign-flagged boats to defer payment of the import duty until after the sale. Yacht industry officials say the removal of a 107-year-old law would generate thousands of yachting-related jobs and encourage $2.46 billion in additional U.S. recreational marine sales and economic activity.
“We have an idea we’re cooking up in Congress to bring even more yachts and more jobs into not only South Florida, but the country,” Frankel told media representatives, yacht industry executives and boat show officials. “We believe this [law] is discouraging them from coming here to sell their yachts. We have a bill that will allow [the owners of] these foreign-flagged yachts to come into the country — year-round — and sell their yacht and then pay the tax.”
At any given time there are said to be 400 yachts offshore that would come into the United States without this law in place.
Zimbalist and three other officials spoke at the event — Chuck Collins, executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Palm Beach County; Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jack Seiler; and Jeff Erdmann, chairman of the Florida Yacht Brokers Association’s Legislative Affairs Committee.
Sanlorezo Americas, of Fort Lauderdale, and LH-Finance, the new marine division of United Bank in Glastonbury, Conn., announced a partnership at the show that will enable LH-Finance to provide retail and wholesale financing to Sanlorenzo Americas and its customers. “You need to have the ability to finance boats and keep [projects] going,” says Sanlorenzo Americas president George Jousma, standing on an SL96. “For us to have construction financing — to be able to have inventory — is a critical part of our business model. So we are proud to have this relationship with LH-Finance.”
Sanlorenzo, based in Italy, is the second-largest superyacht manufacturer in the world, according to the company. San Lorenzo Americas, based in Fort Lauderdale, was established in 2008 and is responsible for sales, distribution and after-sales service for Sanlorenzo in all of the Americas, says Jousma.
LH-Finance is a newly formed marine division of United Bank, which has $6.2 billion in assets, says United Bank CEO Bill Crawford, who was also aboard the SL96. “Business is about relationships,” he says. “We’ve put together what we think is a very unique niche strategy, focused on people who care deeply about their brand and need support in America. When you look at Sanlorenzo, no two boats are quite the same, and that’s how we look at relationships at United Bank — it’s about putting together custom solutions for clients.”
This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.