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A buying crowd for new show

Exhibitors say sales and enthusiasm point to a bright future for the Cruising Boat Expo in Connecticut
Part of the fleet of 27 cruising boats at the Essex Island Marina in Essex, Conn.

Part of the fleet of 27 cruising boats at the Essex Island Marina in Essex, Conn.

The inaugural International Cruising Boat Expo, a show dedicated to cruising under power or sail, drew serious buyers to the small riverfront town of Essex, Conn., during the first week of June.

“I thought the show would be good, but we were very happy with the quality of people that came through,” says Ben Wilde, owner of Wilde Yacht Sales, a Nordic Tugs dealer in town. “We sold a brand-new Nordic 40 and two new 42s. People came to buy boats. That’s what we heard from other exhibitors.”

Twenty-seven boats, including Beneteau, Fleming and Nordhavn — some new, some brokerage — were displayed June 2-7 at Brewer Essex Island Marina. The iconic Connecticut River marina was purchased at auction last year by Brewer Yacht Yards, which is investing heavily to restore the 13-acre property.

“This is a great location. Essex is a great place to visit,” says Tucker West, vice president of sales at Kadey-Krogen Yachts. “We have modest expectations with this being the first year, but if they give it time to grow, I think they’ll have something.”

The trawler manufacturer brought its new 58 EB to the show, but West says he had discussions with several serious shoppers about the 52.

Carl Skarne of Skarne Marine, which carries the Sargo (formerly named Minor) line of Finnish-built pilothouse powerboats, did not exhibit a boat, but he came to meet with potential clients. “It’s a great venue,” he says of the island locale that is just a short tender ride to the mainland. “I hope they give it a few years to grow.”

Ken Petzold, vice president and sales director at Portland, Conn.-based Petzold’s Marine Center, exhibited a new Back Cove 37. “We did get some good, qualified leads from the show,” he says. “We were able to put a deal together on the boat that was consummated during the show. It felt great to put that ‘SOLD’ sign on the boat during the show. This will be the buyer’s third new boat from us.”

Like Petzold, Wilde says he’s seen a positive shift in the buying mood, dating from last summer. “These are not retirees who are coming to us; they’re in their 30s, 40s and 50s,” Wilde says. “They’re tired of waiting, which is definitely a huge change from a year ago.”

Greg Blair, a salesman for Cape Yachts Port Washington on New York’s Long Island, was on hand with two Beneteau Swift Trawlers — a 34 and 44. He agrees that “the people that are here are very involved in the shopping process” and he says he came away with several strong leads.

“It’s a bit of a lightning strike, he says. “Some people are ready, while others are just starting the process.”

The publishers of PassageMaker and Sail magazines launched the expo in the tradition of TrawlerFest, Passage- Maker’s popular event series that combine more than 30 seminars, a cruising boat show and a social gathering.

PassageMaker, Sail and Soundings Trade Only are owned by Active Interest Media. The AIM Marine Group decided on the new name to broaden the event’s appeal beyond traditional trawler yachts.

Event manager Will Carlsen of PassageMaker says organizers were pleased with the way the new event played out.

“I would say it’s been our most successful Northeast show, and I think this is a venue that we can grow into a flagship event for us,” he says.

This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue.

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