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Dealers optimistic at New England Boat Show

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BOSTON — Though traffic seemed light at the Progressive Insurance New England Boat Show on Monday, dealers said that only three days into the 10-day show this year’s event was on track to be their best in years.

“It’s been very good for both leads and sales,” Michael Bodnar, general manager of Fay’s Boat Yard on Lake Winnipesaukee, N.H., told Trade Only Today at the show on Monday. “The weather this weekend definitely helped get people in the mood.”

Highs in the Boston area cracked 50 last weekend with sunshine providing a welcome reprieve from the snowy weather that has pummeled the region.

“This is the best two-day start we’ve ever had,” said Chris Lufkin, who represents EdgeWater Power Boats, Hornet Marine and Ribcraft USA as president of Marine Industry Advisors LLC.

EdgeWater has been a hot-selling brand, said Capt. Mike Fulcher, a yacht service foreman with Bosun’s Marine. That was not altogether surprising in the saltwater fish segment, which has done well nationwide, and particularly in the Northeast, according to sales data.

“We’ve sold nine EdgeWaters so far and they’re at a higher price point for their size range,” Fulcher said. “These guys [buying these boats] know what they’re looking for.”

Fulcher said sales had been to all kinds of people — some trading up, some trading down — and to more families than a few years back.

Larry Russo, of Russo Marine, said Boston Whaler, a market leader in the saltwater fish segment, also performed well during the show’s first weekend.

“Whaler was just great, and attendance was way up over the weekend,” Russo said. “We had great weather. The new and pre-owned activity was stronger in the first weekend than it’s been in years.”

Whaler president Huw Bowen said the boats are practical and versatile, which appeals to today’s boat buyer.

“For example, with the Vantage, look how easy it is to maintain. You can just hose it down when you’re done. It’s got outboard power, so it’s easy to just pull up and out of the saltwater, and people tend to not want a cabin anymore when they’ve got kids and are interested in boats that can do everything — watersports, cruising and fishing — all in one boat,” Bowen told Trade Only.

Greenline, a Slovenian hybrid that Russo Marine took on in recent years, also had a lot of traffic on Monday. Several people waited to look at the 40 and the 33. The latter had a clear panel over the engine so curious consumers could see how it worked, Russo said.

“The boat appeals to the Tesla owners,” said Larry Russo Jr., who helps his father operate the family business, adding that the boats were especially crowded during the weekend.

Bodnar said Chaparral Boats were in high demand as well.

“Chaparral’s been such a great company to work with, and they’ve got such a good sense of innovation,” he said. “They come up with something new every year and they’re willing to listen to their customers as well as their dealers. They’re not just rolling out the same models over and over again.”

Finally this year, the show seemed to be going well across all segments, said show manager Joe O’Neal. “For the past couple of years it seemed like one brand or one segment of the market did well,” he said. “This year I haven’t seen any weakness anywhere.”

The show sold out of exhibition space and had to trim some attractions, such as remote-controlled sailboats, to meet demand, O’Neal said.

“We were just sold out solid with no ability to add space,” he said.

The remote-controlled sailboats, which delighted children at last year’s show, were among the activities cut to fit in new exhibitors, including three new sailboat companies that displayed Dehler, Blue Jacket and Bavaria. The Boston Convention Center, with its vaulted ceilings, creates an optimal indoor display venue for boats, something that more companies were catching on to, O’Neal said.

“There has been some good activity in the sailboat market,” he said.

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