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FLIBS 2012: Innovation abounds in Lauderdale

The Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show wraps up today, and it’s a good thing because I’m exhausted after climbing onto dozens of boats and attending press conference after press conference.

The industry had a lot to show us this year - innovative boats and products that should lure the customers back.

Here are some examples of the originality that caught my eye:

Sea Ray, the largest production boatbuilder in the world, introduced an impressive and very different boat – the 370 Venture, with twin outboards. That's right — a pair of 300-hp Mercury Verados hidden beneath two engine hatches that double as padded sun lounges.

Mercury’s new Joystick Piloting For Outboards, due out next spring, will allow the owners of boats with new Verado 300- and 250-hp outboards to drive at low speeds with a joystick. The system can be used in twin-, triple- and quad-outboard installations.

Mercury installed the system on a Boston Whaler 320 Outrage and I tried it out on Friday afternoon in an Intracoastal canal outside the show premises. Worked as well as sterndrive or pod joystick systems, I thought.

I’ve written and talked a lot about the Florida powerboat builder Intrepid during the last two years because it has been pumping out new boats with innovative technology and hull and on-deck designs — stuff that makes sense.

Intrepid president Ken Clinton and COO Mark Beaver threw another one at me — a 32-foot center console with aerodynamic power front and side windshields. All three windshields can be fully opened or closed with the push of a button — yes, just like a car’s power windows. Intrepid calls the boat its 327 Enclosed Console.

Sabre Yachts’ Bentley Collins showed me a neat design in the galley of the company’s new 38 Salon Express. It’s a bulkhead panel that opens and closes via electric power to connect the forward stateroom and galley. It builds on the builder’s efforts to create large open, well-lit spaces.

It'll be hard to find more versatile deck seating than on the Sealine SC42i. The twin L-shaped settees can be positioned outboard of one another with a centerline stern walkthrough. And, with the push of a button, the port settee slides inboard and meets the other settee, creating a wide port sidedeck. Very cool and different, but also useful. I saw a lot of that at FLIBS.

— Chris Landry

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