ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The 2014 St. Petersburg Power and Sailboat Show opened with a promising start Thursday, showcased by a robust crowd queueing at the entrance during the morning hours.
Exhibitors were optimistic about the opening day traffic and show sponsors were encouraged by the surprisingly well-attended Sail America seminars. With a light breeze lifting a sea of colorful ensigns, temperatures hovering in the 70s and an all-day Florida sunshine over the show, no one had any complaints about the weather.
The show features almost 400 powerboats and sailboats in and out of the water, along with hundreds of exhibitors displaying marine electronics, hardware, software and accessories. Show Management manages the event. Active Interest Media owns Show Management and Soundings Trade Only.
Show Management spokesman Daniel Grant said the trend at the show is toward bigger boats, with a strong showing of boats in the 40- to 50-foot range. Coming on the heels of last month’s upbeat Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show — a show that saw a 6 percent attendance increase from the previous year — dealers and exhibitors at the St. Petersburg show were mostly optimistic.
More than 200 people attended Thursday morning’s sessions of Sail America’s Cruising Seminar Series, Show Management marketing director Steve Sheer said. Highlights of the seminar series included a presentation on modern sailboat design by Gerry Douglas of Catalina Yachts and a high-energy information session on managing storm tactics by bluewater sailor and author John Kretschmer.
“This show showcases the beauty in our own backyard,” MarineMax sales manager Collin Heimensen said. “We love that about the show.”
Marine Max, one of the world’s largest boat retailers, is based in Clearwater, Fla. “The St. Pete show is of a totally different size and scope than the Fort Lauderdale show, but we have always come to this one and we will continue to do so,” he said.
Heimensen said the modest scope of the show, relative to the Fort Lauderdale show, allows dealers and exhibitors to build relationships with customers.
The St. Petersburg show used to be known for its sailboats, Grant said. Now powerboats drive it. The show merged with Strictly Sail’s sailboat show in 2008. This year’s show has a strong showing of fishing boats, including 15-, 17-, 23- and 25-foot Boston Whalers; Sea Rays, Chris-Crafts, Parkers and Carolina Skiffs.
Galati Yacht Service’s 75-foot Viking, 62-foot Prestige and 58-foot Maritimo are some of the largest powerboats at the show. Fiesta Saltwater Pontoon Boats brought several boats to the show and reported that pontoon boat sales were still strong, especially on the west coast of Florida.
Sailboats ranged from the compact 20-foot trailer sailor Voyager 20 to Murray Yacht’s 55-foot Beneteau. Amel Shipyard’s 2014 55-foot Renaissance was one of several bluewater cruising yachts at the show. Two of the Catalinas in the water at the show sold just before it opened, said Doug Scott of Massey Yacht Sales and Service.
The recent revitalization of downtown St. Petersburg has greatly contributed to the positive energy at the boat show along the city’s waterfront, Grant said. The redevelopment in the areas around St. Petersburg’s waterfront baseball stadium, the Mahaffey Theater and Whitted Park, along with the nearby Salvador Dali Museum and other St. Petersburg attractions only add to the positive mood and traffic at the show, he said.
The St. Petersburg show, the largest in-water boat show on Florida’s Gulf Coast, continues through Sunday along St. Petersburg’s downtown waterfront, at the Duke Energy Center for the Arts Mahaffey Theater Yacht Basin and Albert Whitted Park.
The show opens each day at 10 a.m. Tickets are $12 at the gate (cash only) and $10 online; children 15 and under are admitted free. Hours are: today, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.