Scenes from the Lauderdale show

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Here's a look at what Soundings Trade Only's staff saw and heard at the 2010 Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

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On the docks with Chris Landry

EdgeWater Power Boats introduced the first vessel in a line of shallow-water bay boats - the 220 Inshore.

"We look at this as a general-purpose shallow-water boat," EdgeWater president Peter Truslow says. "It's a great boat for fishing, but a lot of different things can be done with it. We're not going to go into the technical skiff market. We needed something of good quality to offer to our existing customers. Our small boats are quite deep, so it was an area we weren't in."

This 22-footer will be followed by 19-, 21- and 24-foot models that are due out in the next three months, Truslow says. EdgeWater, based in Edgewater, Fla., acquired the tooling for these boats from Century Boats, which was owned and operated by Yamaha.

"When the Century tooling became available, we knew these boats were quality designs and the engineering is fantastic," Truslow says. "They are proven designs and we've put the EdgeWater touch on them."

Part of that touch is the company's Single Piece Infusion construction, a resin-infusion boatbuilding method. The boat on display at the show was powered with a 250-hp Yamaha, one of the second-generation 4-strokes. The boat comes with a standard jackplate, hydraulic steering and a trailer. MSRP is $69,790, and the boat show price was $58,947.

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The company also had a new 15-foot center console on hand - the 158CC. This deep-vee was powered with a Yamaha F70, also a second-generation engine. "The new 70 is perfect for the boat," Truslow says. "The problem before was the 90 was too heavy for this boat. Now with the 70, the boat is balanced perfectly."

Truslow points out that the 158CC is a variation of a boat EdgeWater offered several years ago. "So, strictly speaking, it's not a new boat but a second-generation boat," he says.

Contact: EdgeWater Power Boats, (386) 426-5457. www.ewboats.com

ZF Marine and SeaVee Boats debuted what the companies say is the first single-pod propulsion application in the recreational marine market. A SeaVee 340 center console was powered with a 480-hp Cummins MerCruiser Diesel engine linked to a ZF transmission and a ZF 2800 Series pod. The pod works in conjunction with a ZF 185 AC bow thruster, which delivers proportional thrust. The thruster, introduced at the 2009 FLIBS, can be operated for 30 continuous minutes.

The system is controlled with a ZF joystick. I got a chance to play with the boat in a marina basin near the Bahia Mar. You engage the joystick by pressing the "Easidock" button on the control head. As with twin-pod setups, a joystick gives you precise low-speed control.

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I found the joystick more sensitive than other pod boats I've driven and it only took me a few minutes to adjust my touch. The joystick is ergonomically shaped, with detents for a better grip and feel.

I walked the boat sideways, maneuvered it at various angles to the current and wind, spun it 360 degrees and docked it. In Easidock mode, the pod can move 180 degrees. In normal mode, the pod is restricted to 30 degrees of motion from center. To transition back to normal mode, you simply hit the throttle and put the engine in gear.

ZF and SeaVee still have some fine-tuning to do. The bow tends to lead the stern when walking sideways and the bow thruster noise levels could be lower, says Martin Meissner, ZF Marine's marketing and communications manager. "Right now we are collecting as much feedback as we can and using that to keep tweaking and adjusting the system," he says.

Another nice feature is the iAnchor station-keeping function that compensates for current and wind, holding the vessel's position within as little as a 3-foot radius.

Contact: SeaVee Boats, (305) 759-6419, www.seaveeboats.com; ZF Marine LLC, (954) 441-4040. www.zf.com

During my reporting on the pod-driven SeaVee 34, I learned that SeaVee taps a Florida company, Ocean5 Naval Architects, to design its hull bottoms. I visited Ocean5 at the show to find out more about the company.

Based in Stuart, Fla., Ocean5 consists of six naval architects. Robert S. Kaidy started the company in 2004 and partnered with John Canada to form Ocean5 in 2007 (at that time, there were five naval architects). In addition to SeaVee, they've done work for Pursuit and Boston Whaler and continue to do so.

However, the recreational market is only one segment of the business. Ocean5 has designed helicopter deck structures on 600-foot commercial ships and has penned hulls for Tampa Yacht Manufacturing, which builds military and commercial vessels from 30 to 66 feet (www.tampa-yacht.com). Ocean5 also does refit designs for megayachts, such as hull extensions, swim platforms, masts, arches and deckhouses.

Contact: Ocean5 Naval Architects, (772) 692-8551. www.ocean5inc.com

One of the more unconventional boats at the show was the Floe Craft Ace 34, which has the characteristics of a pontoon boat, an express cruiser, a runabout, a pilothouse boat (and who knows what else).

Floe Craft CEO Wayne Floe describes the Ace 34 as a "limousine on the water," with its powered side windows and top; upholstered, electrically powered settees; and entertainment amenities. At 34 feet and with a 10-foot beam, the vessel can comfortably hold 20 people, Floe says.

Designed to be an all-weather boat, it can be completely enclosed in 29 seconds, says Floe, who started the McGregor, Minn., company because he was tired of switching from his open boat to his closed boat as the weather changed. (Floe also owns an aluminum dock, boat lift and trailer company.) In addition to the side windows and top, the boat has an aft "garage door" and companionway door (both electrically powered).

A single 430-hp MerCruiser I/O with a Bravo 3 drive powers the boat to a top speed of 40 mph. MSRP is $219,000.

Contact: Floe Craft, (218) 426-3563. www.floeintl.com

Regulator Marine's new 28 FS (forward seater), the seventh center-console fishing boat in its fleet, bridges the gap between the 26 FS and 29 FS. "We've built almost 1,500 26s, so we've got lots of 26 customers out there," says Joan Maxwell, the company president. "The customers want more and more. Can you give us more horsepower? Can you give us more room in the console? We couldn't do these things with the 26, with its 8-foot, 6-inch beam and 26-foot length, so we developed this boat."

Designed by naval architect Lou Codega and powered with a pair of Yamaha F300 4-strokes, the 28 FS has a full-height transom with an engine bracket. The transom bracket takes full advantage of the sharp bow entry and deep-vee hull design, says Codega, who has designed all of the Regulator models, which range from 23 to 34 feet.

The 28 FS has an LOA of 27 feet, 7.5 inches, and a beam of 9 feet, 5 inches. With its flush deck, fold-up transom seat and built-in toekick space, anglers can fish safely from bow to stern, says Maxwell, who founded the company with her husband, Owen, in 1988.

The 28 FS tops out at 60 mph with the twin F300s. It achieves its best cruise-speed mileage, nearly 2 mpg, at 35 mph, according to the company's performance data.

Base retail price with twin F300s is $159,995. Standard equipment includes a leaning post with footrest, trim tabs with an indicator switch and a transom seat. Optional equipment includes a fiberglass T-top (with electronics box, spreader lights with outrigger bases and LEDs), a three-sided curtain enclosure and a live well on the aft end of the leaning post.

Contact: Regulator Marine, (252) 482-3837. www.regulatormarine.com

I also took a look at a handful of power catamarans from 19 to 38 feet. Tideline Boats of Washington, N.C., is a new company that builds a 19-foot single-outboard cat (175 hp maximum). "We wanted to keep the cat ride but make it look more like a traditional Carolina boat," company co-owner Michael Collins says. "So we rounded the bow off and gave it a broken sheer line and gave it a lot of flare."

The boat also has a Carolina-style teak steering pod on the console. Tideline has built five 19s and sold two, says company co-owner George Stronach. Prices range from $35,999 to 39,999, depending on the engine. They'll hang Suzuki or Honda outboards on the stern.

Contact: Tideline Boats, (252) 916-2997. www.tidelineboats.com

A few slips away, I found a 30-foot all-weather cruising cat from 4-year-old ArrowCat Marine of Seattle. A hardtop and front and side windshields provide weather protection. The center-helm boat has an enclosed head and a full galley. With a commendable list of standard options (windlass, refrigerator, stove, battery charger and hydraulic steering), the ArrowCat with twin 175-hp Suzuki 4-strokes retails for $188,500.

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"It's a bluewater boat," global brand manager Rob Harty says. "It has a 300-mile range. Most cats built in the U.S. are 70 percent fish and 30 percent cruise. But there are people, namely wives, who would rather have 70 percent cruise and 30 percent fishing. This is not a blood-and-guts machine. It has AC. It has a shower and a head. It sleeps four people. It's comfortable."

Contact: ArrowCat Marine, Seattle, (425) 765-9554. www.arrowcatmarine.com

The Havana 38 power cat is built by Cruiser Cats of Cape Town, South Africa. Clark E. Boeken founded the company three years ago.

The Havana 38 was built for cruising, with three staterooms, a galley, four vanities, two heads and two showers. Powered with twin 150-hp Yanmar diesels, the boat cruises at about 15 knots (1.3 nmpg). At 8 knots, mileage improves to 3.9 nmpg. Fuel capacity is 300 gallons.

"It was designed for the Bahamas, the Intracoastal, the Caribbean, the Keys - that type of use," Boeken says.

A large U-shaped settee with a dinette table is the focal point of the cabin. The boat has a hardtop with a raked windshield. "I tried to give it a retro-modern look, like a Sea Ray Express," Boeken says. "I tried to make it more appealing than the standard [cat] look."

Contact: Cruiser Cats, (210) 240-5612. www.cruisercats.com

The biggest cat I checked out was the 52-foot Gemini by another new company, Meilahn Custom Yachts, of Chicago. "We tried to get away from the bowlegged cat look," says CEO David D. Meilahn. "Also, when you go below on many cats you feel like you're going into two separate torpedoes. I think we have taken the tunnel effect out of this boat."

This is a big, fast cat, topping out at 43 mph with twin 900-hp Yanmar diesels connected to Arneson surface drives. The boat at the show is the prototype. MSRP is $2.8 million.

Contact: Meilahn Custom Yachts, (312) 848-1977. www.meilahncustomyachts.com

I stopped at the Awlgrip booth, where David Halcomb, senior vice president of global business development, told me that the company has a new and better way to prime metal substrates. Controlled Fusion allows for extended recoat times, does not need to be sanded between coats and gives excellent substrate adhesion, Halcomb says.

CF ensures a tightly fused intercoat layer between the CF-based coating and the next coat, he says. Working at the molecular level, CF is activated by the application of a topcoat to the cured CF Primer. The system undergoes a transition phase in which the two layers are fused. The fusing process continues over seven days, achieving full adhesion and hardness.

CF technology is available in Max Cor CF for aluminum and soon will be available in Wash Primer CF for anodized, stainless and aluminum parts.

Contact: Awlgrip North America, (908) 964-2218. www.awlgrip.com

A group of entrepreneurial scientists introduced a diesel additive that helps the fuel burn cleaner and more efficiently. Cerion Energy's nanoparticle combustion catalyst "GO2" simultaneously increases combustion efficiency while decreasing exhaust emissions.

"The nanoparticles redistribute oxygen more uniformly over the chamber volume to result in a more complete and efficient burn," according to the company, which was formed in 2007 and is based in Rochester, N.Y.

The group has done extensive testing with CSX, which burns 750 million gallons of diesel a year, and other large rail companies. Tests are showing an 8 to 13 percent increase in fuel efficiency and a 30 percent decrease in soot emissions. The additive is being tested in an 88-foot high-speed sportboat and the company is working with engine manufacturers Caterpillar and Detroit Diesel.

Contact: Cerion Energy, (877) 845-5630, Ext. 103, www.cerionenergy.com

If you watch ESPN on Saturday morning, you may have caught a fishing show hosted by Flip Pallot, a renowned inshore angler and guide (www.flip pallot.com). Pallot is also a boatbuilder and designer. He formed Hell's Bay Boatworks, an exhibitor at the show, with three other friends in the early 1990s.

"We were really trying to come up with a jonboat made of fiberglass that didn't make any noise so that we could sneak up on fish," says Pallot. "We wanted to make one for myself and one for each of my friends. We didn't have any thought beyond making three boats. The boat was called the Whipray, and as people began to see it they wanted one. It was clear we weren't going to get away with building three of these boats."

They formed Hell's Bay Boatworks, named after a place in the Everglades where Pallot grew up fishing. "Nobody in the industry was building small boats the way we were," he says. "We were using America's Cup technology. We were vacuum bagging and using the most expensive materials."

Pallot owned the company for five years. He sold it and two years later it went into bankruptcy. Chris Peterson and his wife, Wendi, re-established Hell's Bay and are the current owners. Pallot is a consultant.

"They have a passion for this business and are also people who wouldn't be associated with a company that didn't have high standards," says Pallot, who runs a Hell's Bay Ambush, a 17-1/2-foot skiff with a tiller-steered 25-hp outboard, which he helped design.

Contact: Hell's Bay, (321) 383-8223, www.hellsbayboatworks.com

On the docks with Jim Flannery

Aegis Unsinkable Boats debuted its first boats, 20- and 24-foot center consoles, at the show. Aegis is the successor to McKee Craft Boats, which auctioned its molds to Aegis owner - and McKee investor - Huntington James in July 2009.

Built in Bladenboro, N.C., the Aegis line ultimately will run from 17 to 28 feet, says James, the president and CEO. "We're ready to go," he says.

Aegis is selling its line factory-direct (www.aegisboats.com), although James says the company is open to selling through dealers who can finance their inventory themselves. He says the company is stressing the boat's safety and unsinkability, which, as with McKee Craft, is achieved with foam-filled hulls.

Former McKee Craft owners Lannesse McKee and Lannesse McKee Jr. have challenged James' purchase of the McKee Craft molds at auction, saying he misled them when he invested heavily in the company over several years while it was struggling. James has responded in court filings that he did all he could to save the company before auctioning its assets and buying the molds.

Chaos Boats, of Bladenboro, N.C. - also debuting its first models, 16- and 21-foot flats boats - is on the rebound with new owners Marc and Heather Vickers, whose MHM Marine recently bought Chaos (www.chaosboats.com). Chaos builds its hulls with a distinctive Carolina flare and offers a custom teak trim option for the toerail, cockpit sole and helm pod, making them ideal high-end tenders for Carolina-built sportfishing battlewagons, Heather Vickers says.

MHM also plans to build a 20- and 22-foot Savannah Skiff, a center console, and a flats boat called the Savannah Flats (www.savannahboatworks.com). MHM also builds Aegis Unsinkable Boats on contract to company owner Huntington James.

Marc Vickers used to be a plant manager at McKee Craft, which auctioned its molds to Aegis, and a plant manager at the Carolina Sea Craft Group, which built Chaos and Savannah boats, before both companies went out of business in the recession. "It has been a wild ride," Vickers says. "I had no intention of ever owning a boat company."

Larry Graf, founder and former president of Glacier Bay Catamarans, which he sold in 2007 after 20 years with the company, is off on a new project - Aspen Power Catamarans (www.aspenpowercatamarans.com).

His C90 Cruiser, a 28-foot cruiser, is actually a proa - that is, one hull is 35 percent narrower than the other, and the boat's single 150-hp diesel is seated in the wider hull. Graf says the engine tends to turn the boat toward the narrower hull, but the asymmetrical shape of the hulls tends to turn it toward the wider hull so that the boat tracks straight at all speeds.

Graf, who builds his boats in Snohomish, Wash., says the advantage of the power proa is fuel economy. The reduction in running gear and hull running surface reduces drag 50 percent and fuel consumption as much as 70 percent, he says. The power proa burns a stingy 3 gallons an hour at 16 knots - cruising speed. The C90 sleeps five - two in the king-size berth forward, two on dinette and two in a quarter berth hidden under the galley. The boat has stern and bow thrusters.

"This is 20 years of catamaran design wrapped up in one piece," Graf says.

The Hinckley Co. of Southwest Harbor, Maine, introduced drawings for its new Talaria 48, the latest in its family of fine yachts crafted in the style of the Down East lobster boat. President James McManus says Hinckley's team drew up the boat twice before finally getting the distinctive Hinckley look right. He says Hinckley loyalists had been asking for something between the Talaria 44 and 55 that an owner could operate comfortably alone and that could accommodate a cruising couple and their children, grandchildren or guests.

The 48 has a master suite with private head, a guest stateroom that sleeps two, and a roomy cockpit and saloon. Powered by twin 715-hp Cummins diesels, the boat measures 44 feet, 8 inches at the waterline and is designed to cruise at about 30 knots and top out in the mid-30s. (www.hinckleyyachts.com)

ACR Electronics (www.acrelectronics.com), of Fort Lauderdale introduced its Nauticast AIS Receiver, a receiver-only AIS that is about the size of a box of matches and costs less than $250. This AIS connects to the VHF antenna and chart plotter and displays all of the commercial and recreational vessels in the vicinity that are transmitting over AIS. The display identifies the sending station by name and type of vessel, its position, course and speed.

"It's really for small boats that just want to be aware of the boats around them," says Kerry Greer, ACR's business development director. He says it's particularly good as a navigation aid in fog. "At that price point, we think we've got it down to the leisure consumer market sweet spot," he says.

This model does not send an AIS signal. Other nearby vessels carrying AIS send-and-receive transponders will not see you on their plotter or laptop, but you will see them on yours.

Bertram Yacht, of Miami, introduced an 80-footer - its largest sportfish ever - at the show, but new president Alton Herndon was just as excited about the 54-footer, which was outfitted as a lean, mean fighting machine.

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Herndon says his brief as company president - since last February - is to restore Bertram's reputation for building a "hardcore, kick-ass sportfishing machine." He says Bertram has been building top-notch battlewagons all along but has not had a sportfish notable at the helm to tout that reputation for a number of years. That has changed.

"The Ferretti organization [Ferretti Group of Italy, Bertram's owner] has seen the need to bring Bertram back to its roots and build on that heritage," Herndon says. "They brought me in because of my experience."

Entering its 50th anniversary year in 2011, Bertram (www.bertram.com) plans to introduce two more models in February at the Miami International Boat Show. They'll be "longer, lower, sleeker, faster, but you'll still recognize them as Bertrams," he says.

The folks at Viking Yachts (www.vikingyachts.com), of New Gretna, N.J., were celebrating after selling 12 boats from 42 to 82 feet. "It was a broad mix," company president Patrick Healy says. "We sold at least one of every unit we build."

Healy says his company is an industry bellwether. It has loyal customers, many of them die-hard sport anglers. They often are the first to break the logjam after a recession and start buying again. "I absolutely believe that there's more confidence today going forward than I've seen since late '07 or early '08," he says.

Viking introduced a 42-foot convertible with Zeus pod drives - a first for the company - and a 70-foot convertible at Fort Lauderdale, selling three of the 42s and two of the 70s. With those numbers, Healy expects that he'll be able to bring some furloughed workers back to the plant. "The show has been tremendous," he says.

Capt. Bernardo Herzer, founder and CEO of Lehr (www.golehr.com), of Los Angeles, is a bit of a visionary. His company has developed propane-powered 4-stroke engines for leaf blowers, lawn edgers, lawn mowers and a 1,000-watt generator. Herzer was cruising the boat show looking for ways to apply propane fuel in the marine industry - in generators and small motors under 50 hp. "My main focus is generators," he says.

Herzer says propane costs about the same as gasoline, but has a 110 octane rating - better than gasoline - produces zero evaporative emissions, emits 97 percent fewer particulates and 96 percent fewer carcinogens than gasoline, and requires fewer oil changes and lowers engine maintenance costs because of less carbon buildup.

"We believe we offer consumers something that is environmentally friendly, price-competitive, easy to use and more reliable," Herzer says.

Stay tuned.

On the docks with Rich Armstrong

David Slikkers, chief executive of S2 Yachts, the parent company of Tiara Yachts and Pursuit Boats, recruited two young female employees to christen two new Tiaras, the 3100 Open and 4500 Sovran. Though it took frequent strikes against the gunwale-mounted bracket, both champagne bottles broke.

The 3100 is a reintroduction of the boat Tiara (www.tiarayachts.com) debuted more than a dozen years ago. It remains the "base boat" for Tiara owners that the company hopes will migrate to larger boats in the line. "The 31 really was the boat that kept expanding our family," Slikkers told a contingent of media and VIPs at the dockside ceremony. "We're going back in time to reintroduce the yacht that helped make us so successful."

When I spoke with him after the ceremony, Slikkers told me selling new boats has been a challenge, but there was an uptick in the two months before the show. He said new product introductions fill several needs. "I think even in today's market, Tiara has long believed new product is the lifeblood of the industry," he said. "These boats are tangible evidence to our commitment."

Don Smith, vice president of sales at Cabo Yachts (www.caboyachts.com), raised a shot of tequila with visitors at the dockside unveiling of the new 44 Hardtop Express sportfisherman. "To the 44 Hardtop, the best sportfisher money can buy," he said.

The new boat replaces the builder's popular 45 Express, which was introduced a dozen years ago. He described it as "designed 100 percent for fishing, but with the comforts of an express cruiser."

The new boat features a three-sided enclosure with integrated hardtop, mezzanine seating, improved visibility from the helm, a full-length galley counter against the aft bulkhead, more fish storage and an optional second stateroom or an angler's room. "We felt the need to come to the market with a real game-changer," Smith said. "And this is it."

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Ranger Tugs did not hold a formal press conference, but I sat in the air-conditioned saloon with Mark Mansfield, the West Coast builder's sales manager for the East Coast. He was in charge of sea trials for potential buyers.

Mansfield said one apparently serious buyer is downsizing from a 51-foot powerboat and was looking at the Ranger Tugs 29 (www.rangertugs.com). To accommodate the growing contingent of downsizers, Mansfield says, Ranger is trying to offer some of the features commonly found on larger, more luxurious boats, pointing to the newly integrated 12-volt wine/water chiller and the second flat-panel TV that were added to the 29.

It appears to be working. Mansfield says Ranger Tugs is building about three boats a month and is backlogged to March. The 27, introduced in May, is the company's current hot ticket. It's outselling the 29 by 5-to-1. "We're listening to our customers, and a lot of the design tweaks come from their suggestions," Mansfield says.

Yanmar had a Parker 2530 Extended Cabin in the water. The boat had a 6-cylinder Yanmar diesel coupled to Yanmar's ZT350 sterndrive (with a hydraulic clutch) bolted to an Armstrong bracket.

I found regional sales manager Greg Eck in the Yanmar tent (www.yanmarmarine.com), where the same model engine was on display. He said the rigging was done at Parker Boats' request (www.parkerboats.net). Parker thought a diesel option would open a number of new markets. One potential customer is the offshore angler seeking more range, which is double that of the outboard configuration.

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Eck says diesel sterndrive is expected to appeal to boaters who are interested in downsizing while retaining the efficiency and reliability of diesel power. The specially designed boat, completed just before the show, will undergo more tweaking and tuning for maximum performance and be more prominently displayed at the Miami International Boat Show in February.

Spot, the value line of GPS transmitters, introduced SPOT HUG, a satellite-based GPS security device that continually tracks a boat's location and watches for low battery voltage, high bilge water, door or hatch intrusion, and smoke or fire. The device alerts an asset monitoring center to any unauthorized movement.

"Judging from the response from customers, I think we have another hit on our hands," says Greg Wilkinson, the company's Northeast distribution manager.

Jeff Hummel, director of sales and marketing at Rose Point Navigation Systems, was touting the PC marine navigation developer's new NMEA 2000 Gateway, designed for ease of setup and ease of use with a direct connection to the navigation software. (An entire layer of software overhead has been eliminated.) The gateway consists of a small marine-grade encapsulated electronics module with two cables, one for NMEA 2000 and one with USB.

This article originally appeared in the December 2010 issue.

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