Abundant December sunshine is always welcome at a winter boat show, and so are increases in turnout and boat sales.
The 2014 St. Petersburg Power & Sailboat Show (Dec. 4-7) saw an 8 percent gain in attendance from the 2013 show and a 5 percent increase in the number of in-water new and brokerage boats. The show took place under sunny skies, with temperatures holding in the 70s.
Show Management, which owns the show, released the attendance and exhibitor numbers. (Active Interest Media owns Soundings Trade Only and Show Management.)
The mood was generally upbeat among brokers and dealers, with several brokers noting increases in traffic and sales. Galati Yachts says it did a good business, including the sale of a 75-foot Viking.
“The St. Petersburg show activity has been excellent and has had all my attention with follow-up opportunities the past two days,” Darren Plymale, of Galati Yachts, said after the show. “We were quite successful this past weekend, writing several contracts, including one for our Viking 75 on display, and we have several more [contracts] we are trying to complete.”
Show Management spokesman Daniel Grant said the 2014 show was the biggest in terms of the number of boats and exhibitors since 2007. The show featured more than 300 powerboats and sailboats. Several hundred exhibitors displayed electronics, hardware, software and accessories.
Grant says the trend at the show is toward bigger boats, with a strong showing in the 40- to 50-foot range.
The show used to be known for its sailboats, Grant says. Now powerboats drive the show, which merged with Strictly Sail’s sailboat show in 2008.
Many of the well-known boat brands were well-represented, including Boston Whaler, Sea Ray and Chris-Craft. There were plenty of fishing boats, too, from names like Parker and Carolina Skiff. Galati’s 75-foot Viking, 62-foot Prestige and 58-foot Maritimo were among the largest of the powerboats at the show.
Fiesta Saltwater Pontoon Boats, which brought several boats, said pontoon sales were still strong, especially on the west coast of Florida. Sailboats ranged from the compact 20-foot trailer sailer Voyager 20 to Murray Yacht Sales’ 55-foot Beneteau.
Amel Shipyard’s 2014 55-foot Renaissance was one of several bluewater cruising yachts at the show. Two of the Catalinas that were in the water at the show sold just before the event opened, says Doug Scott of Massey Yacht Sales and Services.
Coming on the heels of November’s upbeat Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, which saw a 6 percent attendance from the previous year, the show attracted optimistic participants.
“This show showcases the beauty in our own backyard,” MarineMax sales manager Collin Heimensen says. “We love that.”
MarineMax, the nation’s largest boat retailer, 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,” Heimensen says.
He says it’s easier to build relationships with customers at the smaller St. Petersburg show.
St. Petersburg was once a city associated with the sailboat show Strictly Sail, but the city and the industry fell on hard times during the Great Recession. The city’s identity has always been tied to its waterfront. A recent downtown revitalization, including a strong investment in the arts community, and the prestige of the Salvador Dali Museum have brought a new energy along the waterfront.
“This show has been successful for us and the sailing industry as a whole,” says Stanton Murray, president of Murray Yacht Sales. “Since the merger of Sail America’s Strictly Sail St. Pete with the St. Pete powerboat show in 2008, the new show has a critical mass that is impressive.”
Murray says representatives of Sail America met with show managers during the show to share ideas about building the already successful sailing portion of the event.
Murray Yacht Sales’ focus at the show was on Beneteau sailboats, with the Oceanis 55 as Murray’s grande dame at the show. The dealership introduced the Oceanis 35 earlier this year. It displayed the centerboard version, which has a 3-foot, 9-inch draft, on a trailer at the show and the shoal keel version, which has a 4-foot, 9-inch draft, in the water.
Murray Yacht Sales also displayed the Oceanis 38, 45, 48 and 55 in the water, showing a total of six boats that ranged from 35 to 65 feet.
“The wide beams, twin wheels and hard chines are what the market wants,” Murray says. “The 35 and 38 [Beneteau Oceanis] come in daysailer, weekender and cruiser versions, giving the sailor a wide range of options.”
The Sail America cruising seminars got off to a strong start as more than 200 people attended the morning sessions on the opening day of the show, says Show Management marketing director Steven Sheer.
Highlights of the seminar series included a presentation on modern sailboat design by Gerry Douglas of Catalina Yachts and a session on managing storm tactics by bluewater sailor and author John Kretschmer. Seminar attendance stayed high throughout the weekend.
“We had more than 2,000 Sail America cruising seminar attendees, in addition to the Discover Sailing programs,” Murray says.
This article originally appeared in the January 2015 issue.