First fall show does well; Can divers camp under water?

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Perfect weather and new attractions combined to make last weekend’s Progressive Cedar Point Boat Show in Sandusky, Ohio, the best in more than a decade and, hopefully, a solid sign our industry’s fall shows are all headed for success.

Exhibitors were talking about the crowds on the docks and the resulting sales, using terms “like the good old days” and “best show in memory.” Jason Clemons of Clemons Boats (Whaler, Albemarle, Stiper, Nautic Star, Bennington) summed it up this way: “It’s been the best show we’ve had at Cedar Point in years. We sold 6 boats and three were large units at high dollars, including a 380 Whaler. We talked to lots of people that hadn’t been to the show before, and we expect to complete at least 4 or 5 more sales this week.”

“We heard similar good sales reports from many exhibitors,” says Michelle Burke, president of the Lake Erie Marine Trades Association. “Many show visitors even stopped by the office to tell us that the new features and entertainment we added this year got them to come out.”

Some of the new things included on-water wake surfing and wakeboarding demos; hands-on kayaking and paddle boarding; displays and rides in antique and classic boats; a food truck rally; the Yamaha Demo Tour; the DEMA Dive Now Pool; a Lake Erie Crafters Market; and live musical entertainment. “It worked,” Burke smiled.

The Cedar Point show is the first of the fall shows. A full schedule of shows kicks off right after Labor Day starting at the Tampa Boat Show, September 6-8; the Metro Boat Show and the Newport Boat Show, both September 12-15; followed by the Norwalk Boat Show, September 19-22 and the Jersey Shore Boat Sale and Expo, September 20-22.

How About Camping Under Water?

New products and technologies are always fun to discover and many never cease to amaze these days. Like a new submersible “tent” that will let divers nap, eat, and decompress beneath the waves. According to a report by Jennifer S. Holland for National Geographic, the Ocean Space Habitat is here.

Designed and recently patented by National Geographic explorer Michael Lombardi and associate professor Winslow Burleson at New York University, the inflatable Ocean Space Habitat is a portable life-support system for divers who want to go deeper and stay longer than conventional SCUBA gear allows.

In the inflatable Ocean Space Habitat, several divers at a time can swim up into the dry chamber, remove gear, talk, eat, process samples, and even sleep through the decompression process. Divers can also move the portable "tent" as needed, increasing the possibilities for more diving in more diverse places.

While Lombardi and Burleson’s “tent” is new, undersea “habitats” to handle longer dives aren’t. The most familiar form, the diving bell, has been around for decades, in a host of creative iterations. For example, the offshore oil and other commercial seagoing industries support saturation-diving facilities, including both sunken and ship-board (pressurized) chambers.

Even the National Ocean & Atmospheric Administration has an undersea base called Aquarius. It’s the only such site dedicated to science and it lets researchers work for days, weeks, or even months in the reefs off Key Largo, Florida, without coming up for air until their work is done.

While NOAA’s Aquarius isn’t mobile, Lombardi and Burleson’s new “tent” is portable. They say it can be packed and checked as luggage. Divers can disassemble it and re-inflate it at another site as needed.

Burleson equates the tent to “turning a short hike in the woods into a weekend-long camping excursion. The habitat allows you to do more of what you’re coming for, whether you’re a photographer or coral researcher or citizen scientist.” He also quips it could be good for “underwater tea parties and picnic lunches.”

What’s most exciting, he says, is what the gear could mean for those who don’t normally work beneath the sea. “Imagine if a tourist, normally limited to a one-hour dive, could stay under through that magical transition from sunlight to twilight to darkness—with all the life that emerges. People could experience the ocean in a whole new way,” he says. “We are ready to get this out there.”

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