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Storm-delayed Tampa show pleases dealers; Coast Guard issues scam warning

Can a hurricane help a boat show? Nothing’s impossible — at least that’s what some exhibitors are saying about the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Progressive Tampa Boat Show, which was held last weekend after Hurricane Irma chased it out of its original September dates.

Separately, the Coast Guard issued a warning about scamming on documentation renewals.

“The attendance was really good this year,” Galati Yacht Sales vice president Darren Plymale said of the Tampa show. “In fact, we’ve had twice the appointments set up in this show over a year ago. The crowds on the docks were bigger and steady, and the show has definitely been a winner for us.”

Galati displayed Viking, Prestige, Princess, Maritimo and Cruisers, all in the water.

Although there’s no way of really knowing, when asked whether the month-plus hurricane postponement helped or hindered the show, Plymale offered some interesting observations:

“Being held in mid-October instead of early September resulted in us seeing more of our Northern customers, who have now arrived for the winter. That was a pleasant surprise,” noted Plymale. “Also, local families are now settled in from the earlier back-to-school demands and such. So things like that may have also played a role in our success. We’ll take it.”

Galati was outside, along with nearly 100 other boats from area dealers displayed on the temporary floating docks installed for the show. Bob Hodge, of the Bob Hodge Marine Group, was seeing the same results inside the adjacent sold-out Tampa Convention Center.

“I think this show was very successful,” said Hodge, who displayed Jupiter boats. “I haven’t heard any numbers, but we figure from the action in our display the overall attendance was good. We’re also dealing with a lot more serious prospects this year. And NMMA’s staff did a great job making this show happen at all.”

Kevin Murphy, who manages the show for the NMMA, gave credit to his staff.

“This show really demonstrated the resilience of the boaters in this market. In spite of the disruptions we faced and the schedule change, the boaters got the word out and made the show an overwhelming success,” Murphy said. “Exhibitors and attendees came to the party, had some fun and sold and bought boats. I sure didn’t hear a single complaint about the show being soft or slow.”

For more details about the complications and decisions Murphy faced in September, see my Oct. 12 Dealer Outlook blog.

Coast Guard warning

A new scam targeting boat owners, claiming they can save time online, is costing them hundreds of dollars, the Coast Guard says. These are websites offering documentation renewal services for a fee.

The websites have the appearance and claim convenience of an official government website. But just because a website looks like the Coast Guard and may work like the Coast Guard, that does not mean it is the Coast Guard. The result is often that boaters using these websites can end up spending three times the standard fee and find that Coast Guard boarding officers cannot accept their vessel’s documentation as valid.

Why? The Coast Guard’s National Vessel Documentation Center, located in Falling Waters, W.Va., is the only authorized entity to issue certificates of documentation required for vessels engaged in commercial trade and optional for vessels weighing 5 or more net tons engaged in recreational use and activities.

Further, although the Coast Guard is aware of these websites, no companies are authorized to operate on its behalf in any way. The services they provide are not illegal, but they cannot issue any form of documentation, including travel letters and/or permits that authorize the operation of any vessel.

Any fees charged beyond the $26 renewal fee or any other agreements offered by such websites are not associated with the NVDC certification process. These companies cannot issue the certificate, but are middlemen who charge a fee for processing the paperwork on a boater’s behalf.

So if you, as a dealer, have customers with documented boats, be proactive and tell them: When it comes time to renew, always remember that the Coast Guard website offering documentation uses a .mil domain name. Websites using .us, .com and .org aren’t the real thing.

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