What will I find at FLIBS?

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I had a conversation with a co-worker a couple of days ago as we went over our schedules for the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show that caused a moment of reflection. We were talking about an acquaintance who is in the industry but who had sort of gone flat on shows. We were puzzled.

“I love boat shows,” Chris said.

“Me, too,” I answered.

After more than three decades of attending shows large and small, I still like climbing on lots of boats and studying the way they’re put together. The layout, the craftsmanship, the rigging, the thinking. Why is this here? Why did they choose this piece of equipment? This is clever, that’s not.

And I enjoy shows because I like having conversations with boat people — builders, dealers, dreamers, designers and boaters. Just chewing the fat over boats we have known. They’re also good barometers of the consumer — their moods, their dreams, their confidence levels, their shifting tastes.

I worked with a writer more than a decade ago who did the show circuit, but was really just going through the motions. Afterward, I’d ask him, “What did you see that interested you? What’d you find that was new?”

“There’s nothing new under the sun, Bill,” he’d tell me. “It’s all been done before.”

He’s no longer writing for anyone, from what I can tell. When you lose your passion and curiosity for boats, it’s probably time to set a new course.

The Fort Lauderdale show starts Thursday. There’s a bunch of new boats that I’m interested in seeing up close. And after I whittle away that list, I’m looking forward to spending a little time wandering the far reaches of the show and searching for those little gems that aren’t on anyone’s radar quite yet. The small guy, the entrepreneur, the dreamer, the boat nut with the better mousetrap. A young person willing to take a risk.

Who knows? Maybe it will be the next big thing.