Saturday was prime-time showtime for the new home of the 75th Miami International Boat Show. Serious buyers, boating enthusiasts wanting to check out what’s new and families out for a day of fun in the sun poured through the massive exhibition tents and onto the docks, where shiny new powerboats and yachts from high-end to ultra-lux put out the welcome mat to gawkers.
There are still two more days to the boat show’s five-day run at the Miami Marine Stadium Park & Basin on Virginia Key, and reviews from the ground are mixed: Long waits for water taxis marred the experience for some, but show-goers gave high marks for its location on the water, views and layout of the show.
“Everyone is outside, it’s beautiful out there,” lamented Joshua Grozier, working at the Chris-Craft section inside one of the exhibition tents. Still, about a dozen people, some with Bloody Marys, were checking out the half-dozen models on display, climbing aboard the Launch 32, costing $280,000 and change. Further down the aisles were Sea Rays, Boston Whalers, Grady Whites and Formulas.
The powerboats seemed to be a main attraction, and included a display of Sonny Crockett’s iconic “Miami Vice” speedboat. Yet Symphony Boat Company’s founder Marcel LaFond’s eco-friendly electric boat with bamboo interior was also drawing rave reviews on Pier 2. He’s taken at least 13 potential buyers out for a spin.
In all, 1,200 new boats were on display, 400 of those on the water — including a 62-foot Viking yacht costing $4 million. In an exhibition tent, kids were all over the 15 Yamaha Waverunners, riding them like horses. Everything from natural gas engines to marine toilets to cutting-edge navigation systems to Wi-Fi on the water could be found in the tents. The boat show was expecting more than 100,000 people, but attendance as of Saturday was running higher than anticipated, the show’s management said.
“The sun is shining on this event big time,” said Harry Vernon of Miami-based Capt. Harry’s Fishing Supply, who has been exhibiting at the Miami boat show for 40 years. He said business is up at his two booths; fishing tackle, Cosmo sunglasses and waterproof bags are particularly big sellers.
The boat show left its home at the Miami Beach Convention Center, at least temporarily, during the center’s renovation, and its relocation to Virginia Key was hard fought by the city of Key Biscayne and environmentalists. Because of extremely limited parking on the island, an extensive park and ride system was rolled out for the first time.
“The good news is 85 percent of our attendees are using the park and ride. People said no one would do that,” said Thom Dammrich, president of the National Marine Manufacturers Association. “Park and ride has been a huge success, but we didn’t have enough water taxis. We can fix that next year.”
The water taxis at Purdy Avenue on Miami Beach were overwhelmed Friday, mainly because crowds from the separate but popular Yachts Miami Beach show on Collins Avenue were taking the shuttle there to get a water taxi to Miami Marine Stadium, Dammrich said. On Saturday, the boat show management added six express buses between Miami Marine Stadium and the Yachts Miami Beach show, which features 500 new and used yachts in the water from 41st to 54th Street. Fair-goers can still take water taxis from Purdy, but “expect delays,” Dammrich said.
Ferries were overwhelmed in other locations, too. On Saturday morning, Claus Heiroth, who came from Stockholm, Sweden, for the boat show, said he waited 25 minutes for a water taxi at the Hyatt, then 25 minutes at Bayside. “It took one and a half hours to get here. I don’t like that. It’s the only downside,” he said.
Seventy buses were continuously running at all locations, Dammrich said, and many of the water taxi locations also have shuttle service. There are 16 locations where the free shuttles and/or ferries pick up, but Marlins Park has the most parking spaces and is the cheapest alternative with $5 parking. Reported wait times at shuttle stops were 15 to 30 minutes at peak morning and evening hours, with much shorter waits in the afternoon. Shuttles were also running to the Strictly Sail sailboat show at Bayside, part of the Miami International Boat Show. Traffic on the Rickenbacker Causeway, another large concern of residents, flowed smoothly Saturday.
For the Buzzi family — Julio, Sylvia, son Michael and his girlfriend, Annie Ortiz — this is their 24th year attending the boat show. Like others in the crowd, they said they particularly liked the waterfront location of this show. They might buy a center console powerboat and hoped to try one out. “I have my eye on one,” said Julio Buzzi.
IF YOU GO
Miami International Boat Show: Miami Marine Stadium Park and Basin, 3501 Rickenbacker Causeway. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday.
Strictly Sail (part of the show): 401 Biscayne Blvd, Miami; 10 a.m.-6 p.m. through Monday.
Cost: $20 one-day pass; $35 two-day pass; free for kids 15 and under accompanied by adult. MiamiBoatShow.com.