Nautical innovations abound at 55th annual Fort Lauderdale Boat Show

Benetti’s new Veloce model, named Cheers, makes its world debut at the 55th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.
Benetti’s new Veloce model, named Cheers, makes its world debut at the 55th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Courtesy photo

Just about anything you can imagine that floats — and all the accessories to go with it — will be on display at the 55th Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show Thursday through Monday.

The 2014 edition has expanded to seven locations with 3 million square feet of exhibit space showcasing $4 billion worth of the best and newest products of the marine industry worldwide.

Here is a snapshot of some of the innovations you can peruse over the next five days:

▪ Viking 92 Convertible, Bahia Mar D dock 432, about $10.3 million: Just when you thought 80 feet might be too large for a competitive sport-fishing yacht, Viking Yachts introduces a model way bigger — the 92-foot convertible.

The boat on display has an enclosed bridge, but you can order it with an open configuration. With the usual sport-fishing appointments such as custom tuna tower, the Viking 92 features luxury accommodations, including six staterooms, each with a private head and shower; full-beam master suite with his and hers dressing facilities; spacious living area including a pop-up 65-inch flat screen television; formal dining area that seats six; full galley with granite countertops, and crew quarters.

You have your choice of power and electronics — all designed and installed by a Viking subsidiary — along with many accessories. You might not catch more fish, but you can try to catch them in the utmost comfort.

▪ Intrepid 327 center console/Blue Gas Marine, Bahia Mar G dock 700-708, no price available: This 32-foot, 7-inch center console boat with twin 275-horsepower Mercury outboards may look a lot like the company’s existing offerings, but there really is nothing like it in the world.

Largo-based Intrepid Powerboats has teamed with Blue Gas Marine founder Miguel Guerreiro of North Carolina to introduce the first natural gas hybrid-powered boat.

The new model can operate on natural gas alone, or the operator can switch to gasoline with the touch of a button at any speed. Guerreiro says a boater could save up to 70 percent on fuel with the new system.

“We are out there to make a significant difference for those with heavy fuel uses,” he said. “It makes a huge dent in operating commercial boats.”

Guerreiro said the patented system also reduces pollution because the engines emit no smoke or exhaust odor, and it’s a great excuse to avoid gasoline with 10 percent or more ethanol, which harms marine engines.

Blue Gas Marine plans to expand the availability of natural gas at public marinas and home filling stations.

▪ Evinrude E-TEC G2 outboard engines, Broward County Convention Center, booths 2013-2014, $22,000-$28,000: Parent company BRP quietly rolled out the new 200-, 250- and 300-horsepower models to a few selected pro staffers last summer, but the Fort Lauderdale show is the first reveal to consumers.

With innovative components but a throwback cowling style, the G2s have been redesigned from scratch, according to company representatives.

Like existing E-TECs, the new engines rely on direct injection instead of four-stroke technology, but product manager Jason Eckman says they optimize performance with 20 percent more torque to get the boat on plane more quickly; 15 percent better fuel economy, and 75 percent less fuel emissions. The I-Trim system automatically positions the boat for the most comfortable and fuel-efficient ride, depending on revolutions per minute and throttle position.

“Set it and forget it,” Eckman said.

The G2s come with an unprecedented five-year warranty with 500 hours between scheduled maintenance visits and a five-year corrosion warranty.

▪ Benetti Veloce motoryacht Cheers, Bahia Mar face dock 15, about $46 million: Targeted to Forbes-list types, this 150-foot long super-yacht — making its world debut — can take you wherever, and relatively quickly, in absolute comfort and luxury.

Built with a new fast-displacement hull, Cheers can cruise at an energy-saving 12 knots or zip along the wave tops at over 20 knots. The yacht features not one, but two swimming pools, one on the top sundeck and another on the bow of the bridge deck just below. It sleeps 12 people in six cabins, with separate quarters for eight crew.

The owner had a gym built on the bow of the main deck with stunning ocean views. There are two large dining areas, plus a “beach club” on the lower deck aft swimming platform with a bar and a garage for a personal watercraft and tender. With a choice of more than 15 custom interior designs, you can let your imagination (and wallet) open wide.

▪ Blue Water Warriors 37-foot Vision, Bahia Mar H-I dock, not for sale.

Yacht captain Andrew Grego and wife Karen built this aluminum, offset-center console boat by hand, from scratch, over the past two years in a tiny Fort Lauderdale warehouse with a lot of help from the local marine industry. Their dream was to create a totally accessible boat for injured U.S. military veterans to enjoy diving, fishing or just tooling around local waterways independently.

“Most of the guys I talked to don’t want to be helped,” Grego said. “They’re Type A personalities who want to be as independent as possible. We’ve tried to provide a platform so they can do the same things an able-bodied person can do. They get on board, get in and out of the water, get in and out of the head, and on and off the helm unassisted.”

The deck and extended transom easily accommodate wheelchairs. A gyro stabilizer keeps the boat from rocking too much side-to-side. The under-console head has a floor that raises level with the deck. Three 250-horsepower outboards allow cruising at up to 50 miles per hour with up to six people on board.

The Gregos created the Blue Water Warriors Foundation to solicit donations so they can offer free trips on the new boat to disabled vets and others with medical problems. They would like to go into the accessible boat building business full time.

▪ Wider Yachts USA, Bahia Mar face dock E, $500,000-$985,000: Amid the crowded weekend flotilla at Nixon Beach off Key Biscayne, one boat always draws plenty of gaping stares: the Wider 42.

It looks like a cross between a racing powerboat and a luxury yacht and can perform like either, cruising at 40 knots and topping out at 50. But the most remarkable feature is its expandable cockpit that creates nearly 200 square feet of outdoor party space with electronically controlled mobile extensions. The enclosed cabin features a kitchenette, master bed and bath and overhanging leather bags that substitute for storage lockers.

The company will introduce its new 32-footer at the show — a stylish express cruiser in orange or green, minus the expandable cockpit — with a comfortable cabin that also can serve as a yacht tender for Wider’s 150-footer currently under construction in Italy.

If you go

55th annual Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show

Thursday through Monday at Bahia Mar Yachting Center, Broward County Convention Center, Las Olas Municipal Marina, Hilton Fort Lauderdale, Sails Marina, Hall of Fame Marina and Pier 66 Marina.

▪ Show hours: 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Thursday through Sunday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday.

▪ Admission: $38 online for Thursday’s Prime Time Preview; $40 at the show; $22 for adult general admission all other days online; $24 at the show; $7 online for children 6-15; $9 at the show; free for children under 6. A two-day pass is $40 online; $42 at the show.

More information: showmanagement.com.