PROVIDENCE, R.I. -- The Providence Boat Show, which runs January 31 to February 2 at the Rhode Island Convention Center, is showcasing a new look. The powerboats, outboard engines, and fishing equipment that have been a staple at this show will return. But change comes with what has been added: more sailboats, fun activities and appearances designed to entertain and inspire, and even an area where attendees can learn to surf on dry land.
“When RIMTA purchased this show we knew it was a perfect way to showcase our marine industry—but we set out to do something more, to create an indoor expo that showcases our shoreline and all the ways it can be enjoyed from the water side,” said Wendy Mackie, CEO of the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association (RIMTA), which purchased the show this past fall. “The Providence Boat Show will deliver a great experience: it is the closest you can get to our New England coast, without water.”
Newport native and America’s Cup winner Rome Kirby will help kick off the new iteration of this 20-year-old Rhode Island happening when he visits the show on opening day. On January 31, at 5 pm, Kirby will be at the Show Pavilion to meet attendees, answer questions with sailing commentator Andy Green, and receive the RIMTA Boater of the Year Award.
Kirby is from a sailing family: his father, Jerry Kirby, is a veteran of six America’s Cup campaigns. Rome Kirby remembers standing alongside the America’s Cup when his father won it; he was not much taller than the trophy itself, but from that early age he decided that sailing was the life for him. Kirby is the latest in a long line of champion sailors whose talents have been groomed in Rhode Island waters. He will also be at the show on Saturday, from 12 to 2 pm, to meet young boaters at the new H20 Zone and the “Boats Work for Rhode Island” centers.
Attendees will see another star product of Rhode Island at the show: the 22-foot J/70 sportboat designed and marketed by J/Boats of Newport. Less than two years old, this sailboat struck a chord with sailors and its hulls have flown out the doors of its builder, CCF Composites in Bristol. There are already 19 fleets established in the United States alone, not to mention boats that have been sold internationally.
RIMTA debuts its Show Pavilion this year, a new area of the show designed for fun and inspiration. Visitors can learn about sea-to-table cuisine from the region’s leading chefs at the Ocean House (Watch Hill), Matunuck Oyster Bar (South Kingstown) and Blaze Restaurant (Providence); get the latest update on Rhode Island’s Tall Ship Oliver Hazard Perry; meet local author John Fulweiler, who captured the harrowing story of a man overboard in his book A Swim; and even try surfing on dry land with instructors from FloorTime Studios (Middletown).
Powerboats will be at the show in force to meet the growing demand for these watercraft. According to figures released in December by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, powerboat retail sales are estimated to grow 5-7% in 2014. Rhode Island companies such as Don’s Marine in Tiverton are coming to the show to catch that tide; the company will showcase a large fleet of 12 powerboats, including 7 models from Robalo, a manufacturer of powerboats favored by fishing enthusiasts.
Louis Marine of Westbrook (Conn.) will exhibit two powerboats from French manufacturer Jeanneau that are new to the North American market, including the Cap Camarat 8.5 CC and the Merry Fisher 855. Ocean House Marina of Charlestown is displaying the new Regulator 25, another longstanding favorite amongst fishing enthusiasts. Two models from Pursuit—the Pursuit 310 Center Console and the Pursuit Offshore 315—will be at the display of Striper Marina (Barrington, R.I.). The Hunt Harrier 25 from Hunt Yachts will be on view, and showgoers can also learn about the new Harrier 25 Sport—a new venture for this Portsmouth (R.I.) company that shares the same hull and engineering as the Hunt brand in a no-frills value package.
Sailboat fans will see everything from the sleek Sparkman & Stephens 30 from Bluenose Yachts (Newport), a 1935 Olin Stephens design relaunched in modern materials, to simple prams. The show’s new H20 Zone, the go-to area for small-boat sailors, is a joint effort of Zim Sailing of Warren, LaserPerformance of Portsmouth, community-boating organizations Sail Newport and the Community Boating Center of Providence, and The Boat Locker (Westport, Conn.). The Zone will feature a fleet of sailboats along with experts who can match showgoers with the boat that fits their sailing style and ability. Boats on view will include: the classic Optimist, Laser and Sunfish; the high-performance hydrofoil Moth; and the Blue Dragon Pram and Hartley 12, durable European designs for young sailors represented by Zim Sailing.
Marine careers will be front and center at the “Boats Work for Rhode Island” centers, sponsored by Jamestown Distributors. High School students from Chariho Career & Technical Center and Warwick Area Career & Technical Center will build a canoe onsite, and students from Tiverton High School will showcase their latest projects. Trade schools IYRS and the New England Institute of Technology will be on hand to talk with career seekers about their training programs.
Free seminars on Sport Fishing and Navigation & Seamanship run all three days of the show. Premium Seminars that include two hours of one-on-one time with experts from the Annapolis School of Seamanship are offered on Friday and Saturday mornings, on Electronic Navigation and Troubleshooting Your Diesel Engine.
The Providence Boat Show runs from Friday, January 31 to Sunday, February 2, 2014. Tickets are $12 for general admission (ages 12 and under are free). Special ticket packages can be purchased online at the show’s website. The Providence Boat Show is sponsored by Kellogg Marine Supply, Starkweather & Shepley Insurance Brokerage, Tasca Chrysler Dodge Jeep RAM, and Wild Things.
For more on the Providence Boat Show and its seminars and special events, connect with the show on Facebook or visit www.providenceboatshow.com.