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My first day at FLIBS

By David Gee

How do you begin to describe it? Over 1,500 boats, most quite large, wedged in bow to stern, gunwale to gunwale, seemingly stretching to the horizon? Yachts that have tenders that cost more than your house, day boats, night boats, bowriders, center consoles...all here at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, and all for sale and looking for a new home.

I had seen the aerial shots from past shows, and I felt like I knew a little about what to expect. But until you are standing on the dock, any dock, and then find yourself walking from dock to dock to dock, and then taking a water taxi to go to another section of docks and boats you haven't yet seen, you really don't realize how big it is.

Managing editor Adam Quandt and I divided and conquered. I began the day at the first press event; a breakfast hosted by Volvo Penta.

It started out rather routine. Volvo Penta of the Americas president Ron Huibers talked about years of innovation, new products and the desire to get more people on the water. The event ended rather unexpectedly though with Ron announcing his retirement.

Then it was on to Brunswick where CEO David Foulkes ran through the brand portfolio, including ways they are trying to incubate new ideas and foster components of a start-up culture even inside this large company.

Most of that crowd then moved to the Sea Ray boats, as they debuted some new models. Adam then went on to Chris Craft, Marquis, Ocean Max, Cox Diesel, and finally Boston Whaler.

They unveiled two new Boston Whaler Conquest models, with some really cool features. With the recent opening of the Brunswick Boat Group Technology Center right on the corporate campus, Boston Whaler's leadership said the brand is more committed than ever to advancing technology, comfort and capability.

Leslie Palmer, our new sales manager, is also in Fort Lauderdale, and she made the rounds on the docks with us, meeting and greeting. She also noted we walked 5.7 miles! No wonder we were all a little tired when we poured ourselves into our Uber at the end of the day.

Along the way I also went to a press event on a floating dock hosted by the Ferretti Group. Besides lots of well dressed Italians, the event featured some killer desserts and iced espressos, a welcome pick me up in the middle of a hot and humid day.

Actually, Ferretti has quite a good story to tell. The company has grown from the single Ferretti Yachts brand which began in 1968 to become Italy's second-largest conglomerate, owning Riva, Pershing, Allied Marine, Wally and others.

They went from near bankruptcy to being debt free in five years, and the value of their order book in the first half of 2019 alone was over $700 million. And they have over $400 million in orders already booked so far for next year.

It's exciting to see what some really talented designers, engineers and builders can do with composites and other materials when cost is literally no object. And some of that technology no doubt trickles down to the rest of the boating industry eventually.

So I would say my first day at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show was a success. I like boats, sunshine and water, and all three of those can be found in abundance.

I'm also fond of any show that has an area called "Superyacht Village." I'll check it out and report back to you.

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