The Boat Show! The Boat Show! The big Seattle boat show!

Okay, so I know this is a big big boat town (most boats per capita or somesuch) but I really had no idea of the teeming boat-based economy until I went to the Boat Show on Saturday. A friend who himself works in the boat bid-ness had gotten tickets at work, so we thought it would be cool to check things out and see what the deal was about. For those of you who have only ever just seen the ads on during the evening news and always wondered, well, here you go…

I moved from California about 18 months ago, having lived in two sea-side cities there with their own large self-named bays, but of course we all know that no one takes boats seriously as people do up here in Pugetopolis. My personal boat experiences here in town have been a handful of WSF ferry-rides, a Queen City Cruise, and (most applicable to what I’d see at the Show) a boozy sun-filled SeaFair Sunday out on Lake Washington. Still, I had no-freaking-idea as to the gi-normous amount of boats and boat stuff that would greet me at the Seahawks Stadium Qwest Field Expo Center.

Maybe I should have been scared that not only were they using all the expo halls but had carpeted over part of the parking garage on Level 2. I guess the best way to think of the boat show as a lot like the car show, if you’ve been to one. People are crawling all over the shiny machines, enthralled by plasma displays with promotional vids, and scrutinizing glossy factsheets. Except here the prices leaned more into the realm of real estate than regular autos. And no women draped all over like with the cars. Thank gawd.

We walked right into a display with about 30 light gray dingies. Er, dingys. Dinghys. =( Dinghies. Inflatable watercraft. Tow trailers for land travel. Then we passed through the Concourse, which seemed to have most of the boat-related gadgets and doo-dads. LED lights, GPS receivers, radar, emergency rafts. There was even a guy with a mic’d headset showing off boat cleaner/polish. I felt like I was back at the Puyallup Fair for a second. If they had a food-processing wand or vacuum of the future, I was out of there. But it never got too trite.

Downstairs, the West Hall was full of small, medium and monstrous boats that all together easily cost over 100 million dollars. Cah-ray-zee. Most of the boats you would have to go up a set of half a dozen stairs to a raised platform, where each dealer had from 4 to a dozen of them for you take a tour around, with or without shoes on depending on their particular attitude and the price of the boat. And oh geez, the price of some of these! Like Seattle real estate, it seemed like sometimes it took $300,000 to find something with a solid roof over your head and enough space to stand up in. Having had my SeaFair experience in a traditional Bayliner-like vehicle, it instantly became clear which of these were good old-fashioned boats and which, as one woman commented to her husband, were “just a Winnebago on the water”. You know boats are supposed to be practical, space-efficient, and charming, but I’d swear, this one yacht we stopped in had 3 feet of head clearance in the middle of its exquisite, well, Great Room I guess, and a big seven foot high wall by the head (and unusable five-by-five surface seven feet up above it) that served no purpose.

It’s interesting to see the different designs, both good and bad at space-use, but also the ones with fly-bridges (the term, my friend told me, for the platforms one level over the water-level storey), U-shaped kooshy ‘jacuzzi’ seating either fore or aft, benches with or without tables, utilitarian aluminum boat designs, lots of open space (for hauling in that marlin or something), plentiful cupholders, wet bars, etc. One boat, I swear, looked like the ones used in the jungle cruise at Disneyland. Two side benches and a scalloped canvas roof. So many different ways of having fun on the water. We talked to the wife of one dealer, who specialized in selling water-skiing and wakeboarding boats, and how the performance at different speeds and how the wake comes out of the back are features of boats for people into those two sports. Hmmm, who’da thunk?

I have to admit that I did fall in love with one glorious, long sailboat (whose platform was even HIGHER off the expo hall floor because of that, um, long stabilizing rudder thingie on the underside of it). Lots of wood, navy leather (chic! nautical!), a captain’s desk with map storage, and a bedroom that one could move about comfortably in every corner. $420K. G’dammit! =( Oh well, at least I have good taste. =/

The East Hall had more boat displays but was obviously less trafficked and a tad less glamourous than the brightly-lit West Hall. We didn’t spend as much time here but did notice one cool boat that was selling itself as the Hummer of boats. Stop gagging. I mean this in that they had a contract and were already making boats for the Navy and other government police agencies for different patrol units, and had given it a heavy-metal look and high-performance jets. So, they simply whipped up a civilian version of it, painted it Hummer yellow, and made it much less spartan. Don’t get me wrong, there was no navy leather or Great Rooms, but if one wanted to shell out the cash and troll the high seas in the same tubs that Homeland Security does, voil

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