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Exhibiting a boat or not, captains attend and appreciate what FLIBS offers

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As summer comes to a close, we all in South Florida are eager for the fall and the return of traveling yachts and crew. And, of course, we think about the fall’s signature event, the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

We were curious if captains and crew actually attend the show on their own, or if they only go when working on a boat being exhibited at the show. Anecdotal evidence from previous captains lunch conversations and bumping into captains on the docks at the show tell us they do, but we wondered to what extent, and why.

So we asked.

Click to read comments: Yacht captains share their thoughts about what would make the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show better.

Are you going to this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show (Nov. 3-7)?

The largest group — nearly half of our 125 yacht captain respondents — will be going, even though they will not be working on a boat being exhibited in the show.

“As a captain, I need to stay current on industry trends,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who attends nearly every year. “FLIBS is the best way to do that.”

About 18.5 percent of our respondents will be at the show because they are working on a boat.

“I’ll be there, unless the boat is sold before then,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.

Taken together, that means two-thirds of our captains will attend the boat show. Most of the rest — about 21 percent — were undecided as of mid-August.

“This is yachting,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet. “I don’t know what I am doing next week, let alone the end of October.”

Just 12.9 percent will not be going.

“I don’t miss many, but I will be working in Tahiti this year,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

How many times have you been to this show in the past 10 years?

The largest group — 39 percent of our respondents — have been to this show between seven and nine times in the past 10 years. When we add those who have been every year (22 percent more), a majority of captains attend the show regularly.

(When we looked at this combined group, we thought we would find only veterans, but we discovered that they were evenly split among all our categories for length of time in the industry.)

About a third of our respondents have been to the show three to six times in the past decade, and just 5.7 percent said they had been only once or twice. No one said this year would be their first.

Do you only attend when working on a boat, or do you attend on your own as well?

The vast majority — 82.4 percent — said they attend with or without a boat.

About 10 percent usually attend on their own. About 8 percent attend only with a boat in the show.

For the roughly 13 percent not going to the show, we wondered Why will you miss the show?

The majority — about 62.5 percent — will not be in the area.

“Was planning to go, but family plans conflict,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet. “Really wanted to go. I will make it next year.”

About a quarter of our respondents said they don’t attend boat shows.

Just 12.5 percent said there was no need to attend since their boat was not for sale and the owner was not looking to buy another one.

For the majority of our respondents who are coming, we asked If and when you come without a boat, do you come each of the five days?

Just 5.4 percent do.

The rest were pretty evenly split between attending several days (48.6 percent) or just one day (46 percent).

If and when you come without a boat, why do you come? What do you get out of it?

Most captains come for three reasons: to network with suppliers and brokers, to research new products and technologies, and to catch up with old friends.

“New products, networking and to get the heartbeat of the industry,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet who has attended the show more than seven times in the past decade. “What better place than FLIBS?”

“To do centralized and physical product research, some networking, and socializing with old friends and peers,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet who has attended a handful of times in the past decade, always without a boat.

“Keep up to speed on electronics and other shipboard systems,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet who attends nearly every year but will be out of town this year. “The ability to meet with factory people versus local dealers or suppliers is a big plus.”

“Networking,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet who attends every year. “If they don’t see you at the show, rumors circulate that you have died.”

“Seeing vendors and manufacturers, looking at new equipment, and dealing with issues with existing equipment,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year. “In the past few years, attending some of the educational seminars.”

“Networking, the only reason to go,” said a captain in yachting more than 30 years who attends nearly every year. “You get to say hello to industry partners that you may not have seen in the previous year, and run into other captains and crew. You only need to hang out in one place: the rum barge. Sit there long enough and everyone you know in the industry will come by. Although I do make an effort to annoy the brokers and keep my face in theirs. That is where the best jobs come from.”

Whether working or not, do you wander around to see what’s new?

About a third explore every bit of the show, meeting as many new people as they can.

“Well, not every bit, but not just cruising around either,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year. “The technology and engineering tents are a must. I skip the tourist and fishing tents. Dockside, I view all the big yachts, but not small or fishing boats.”Two-thirds will walk the docks, visit with friends, and visit a few key vendors.

Less than 1 percent said they don’t wander much, instead sticking to appointments.

Do you take tours of the new yacht models?

Slightly more than half do.

Do you go to events after show hours, outside of the show?

The largest group — 44.1 percent — takes in all the key events.

But surprisingly (at least to us) was that the next largest group — 27 percent — don’t attend any outside events.

About 16.2 percent attend only the customer appreciation and fundraising party hosted by National Marine Suppliers.

And the smallest group — about 12.6 percent — go to as many events as possible.

What are the best parts of the show?

Topping the list are the networking (chosen by 68.2 percent of captains) and access to vendors (chosen by 57.3 percent). Events (29.1 percent) rounded out the top three.

“I need more time,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet who attends every year. “I can’t attend all that is offered due to time constraints.”

About 21 percent of captains liked the seminars, and 18 percent like the boat debuts.

“Although I checked seminars, I rarely have had time to attend them,” said the captain of a yacht 100-120 feet.

Last year, show organizers moved the show one week later to the first weekend in November? Do you approve of this shift?

Slightly more than half said yes, with most of the rest saying it didn’t matter.

“We wrap up our season in late October,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet who attends nearly every year. “The later weekend is nicer. It ensures I can make it to the show.”

“The farther back in storm season, the better,” said the captain of a yacht larger than 220 feet who attends nearly every year.

“It gives us an extra week to get the boat ready for the show,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year. “There’s a massive crunch time in the yards during October.”

“I get to have Halloween with my kids,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.

“I like it only because I can now attend the Fort Lauderdale International Film Festival events,” said a captain who attends every year. “Previously, they conflicted.”

“It fits better with our cruising program,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet.

Even though a large group of captains said the date shift didn’t matter to them, several noted reason why it wasn’t ideal.

“I like to leave for the Caribbean the 1st week in November,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet who will not attend this year.

“They didn’t take into consideration the time change,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year. “It gets darker earlier. When it gets dark, everyone goes home.”

“I know that you have to have a show at some point, but having the show when most boats are trying to conduct shipyard periods is crippling,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet. “Most of the suppliers and venders lose two weeks before the show and two weeks after the show, plus a week for the show. Most of their production, manufacturing and service comes to a halt, leaving existing customers that are actually trying to get their boats ready for the winter season stranded without assistance.”

Only 7.9 percent said they didn’t like the shift.

“It screws things up for starting season and makes refit time to go time to the Caribbean shorter, but I guess we will all get used to it,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet.

We really wanted to understand not only captains’ behaviors related to the show, but their impressions and suggestions, so we asked How can the show be better for captains?

“More conferences and seminars on important topics,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet in yachting more than 10 years. “I would love to have a captain’s tour time where, at a given time, the captain of a yacht will give a group of other captains a tour. I find it really informative to tour other boats.”

This was a popular thought.

“More seminars for captains,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet who attends nearly every year.

“More equipment and regulatory seminars,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year.

“Streaming seminars when we can’t make them,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 who attends nearly every year.

“I never know what the event/seminars are,” said the captain of a yacht 160-180 feet who has attended a handful of times in the past decade.

“Any seminars should be outside of the actual show and done a couple days prior to the show,” said the captain of a yacht 180-200 feet who attends nearly every year, but just for one day. “During the show is not practical, and at the show venue is a mess for parking and getting in and out for those not in the actual show.”

We include here all the other productive thoughts captains shared in the hopes that show organizers will take their needs and desires into account for future shows. (A sidebar lists some things captains say is missing at FLIBS.)

“A preferred pass to get on boats for informative purposes without going through the broker process,” said a captain in yachting more than 20 years who attends every year. “Maybe make it as part of a captain lounge.”

“Allow captains access to all brokerage boats without hinderance from gatekeepers,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet who attends nearly every year.

“Even though we are not the owners/buyers, a little more respect from yacht brokers would be nice,” said a captain in yachting more than 35 years. “Often, we are shopping for a new boat for the boss.”

“When I have worked the show, I would have preferred an earlier closing time,” said a captain in yachting more than 35 years who attends the show every year. “7 p.m. is too late as the docks empty around 5.”

“It is getting better, year by year,” said another captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year. “Keep following the new trend of combining outlets together for social and business functions. Speakers are a big draw.”

Rainbow to Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

Rainbow to Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show.

“An in-the-biz-only day would be great,” said the captain of a yacht 140-160 feet who attends nearly every year.

“It’s too big,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet. “Palm Beach is the new FLIBS. I won’t miss that show now.”

“Need better electrical and shore power,” said a captain in yachting more than 25 years who will be exhibiting a new yacht this year.

“More water taxi access, and maybe have a tender visiting dock where we can drop off and pickup with our own tenders,” said the captain of a yacht 80-100 feet who attends nearly every year.

“They removed the tender dock last year, which made it very inconvenient to get guests to and from the show,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet who attends every year.

“Make brokers sign a ‘I swear to tell the truth’ statement, and don’t allow a boat in the show without a price,” said the captain of a yacht less than 80 feet.

“Personally, I think the show is pretty well run and appreciate the amenities provided to crew,” said the captain of a yacht 120-140 feet in yachting more than 20 years.

 

Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments on this survey are welcome at lucy@the-triton.com. We conduct monthly surveys online. All captains and crew members are welcome to participate. Email us to be included.

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