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FLIBS19: Visitor traffic good at Fort Lauderdale show, say captains

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By Dorie Cox and Lucy Chabot Reed

This year’s 60th anniversary of the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show brought a lot of traffic onboard larger yachts that were on display for sale and/or charter, according to several veteran captains. The docks at six marinas along the Intracoastal Waterway were packed with 1,500 boats, more than 120 of those larger than 100 feet in length.

Capt. Andrew Grego and his crew were busy, he said, and saw “really well-qualified people.”

“It was a really good show; many people were serious about buying boats,” he said after the five-day show that began Oct. 30. “The only downside was that it was hot.”

“Right now we’re talking with a few prospective buyers and charterers,” said Capt. Grego of M/Y Clarity, the 160-foot Bilgin he has run for three years. The yacht was on display during the show for both charter and sale and had interest for both.

“We had a couple of people circling ours,” he said. “We’ll know which way we’re going when the penny drops.”

Capt. Grego and the crew will adapt depending on whether the yacht sells or books charters.

“If it charters, the owner is happy to add the revenue to offset costs,” Capt. Grego said. “If it sells, it presents other opportunities. Perhaps we stay with the owner and he buys another boat, or the new owner needs crew or it sells, and that’s a chance for a completely new opportunity.”

“It’s six of one or half dozen of the other, both present opportunities,” he said.

Hargrave’s new 186-foot yacht kept Capt. Jake Oberholzer and his crew busy on M/Y Baba’s.

“We were pretty full all day,” Capt. Oberholzer said. “At any given moment, we had 20 people on the boat. It was a new boat and word got around. There was good feedback, very, very good, with a steady stream of photographers.”

Hargrave’s corporate booth, in a new location in the center of the show at Bahia Mar, reported good traffic thanks to M/Y Baba’s, according to CEO Mike Joyce. And the company expanded its reach at the show by working closely with Galati Yacht Sales and Denison, each located toward opposite ends of the main show. 

“They have access to a lot of brands below Hargrave size and have clients moving up, so it’s a natural fit,” Joyce said.

M/Y Sovereign is a 180-foot Newcastle that launched at the show in 2011. Since then, Capt. Stephen Burke has worked at about six shows. He felt like traffic was down on last year’s numbers for sale and charter yachts, but there were “certainly qualified and numerous people,” he said.

He still considers the show a success and credits his crew’s hard work.

“We came off 11 weeks charter, our record, and had less time to prepare … but we have a good crew that pulled it together,” Capt. Burke said. Plus, they hosted a cocktail event with 90 guests and competed in the Top Notch Tabletop Challenge as well as the Sunset Soiree & Yacht Chef Competition.

It had been two years since Capt. Thomas White’s last show. This year’s was much like previous years and M/Y Excellence, a 150-foot Richmond, had “lots of people in and out,” including over 300 guests for the yacht hop.

“The show was great, very busy,” he wrote in an email. “We were in for charter but, as with all things, if the right number comes up they would sell.”

M/Y Cynthia, a 182-foot Feadship, recently joined the charter fleet and Capt. Tim Silva said there was good traffic onboard during the show, especially from brokers eager to see the fleet’s new addition, he said.

Capt. Chris Day missed the past two Fort Lauderdale boat shows, but worked four years in a row before that. This year he worked on M/Y Dr. No, a 75-foot Ferretti. 

“Next to me was another Ferretti for a million more,” Capt. Day said. “There were a number of tire kickers.” 

Many visitors toured the adjacent boat, then returned to see Dr. No again.

On the business side, Northrop and Johnson has several yachts under contract, according to company president Kevin E. Merrigan. 

“Now for sea trials, surveys, due diligence,” he said. “It always takes 30 to 60 days after a show to learn the truth.”

The newest feature of the Fort Lauderdale show, the SuperYacht Village at Pier Sixty-Six Marina South, was well received by the world’s builders. Italian builder Benetti noted that, as a whole, its team was satisfied with the quality of attendees to the area, which was the goal. 

Feadship America’s Ted McCumber also enjoyed the new site. Although it did not have a new launch to exhibit in the show, its position near the docks made for good traffic and visibility.  

“As a first year, it was excellent,” McCumber said, noting he preferred the space better than the dock SYBAss members shared off Bahia Mar the past few years. “It made it quite a destination. I was happy with it.”

Dorie Cox is editor and Lucy Chabot Reed is publisher of The Triton. Comments are welcome below.

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About Dorie Cox

Dorie Cox is editor of The Triton.

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