For those unable to jet off to warmer climates, dreaming about the sun, sand and surf may be the only way to make it through the long winter months. But for boat and outdoor enthusiasts, there’s a surefire way to cure the winter blues: boat and sports shows.
U.S. boat and boating-related retail purchases totaled $30 billion in 2003 and this figure is growing quickly. Seventy-two million people participate in recreational boating, more than the combined total of those who play golf or tennis, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association.
Each year, the NMMA holds boat shows from coast to coast that are open to the public. At these shows, experienced boaters and newcomers alike find a friendly, relaxed atmosphere where experts are on hand to offer unbiased advice.
“Whether you’re a seasoned sailor or someone who’s never been on a boat, we want you to come in here and feel the excitement of boating,” said Steve Tadd, director of NMMA’s Discover Boating program. “Boating is something you can get into at any point in your life. So whether you’re 8 or 80, we’re here to show you how much fun you can have and how easy it can be.”
Most NMMA boat and sports shows offer family-oriented entertainment; some even border on the spectacular – featuring aquatic animal touch-tanks, sea lion shows, remote-control boat races and a host of interactive activities. Kids are admitted free or at greatly reduced prices to most shows.
In addition, experts stop by many of the shows to offer fishing seminars, instructions on boat repair, one-on-one casting demos for beginning anglers and even scuba-diving lessons.
Here are some highlights of exhibits and attractions at some of this winter’s NMMA shows.
* Scuba diving: At select boat shows, visitors can take a dip in a tropically warm pool set up specifically for scuba diving. All scuba suits and diving equipment are provided.
* Indoor lake: For the Toronto International Boat Show, the new Ricoh Coliseum will be flooded with more than 1 million gallons of water, creating the world’s largest indoor “marina.” Visitors can stroll the docks, board boats, relax, socialize and dine dockside. More than 50 boats will be moored on the lake, with live entertainment daily.
* Women at the helm: This exhibit at select shows is dedicated to supplying boating information to women, with the emphasis on boating as a family activity.
* Fishing seminars: From fly-fishing for trout to big-game fishing for marlin, many shows feature exhibits and seminars with angling tips, equipment and travel information.