Words: Norris Comer // Photos: Ozzie Wiese
For maritime enthusiasts and their curious (or tolerant) friends and family, the calendar is marked up not only with the normal swath of birthdays and national holidays, but boat shows, too. A good boat show, such as the upcoming Boats Afloat Show, can be one of the few things that make gruff sea salts skip about the dock like high schoolers picking out prom dresses. Boats Afloat, slated for September 14 to 18 on South Lake Union, Seattle is a Pacific Northwest mainstay that gives locals something to look forward to as the summer weather passes. All the action happens on 901 Fairview Ave N., and there is something for all ages from the five-year-old niece to grandpa.
“This year the Boats Afloat show is going to have more to offer than ever!” says Bonnie Robertson, the Executive Director of the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association, who is the mastermind of the event and Director of the Boats Afloat Show. “Everything you can imagine will be down here. This is our 38th Boats Afloat Show. We started out of Shilshole Bay Marina in 1978 and moved to South Lake Union about 10 years later. The Northwest Yacht Brokers Association is made up of about 300 members representing dealers, brokers, services, insurance, finance… just about everything you need to get a boat or get into boating.”
The Boats Afloat Show, which is made possible by the presenting sponsor Global Marine Insurance Agency and official sponsors Banana Belt Boats & Yachts and MTI Worldwide Logistics, is aptly named, for new and used vessels of all shapes and sizes will be on display at the docks for all to see. Robertson estimates a total boat count of around 250 that range in size from 18 to 90 feet in length. What’s more, boatyards, marinas, resorts, and other service industries will be represented for those owners who are still looking for “their guy” for that upcoming bottom job. Also, one cannot overlook all the cool gizmos and latest gear that will bring the Christmas-came-early light to any boater’s eyes at company booths and tables.
The event is kicked off with an exclusive VIP Night, sponsored by Pacific Maritime Title, LLC, on September 13, the Tuesday before the official show begins. The VIP Night serves as a sort of insider previewing of the show and a mingling event that goes from 1600 hours to 2000 hours. There are typically 1,000 people in attendance to enjoy the enhanced displays, wine and cheese, live music, and special guests. Tickets are not available to the public, but there are ways to get them if you know somebody.
“This is a really fun night to connect with your broker or meet new people in the industry, as well as to see what we have on display,” says Robertson. “We’ve been blessed with beautiful weather every year for our VIP Night. I’d encourage people to ask their broker for tickets.”
The rest of the Boats Afloat Show, September 14 to 18, is when things really get going as the docks open to the public. Weekday hours are 1100 hours to 1800 hours while weekends are 1000 hours to 1800 hours, and there is something for the whole family. Boats Afloat has made a tangible effort to include kid-friendly events, and free one-hour sailing lessons on Hobie cats are offered by the award-winning Sail Sand Point. Free 45-minute family boat rides are also available, and the Center for Wooden Boats and Inner Bank offer kids’ toy boat building activities. Traditionally, Boats Afloat offered seminars from nautical experts, but the event organizers are mixing things up this year and seminars were cut from the itinerary.
But of course, the heart and soul of Boats Afloat are the boats themselves, and they do not disappoint. Diversity seems to be a Boats Afloat theme, from the activities offered to kids to the wide array of boats on display.
“We advertise that it [Boats Afloat] is not just another yacht show. We have smaller ski boats for the active lifestyle and more as well,” says Robertson. Indeed, an entire section of the boat show is designated “Sportboat Row” for the waterski, wakeboard, and sport fishing boats that are under 30 feet. Another section of the show has been designated “Sailboat Row” to show off the 35 plus vessels expected this year. What’s more, tenders, pontoon boats, and the like will be well represented. Whether you’re looking for that motoryacht to cruise up the Inside Passage or the tender to accompany the yacht you already have, the Boats Afloat Show will probably have a few hulls to interest you.
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Photo contributors to this story include the Boats Afloat Show.