More powerful outboards, coupe-style cruisers, fancier pontoons and lots of boaters filled the McCormick Place aisles at the Chicago Boat, RV and Strictly Sail show. Vendors promoted everything from coffee cake and BBQ sauce to stainless hardware, drones, clothing, marinas and marine electronics.
Some trends stood out:
- Pontoons everywhere. Pontoons covered a large portion of the exhibit floor, including ever more powerful, luxurious and expensive models.
- Stand-up paddleboards are hot. Even though they aren’t especially cheap, lightweight or easy to store, lots of vendors were showing them. Along with the growing interest in kayaking, it’s good to see more people out on the water using these low-cost, human-powered vessels. Some paddleboards and kayaks even come with pedals and steering.
- Coupes vs. flybridges. Larger boat dealers brought coupe-style cruisers, including the 52 and 37 from Carver Yachts and several models from Tiara, Prestige, and Cruisers. Another standout was the Ranger Tug 29, making great use of space in a small trawler, sans flybridge.
- Outboards are YUGE. Outboards get larger every year, and more of them get wedged onto the sterns of pontoons and bowriders. Who buys these rockets with triple 350s on the back?
Were the crowds just looking or buying? Boat sales have picked up since the recession years, and judging by the crowds, the boating economy is strong. Do signs announcing “Boat Show Special: $2 MILLION” bring out a lot of checkbooks? We’ll see this spring.
A few photos …
Thanks to Stephanie Kemp, Tammi Feehan and probably some others for the photos.
Press coverage from The Times.