The 31st annual Boat Show is over and I'm glad I went to Minneapolis to see all the nice boats I'll never own -- at least not this year.
Quite possibly the boat I'll buy 10 years from now was at this show, but 10 years from now it won't be priced as much as a new vehicle.
In these tough economic times you would think boats costing $20,000 and more would be slow to sell, but several of the dealers I talked to at the show said sales were good, even on high-end models. Or were they just putting on a happy face?
What follows is my annual survey of the Boat Show, a survey containing all manner of half-baked opinions, observations and general musings.
* Alumacraft has an attractive new paint scheme on its Tournament Pro series: a two-tone gray with red and tan accents that's a nice alternative to the green, red and tan scheme of recent years. Leave that combo for Christmas decorations.
* Warrior has a new 18-foot side console named the Maverick. Warrior's tiller boats are great. But on their console models it looks as if the console was installed by a harried employee 10 minutes from quitting time on Memorial Day weekend. I was surprised to see just two Warriors -- and not one tiller model -- on the entire show floor. Perhaps there's something to the rumor that Warrior is on its way out.
* For its 100th anniversary Starcraft has introduced the C-Star, a 16-foot-6-inch console model with a 60-horsepower Mercury, priced at $12,000. The console is set about as far forward as I've seen in any boat. To me that's good because the only virtue of a console is that it allows you to see the water in front of the boat much better than from a tiller seat. Not sure if the rear fold-down seats in the C-Star have much use in a fishing boat, though.
* Crestliner can't dump its current graphics soon enough. Bold and innovative when introduced, today they somehow manage to look tired and busy at the same time. I even know of a diehard Crestliner owner who bought a Lund because he didn't like the Crestliner graphics.
* Alumacraft, take a cue from Lund and get rid of the carpeted gunwales. Carpeting is of questionable value anywhere in a fishing boat. On the gunwales, where hooks snag and gunk accumulates, it's completely unnecessary.
* Sorry, Lund, but the new blue paint scheme just doesn't work, especially with purple accent stripes. Looks wimpy, not like the tough Lund look we're accustomed to.
* Why do boat manufacturers use fake wood-grain trim? It's bad enough in cars, but completely out of place in a boat. Take Tracker's Tundra for instance. The stretch-formed aluminum hull makes for a beautiful boat -- until you see the control panel in wood-grain. Replace it with a charcoal-colored panel and there wouldn't be a classier ride on the water.
* The Triton tiller lives! Wait a minute, you say. You have the new Triton catalog and nary a tiller boat can be found? Well, the salesman at the boat show said the side console on the 189 can be popped out and replaced with a handrail. A Triton tiller would be appealing, partly because nobody around here has one. When he worked for Warrior, Pete Harsh said of Triton's multi-species boats, "Just another Southern bass boat manufacturer trying to snag a few northern customers." Ironic, now that Pete's running a Ranger.
* Wandering momentarily to the pleasure boat side, I noticed the passenger seats in Malibu's boats all face backward. Why's that?
"These are ski boats," the salesman said, obviously aware he was talking to a crude fishing hack. "It's easier to keep an eye on the skier when you're facing backward."
Of course. Foolish to ask.
* Ever wonder why the rear 2-foot portion of the gunwale on Princecraft boats slopes downward?
"It's our signature," the salesman said. "When you see that you immediately know it's a Princecraft."
Well, you don't see many Princecrafts around here anyway.
* There are a lot of boats at the Boat Show but also a lot of boats that aren't at the Boat Show. If you're shopping for a boat, grab every catalog you can find, stop at every dealership you pass, log onto the Internet, talk to your neighbors and test drive as many different models as you can. Among truck buyers there are Ford guys, Chevy guys and import guys. Boats are a lot more diverse and so are we, the boat buyers.
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