Try as I might, I can't stay away from the Minneapolis Boat Show. When I saw the show dates on the calendar earlier this year I told myself there's no pressing reason for me to attend. I've never bought a new boat, I don't plan to buy a new boat and I might never buy a new boat.
Yet the boat show pulls me back every year, probably because it comes in the middle of winter, when open water is a dream. We all need something to pull us through winter. For me the boat show is one of those things.
But there's a practical reason for attending. By keeping up with what's new I can make better decisions years from now when I'm shopping for a used boat. I first saw my current boat, a '93 Crestliner, at the Minneapolis Boat Show. I liked it then and I like it now.
What follows are a few show observations from an amateur boating enthusiast. Being a fisherman my interests naturally lean toward fishing craft, but I noted a few things recreational boaters might find interesting. But let's talk fishing first.
-- Lund and Alumacraft continue to duke it out, with each manufacturer countering the other with like models at competitive prices. Both continue with riveted hulls. Casually ask either company's sales reps if there are plans to one day use a welding process and they'll launch into a passionate defense of the rivet. Lund and Alumacraft have plenty of buyers, so evidently there are a lot of folks who don't mind rivets.
Last year at mid-season Lund introduced the Pro Angler 16, a functional 16-foot-6-inch tiller boat with Lund's proven IPS hull. It's Lund's smallest and lightest (1,043 pounds) boat with the IPS hull, and Lund reps say it's selling well.
Counterpunch from Alumacraft: the new Magnum 175, a 17-foot-11 inch boat with the company-best 2XB hull. It checks in at 1,135 pounds, just 92 pounds more than the Lund. That's 1-foot-5-inches more fishing room and negligible more weight in a boat that's priced very near the Pro Angler 16. Looks like Lund's got a fight on its hands.
-- Tracker's 18-foot Tundra was new last year. The smooth, formed-aluminum hull looks like fiberglass and has attracted boaters who like aluminum but who think rivets are unsightly. Last year there was a problem, however. The boat came only in duckboat green -- not exactly a hit color with fishermen.
This year Tracker wisely offers the boat in two other colors: white with taupe and gray trim, and platinum with gray trim. The white model at the boat show was very attractive. Prices start in the high teens.
-- Lowrance has revamped its popular line of LCD graphs. Gone are the X49, X65 and X85. In their place are the new X51, X71 and X91. Also new is the LMS-240, basically a X91 with GPS capability. Last year's hit introductions, the high-end X-16 (color) and X-15 graphs continue unchanged.
-- Looking for a good value in a bowrider? The SeaRay 176 with Mercury Alpha One inboard starts under $13,000.
-- You don't see many Boston Whalers in these parts, but something about these craft draws my interest. The 16-foot Dauntless has a center-mounted console, which appeals to me for some odd reason, and a bimini top, which could save your skin on a scorching hot summer day. The high aluminum railing gives passengers added security in rough waters. But the greatest security is knowing the Whaler's hull is unsinkable. But $26,490 is a lot of money for a 16-foot boat.
-- On the other end of the price spectrum is The Skiff by Wagoner Powerboats, based in Bradenton, Fla. This simple 15-foot-2-inch fiberglass boat resembles a Boston Whaler and was outfitted at the show with a 70 h.p. Nissan engine. Show price was $11,995.
Can you imagine how a 70 h.p. motor would kick the 550-pound Skiff across the water? The salesman said plus-50 m.p.h. is not out of the question.
-- Now here's a novel idea: floating wheels for your boat lift. B.M.S. Manufacturing in Forest Lake makes the Boat Lift Mobility System, consisting of four inflatable wheels, one for each corner of your boat lift. Raise the boat lift off its pads and onto the tires with a removable winch. Inflate the tires (500 pounds floating capacity), float the lift to where you want it, deflate the tires and lower the lift back onto its pads with the winch. Reverse the process when it's time to take the lift out in the fall. It almost looks too good to be true.
-- A headache that comes with placing your boat lift at the right height is having to recruit your brother, brother-in-law, neighbor, cousin, etc. to hold the lift at the right height while you fumble around underwater trying to locate the level-adjustment hole. Boat Launcher Lift Systems, made by Newman Manufacturing in Royalton, eliminates this hassle with its exclusive spring pin leg adjuster. Just flip the lever -- you can do it with your bare feet while holding the lift yourself -- and the pin automatically locates the level adjustment hole. A great idea that was long overdue.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.