Walking on water: Wouldn’t that be an amazing feat to accomplish? Of course, that type of talent is reserved by one of a divine nature and is only a remote possibility for us mortal beings, but an exhibit at the 54th annual Detroit Boat Show beginning this weekend, Saturday, Feb. 11, and running through Sunday, Feb. 19 at Cobo Center in downtown Detroit, will offer the rare chance to tread across the water.
With the aid of Waterwalkerz — a fully enclosed ball filled with air that allows people to roll across the water for a fee of $5 — people can attempt to fathom what it could be like to walk (or at least roll) across a pool while remaining completely dry.
However, for those whose idea of fun doesn’t include partaking in an activity akin to being a hamster running around in a plastic ball on water, a tour of the Queen of the Show, a 45-foot Sea Ray from Colony Marine, may be more to their liking.
“For many people in Michigan, the opportunity to climb onboard a 45-foot boat happens only once a year at the Detroit Boat Show,” said Michigan Boating Industries Association (MBIA) President and Detroit Boat Show Manager John Ropp.
This year’s Queen of the Show features an array of electronics, including an LCD HD-TV with DVD player and sound system, abundant storage and space for entertaining in the salon — which itself has wing chairs and a leather sofa — and a raised dinette next to the galley containing a refrigerator, freezer, microwave oven, a two-burner stovem, and a pull out pantry.
The vessel — which carries a price tag of just under $800,000 and is the largest featured at the Detroit Boat Show this year — also includes master and guest staterooms.
One couple will even have the chance to get married aboard the boat by a licensed captain on Valentine’s Day, Tuesday, Feb. 14. For more information, visit detroitboatshow.net.
While the boat show runs from Feb. 11 to Feb. 19, the Waterwalkerz exhibit will only be there from Feb. 11 to Wednesday, Feb. 15.
The Detroit Boat Show is owned and produced by the MBIA, a non-profit trade association dedicated to the promotion, protection, and advancement of the recreational boating industry in Michigan. Revenues generated from the event are used to fund the MBIA’s various programs and services.
Although this year’s Queen of the Show is a large, luxurious vessel, the Detroit Boat Show caters to all different types of marine purchasers.
The show features hundreds of boats for fishing, skiing, wakeboarding and cruising. Paddle boats, kayaks, paddleboards and inflatables are also available.
“While larger boats are certainly a highlight for show-goers, they don’t necessarily represent the typical boat purchase in Michigan,” Ropp said. “Although the Queen of the Show has traditionally been sold each year, the average boat length sold in Michigan is between 18 and 20 feet — a boat, motor and trailer package which retails for much less, $11,000 to $30,000, depending on the manufacturer. Entry-level boat packages can be as low as $7,995 for a 16-foot boat, motor and trailer.”
The Detroit Boat Show is a one-stop shop for all boating needs with “extremely competitive show prices,” according to the MBIA. And a February purchase ensures boats will be ready for an early summer launch in May.
The boat show also caters to those looking for gear and marine services, in addition to many exhibits selling boating accessories, including motors, dockage, water toys, skiing and wakeboarding gear, boating and fishing accessories, electronics, boat gear, nautical gifts, and artwork.
According to the MBIA, the boat show has sold out of bulk space and continues growing for the second year in a row, which translates into more boats and more brands for boating enthusiast to purchase.
“Space sales and sponsorships are all trending in the right direction,” Ropp said. “And it’s going to be a packed and exciting show this year.”
Over 60,000 consumers are expected to flock to the Cobo Center to look over and buy boats of all types and sizes. Some of the boats are brand new 2012 models, while others are from 2010 and 2011.
“We’re hearing positive news coming from early boat shows of the season around the country,” Ropp said. “Attendance is up at shows and pent up demand is driving sales. We expect nothing less from Detroit after a successful (North American International) Auto Show, positive energy surrounding the area, and the promotion element we’re bringing to the Detroit Boat Show for serious buyers — and boaters who just want to come down and see what’s new.”
According to the MBIA, more than 1,500 boats, worth an estimated $50 million, traditionally sell during the Boat Show’s nine-day run. The MBIA also reports that dealers say they can attribute up to 50 percent of their annual business to sales and leads generated at the show.
While some local vendors participating in the show say that percentage is a bit ambitious, they all agree that the exposure at the show is helpful for business.
“This is an opportunity for use to showcase our new products, No. 1, and No. 2, to get before 75,000 people in a nine-day time frame, which is tough to do in your own showroom,” said Tom Haag, vice president of sales at Colony Marine, chairman of this year’s boat show and a member of the MBIA board. “But it’s not only a selling event, it’s an opportunity for a buyer to look at every vendor out there all under one roof, rather than driving around town and going to 10 showrooms.”
According to Haag, the amount of business the vendors do at the boat show varies based on the business and the products being sold.
“Some sell strictly pontoons and can do 50 percent of their annual sales at the show,” he said. “For multi-range dealers selling 13- to 62-foot boats, the percentage may not be that high from a unit standpoint, but from a dollar standpoint, (show sales represent) a big number. Not all people go down expecting to spend a bunch, but some do, and we make important contacts there that make it worth the time and cost of being there.”
Colony Marine will be featuring 13- to 45-foot vessels at this year’s show, including the Queen of the Show, a new model that’s making it’s debut at the boat show. Colony will also showcase the new Sea Ray 190 Sport and a couple of new Crest pontoon models.
“We feel it’s pretty important to participate in the community,” said Joe Wolf, the co-owner of Skiers Pier in Waterford Township, which will be showcasing Malibu waterskis, wakeboards, and Tahoe pontoons at this year’s show. “This is obviously an opportunity to see the public and kick the season off. And we get to meet new customers and see some old ones, as well, which is a positive.”
Other local vendors participating at the show include White Lake Township’s American Marine Shore Control, which will feature wheeling docks along with winter discounts for docks and accessories; Colony Marine, with locations in Pontiac, St. Clair Shores and Algonac; Wonderland Marine West in Howell; Anderson Boat Sales in Waterford Township; Wilson Marine, with locations in Commerce Township, Harrison Township, Brighton and Howell; and Aqua Weed Control out of Howell, in its first appearance at the Detroit Boat Show.
Brad Wilson, business development manager for Wilson Marine, said the business “certainly” does 50 percent of its annual business volume at the boat show.
“This is a chance for use to get in front of loads of clients that aren’t necessarily walking through the door in February,” he said. “The boat show sets the tone for the whole year. We can see what the buying consumers are comfortable with and what’s moving. The Detroit Boat Show is the main key to our whole year.”
According to Wilson, Wilson Marine will have the largest booth at the boat show, featuring over 80 boats.
“It takes a full week to take everything down there and get it all set up,” he said. “We’ll also have accessory specials and a raffle to win a free Starcraft fishing boat.”
Boat show attendees expect to find the best deals, rebates and extended warranties at the boat show, and they won’t be disappointed this year, according to Scott Michael of Wonderland Marine West.
“The manufacturers do that on purpose to get customers’ interest piqued in the off months,” he said. “The boat show is also the last chance to buy one of last year’s models at a deeper discount.”
Wonderland Marine West will be showcasing what Michael called “the hottest boat on the market,” a new 19-foot Yamaha jet boat.
“This is going to take the market by storm, due to its combination of size and price,” Michael said. “We can get customers into a fully equipped one of these with trailer at about $24,999. Competing manufacturers’ similar boats go for about $35,000.”
Wonderland Marine West will also feature Ranger, Stratos and G3 aluminum fishing boats, Sun Catcher pontoons, Larson runabouts, and Monterey bowriders — about 65 boats in all, with some discounted by over $10,000.
One of the exciting unveilings at this year’s boat show will be the Super Air Nautique 230 E, Nautique’s first all-electric wakeboard boat at the Silver Spray Sports dealership exhibit.
The boat has two automotive electric motors which offer 160 kilowatts of peak output, according to Nautique.
“MBIA and all of our boat shows promote the protection of Michigan’s greatest resource, our fresh water,” Ropp said. “We are proud and honored that Nautique will unveil their innovative, first all-electric boat at our show.”
“I was fortunate to be in on the ground floor with the initial stages in the development of the Ski Nautique ‘E,’” said Jeff Smith, president and CEO of Silver Spray Sports. “The introduction of the Nautique 230 ‘E’ wake boat in our booth at the show simply shows the level of commitment to the water sports industry that Nautique has in staying on the cutting edge of technology now and for the future.”
Show visitors will find more than boats and accessories at the show. On-site financing and marina boat slips in southeast Michigan will also be available.
“We try to make it all a turn-key operation,” Colony Marine’s Haag said. “We want to meet everyone’s needs and make it as easy as possible to enter the world of boating.
“As a dealership, (Colony Marine) has been at the boat show — this is the 54th — each year, from day one,” he said. “We’re a family-owned business and this is our best opportunity to show off our product lines and an array of services, and provide the best boating experience to the people.”
For those uninterested in buying or even browsing the plethora of boats and water paraphernalia available, the Detroit Boat Show also offers also a variety of events and activities to educate and entertain the crowd.
Anglers will have a chance to catch some trout in the indoor Mountain Trout Fishing Pond that will be stocked with over 400 pounds of fighting fish, for a $3 fee. Some fish will even be tagged for special prizes.
In addition, the Detroit Boat Show will be partnering with the state Department of Natural Resources and the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department Marine Division to offer a free boating safety class with show ticket purchase on Saturday, Feb. 18.
“Not only is it smart to take a course to keep your friends and family safe on the water, but remember, passing this exam also often accounts for discounts on your boat insurance,” Ropp said.
The free seminar will be six hours long, with registration starting at 11 a.m. followed by the course from 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. If boaters have already completed a safety course and need to sit for the proctored exam, they may do so at 4:30 p.m. Space is limited, so pre-registration is recommended at www.detroitboatshow.net. Walk-ins will be accepted if space allows.
Even Nickelodeon’s Dora will be doing some exploring at the Detroit Boat Show, from noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 11, and Sunday, Feb. 12. Children will have a chance to get their picture taken with the intrepid girl adventurer.
Meanwhile, Jeremy Van Schoonhoven, five-time National Champion Bike Trails rider and a finalist on NBC’s hit reality TV show “America’s Got Talent!” will also be there the second weekend of the Detroit Boat Show, from Friday, Feb. 17 to Feb. 19. He will perform for the crowds on a self-designed course and will be signing autographs for fans after each performance. His performances are on Feb. 17 at 3 p.m., 5 p.m. and 7 p.m.; Feb. 18 at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.; and Feb. 19 at noon, 2 p.m. and 4 p.m.
A centrally located Tiki Bar will also be present at the Detroit Boat Show, in addition to the myriad of hands-on interactive exhibits around the show designed to entertain and educate boaters of all ages, promotions, and giveaways.
Admission for the show is $12 for adults, while children 12-years-old and under are admitted free with an adult.
Show hours are as follows: Saturdays and Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Monday through Thursday, 3 to 9 p.m.
Special admission days include Senior Day on Monday, Feb. 13, in which seniors 65-years-old and over get in free; Ladies Day on Valentine’s Day, in which women are admitted free; and A Boat Load of Food Day on Feb. 15, in which bringing in five cans of food for the Gleaners Community Food Bank of Southeastern Michigan between 3 and 6 p.m. gets you in the doors for free; and half-price ($6) tickets on Thursday, Feb. 16 between 3 and 6 p.m.
Parking is available at Cobo Center and surrounding lots.
For more information, visit www.detroitboatshow.net or call 1-800-932-2628.