Wednesday 30 January 2013

Toronto Boat Show 2013, Part 1: It was Fun.

"Four kids on the corner, trying to bring you up..."
                            -Creedence Clearwater Revival

  The opening riff of this post pretty much summed up the "Sail Fest" section of the Toronto International Boat Show this year.  More on that later.

   I've spent the last week or so working to organize my thoughts and impressions of the show this year, trying to separate the quantitative from the qualitative, sussing out feedback from other attendees, attempting to figure out whether my initial impressions of this year's Show are accurate.

   We had great fun with great friends who attended, but the mix of craft on display and the vendor mix in the Marketplace was... underwhelming.  Prices on (almost) everything were up.  In some cases WAY up.  More on that later, too.

   Somebody in the Show's head office must have lost their mind, because this year I was issued press credentials.

   Minor gripe:  Reading the back of the badge, it looks like the badge is also my ticket. Woohoo!  Free admission!

However, to get my badge I had to go to the Press Office...

Which is inside the Show, which requires a ticket to enter.

No biggie, SWMBO and I had already bought our tickets online.

 Friday night, Hilary and Deb and SWMBO and I checked into the Westin, and Saturday morning offered us a spectacular view:

  After a quick breakfast, we caught the shuttle bus to the Show.

 I snapped a shot as we walked in the gate, to try to capture  the scope of the event:

   I got about half of one building in this shot.  There are still two more buildings and a hockey arena converted to an indoor lake.  It is a BIG show, area-wise.

   The first impression I had when we entered was that there were fewer seven-figure big pimpin' moneyboats than last year. In past years,  there were always a half dozen or more  50+ foot power cruisers in the center of the room.  This year it looked like the number had been cut in half.  Still, there were some interesting big boats, like this hardtop express:


  While the hedge-fund and gold chain crowd was underserved, it seems like there were a slew more wakeboats and  pontoon boats than in years past.  Some ideas stood out, like this pontoon boat manufacturer who seems to understand the best uses for a pontoon boat:

  A floating bar!


  A floating waterpark!

Some of the wakeboard boats were beautifully finished:

  with bow styling that looks familiar...

   Where have I seen that before?

   Ah!  I remember!  Bertone did it in 1953.

     While some wakeboat styling cues worked well,
others... maybe not so much.

 MasterCraft  had a large display of boats, and I noticed that they sported the mother of all wakeboard towers.

Look at that bad boy!  Cast, jointed, cantilevered and articulated!  Hell, it even has a shock on each side!  Now THAT is bad ass!

  "Er, why?" some of you might be asking.

   I wondered too, so I asked one of the MasterCraft reps what the shocks actually did.

  "They make it easier to raise and lower the tower for storage and transport."
    That's it.

  Looks trick, though.

     One of the better changes at the show this year was that the large sailboats were all accessed from one platform.

     That's the good news.

     The bad news is that this was possible because there were fewer large sailboats this year.

     And fewer midsize sailboats this year.

     And fewer small sailboats this year.

     Fewer boats, by fewer manufacturers, represented by fewer dealers.


  This pic captured almost  half of the 30'+ LOA sailboats on display.

   Hunter, Beneteau, Jeanneau, Bavaria, J Boats, Hanse, Dufour and TES all had boats on display, but Catalina really came out to play, with a full handful of boats available for a walk through.

This year there were no powersailers.  No McGregor 26M, no Hunter Edge.  That may be good news or bad news, depending upon your point of view.  Frankly, I figure fewer boats of any sort is bad news.

Some hits and misses from the sailboats on display:

Bavaria's stern rail cushions, as demonstrated by Deb:

Catalina's cavernous cockpit lockers, and the clever trashbin access:

  Dufour  445 chartplotter location:

    Impossible to see from the wheel.  Because Catalina got it right, and because of the quality of the brightwork finish, Catalina gets a...

     Catalina 445 cockpit stack:

     The cockpit table sports the best brightwork finish I have ever seen on a production boat, the chartplotter is well located and it's nice to see somebody put the engine instruments in front of the helm, but not at the front of the cockpit!


Catalina 445 hard-top dodger:

    I like the idea of a hard top dodger, and the handholds are well integrated, however the hardtop's curve is just a little too bowed compared to the cabinhouse top, and the whole thing a few inches too tall to really integrate well with the rest of the boat.

   Still, it's a hell of a package if you've got near on $400 000 to spend.

   Hanse 445 cockpit cushions:


      Gemini Catamarans.
     Gemini had a broker, pamphlets and a video on a small TV to show off their new Legacy catamaran.  I know the companyy has seen some upheaval recently, but come on,  this is not how to debut a new boat.

 For the first time in years there was no cruising catamaran at the show.

Stay tuned for our next exciting adventure, as we pick up the pace and go shopping!

"Talk the Dock!"


  1. Despite the decreased presents of boats and especially sailboats you're lucky. Our DC boatshow is nothing but powerboats anymore. Several years ago based on the graphics showing sailboat profiles on all of the advertising, we found no sailboats and demanded our money back. Our admission was refunded with a voucher for the next years show. We went to that show. Fool me once... Again NO sailboats. Very heated discussion and they refunded our admission again. Nothing since we had not paid admission. We've never been back. On the other hand we have the Annapolis in the water, nothing but, sailboat show and then a week later the in the water powerboat show. I'm glad you had such a good time. I miss the winter show. It gave hope that good things would eventually come around. Thanks for reporting on your show. I look forward to more info.

    Steve Z. of Peep Hen Manatee in Manassas, VA.

  2. I think that the Boat Show in Toronto was a delayed reaction to the current economic climate. The big boats weren't there like in the past and since when did a freakin' pontoon boat become a 40,000 investment?
    According to some of the people working the booths in the accessories area, there were quite a few boats sold at the show and the mood of the exhibitors was upbeat, if somewhat cautious.
    The biggest difference for me was the size of the nav screens from 2 years ago. They are huge!
    I am making a point of going to the Port Credit show this summer to see if there are more sail boats there representing a broader price range.
    One would think that given the price of gas and the sheer cost of running one of these mega hp monsters, there would be more sailboats represented.

    1. Nice observations, Mr. Jones. I noted the (to my eye) interior cabinetry of most of the (few) boats to be mediocre to IKEA, the absence of any positive hold-downs on any of the cabin sole hatches, and the universality of much of the boat hardware (see those sole hatches that featured the same chromed see-saw pull ring on all models.

      Throw in the front-loading bar fridges, the sometimes absurdly compromised engine access in quest of ill-advised aft cabins, and little winches, and I find these boats make excellent dock queens and rather cramped condos. I can't imagine taking a single one offshore with any sense of safety.

      I concur on the rather inflated prices, with the exception that it's a good time to pick up a cheap handheld or depth sounder, to judge from Radio World.

  3. Despite the decreased number of boats on show, it looked good overall. Thanks for sharing the pictures, especially ones that compared the hits and misses when it comes to design. It gave me a good idea on how to fix mine up. I definitely didn't understand the placement of chartplotter on the Dufour 445. I can't imagine having to crouch down to navigate while I'm sailing.

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