Life is better on a boat. Catch all the excitement of the 2018 boating season at the 60th annual Detroit Boat Show

 There may be ice and a fresh layer of snow on the ground right now, but it will be warm and bright inside the Cobo Center in Detroit on Feb. 17-25 for the 60th annual Detroit Boat Show.

 “We’re really going all out for the show’s 60th year,” said Patti Smith, owner of Silver Spray Sports in Fenton and vice chairman of the Michigan Boating Industry Association. This organization hosts both the Detroit Boat Show and the Novi Boat Show, coming March 15-18 to the Suburban Collection Showplace.

 “We’ll be celebrating this diamond year milestone by giving away diamond earrings,” Smith said.

 There will also be several special events like Twiggy, the water-skiing squirrel and a Wake Rail Jam with professional wake boarders performing air-defying tricks.

 What’s new this year for the boating industry is the longer turnaround time for custom boat orders. “Orders are filling up,” Smith said. “People need to get out to the boat show and get their orders in. If not, order them in-stock. The boating season is already off to a great start.”

 Many local boat dealers and marinas participate in these boat shows, and all are very optimistic about the 2018 boating season.

Families, Millennials

are driving the industry

 “It’s all about family,” said Mary Rising, of Action Water Sports in Tyrone Township. “There’s a trend in families wanting to spend quality time together outdoors, ditching the cell phones, tablets and just enjoying one another,” she said.

 Action Water Sports usually hosts its own on-site boat show, but because of a major expansion, they will be taking their show on the road to both Detroit and Novi. They are adding an additional 9,500 square feet to their current 16,000 square feet, for more showroom, office and service space, with an expected completion date this spring.

 “We’ll be taking nine MasterCraft and five Cobalts,” said salesman Aaron Monier. “One of the boats will be the new MasterCraft XSTAR, an all new wake board and wake surfing boat with a new hull design and a fast-fill ballast system.”

 Jeff Nichols of Aqua Water Sports in Fenton Township is expanding this year’s boat show booth to 3,000 square feet. He’ll be taking seven MB Sports Boats to the show, including the new B52 23-foot re-designed surf boat. “It’s been a record-setting year,” he said. “Surfing continues to drive our industry.”

 Nichols sees a new trend of Millennials coming of age now and being able to afford these boats after moving onto the lakes. “There’s been a changeover,” he said. “People who are retired and doing the snowbird thing are now selling their lake homes to younger people. It’s really driving the industry.”

Pontoons are still wildly popular

 “It looks like it’s going to be another great year,” said Freeway Sports Center owner Jim Adams. “Pontoons are still very popular. Our hottest model is the new 23-foot Princecraft with 115 hp and a Mercury 4-stroke engine. At $26,999, it’s a real good value in the market.”

 Freeway Sports Center is known for its variety of boats, from personal water craft to fishing boats. “We sell a lot of boats for walleye fishing on Saginaw Bay,” he said. “We’ve got boat packages from $3,000 up to $100,000.”

 White’s Landing in Fenton will be heading to Cobo with four boats, including its new line of SeaPro Center Consoles.

 “This boat line has evolved over the years to being a popular fishing boat or day boat because of its versatility and medium price point,” said owner Jonathan Hamel. “They’re really practical for small or big bodies of water.”

 White’s Landing is most well-known for its Bennington pontoon line, with in-stock boats available in the showroom.

 Lake Ponemah Marina in Fenton has 15 Avalon pontoons available in stock at their showroom, said manager Andy Castles. “The last two years, we’ve sold out our stock between June and July,” he said.

 Why are pontoons so popular? “You can do anything any boat can do, while still fitting 12 to 14 people (based on a 25-foot boat with 250 hp),” Castles said. “Models with entertainment/bars, high performance sound systems and accent lighting are the most sought-after features.”

Technology rules in today’s boats

 Features on today’s boats are taking after the car industry, said Smith of Silver Spray Sports, which carries the exclusive Nautique line. “The amenities are out of this world,” she said.

 Touch screens, lighted cup holders and dashboards, back-up cameras and integrated steering assistance are just a few of the features that create technology excitement and safety on the water.

 Technology also means more control for the surfer or skier behind the boat. “You can have customized control over the wake from the behind the boat with Surf Select,” Smith said.

 The Smiths will be taking nine boats to the show. “We put them up in the air,” Smith said. “Jeff (her husband) does a really elaborate full-on display.”

Personal watercraft makes boating affordable

 Personal watercraft have become safer, quieter and cleaner than ever before, creating a new wave of excitement for these affordable products.

 Chuck Heil of CC Sports in Brighton has been taking a Sea-Doo line to the boat show for more than a decade. “Sales continue to climb,” he said. “It’s an affordable way to get out on the water. You can also tow tubes and kneeboarders.”

 He said all age groups are interested in personal watercraft, but Millennials are especially buying the new Sea-Doo Spark. “There’s a new Trixx three-passenger model that’s real popular with the younger group,” Heil said.

 Sea-Doo models start at $5,399 and there’s a new Splash Package with two Sea-Doo Sparks, trailer, gear and life jackets for $159 a month, Heil said.

Detroit Boat Show

Feb. 17-25 at Cobo Center

Hours:

Saturdays: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Sunday and Monday:

11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tuesday through Friday: 3 to 9 p.m.

Tickets: $13 adults. Kids under 12 are free with adult. Free admission for active military, police and firefighters. Buy tickets online at detroitboatshow.net or at the door.

Novi Boat Show

March 15-18 at Suburban

Collection Showplace

Hours:

Thursday and Friday: 2 to 9 p.m.

Saturday: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Sunday: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Tickets: $11 adults. Kids under 12 are free with adult. Buy tickets online at noviboatshow.com or at the door.


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