Fort Lauderdale boat show displays some intriguing watercraft — Sun Sentinel

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Fort Lauderdale boat show displays some intriguing watercraft

Jim Roberts, left, of Miami, and Travis Seagrave, of Lighthouse Point, (Mark Randall, Sun Sentinel )

November 2, 2013

FORT LAUDERDALE — Luxury vessels were a big catch at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show, but more affordable boats and watercraft some of it quirky also made a splash Saturday.

The 54th annual boat show’s attendees walked a red carpet lined with rows of shiny vessels, motors and waverunners at the Broward County Convention Center. Raised, carpeted “docks” gave spectators a closer view of the boats’ insides.

Another intriguing vessel on display: The “helicat,” whose top speed is 40 knots. Although its motor may purr, the catamaran doesn’t take flight like its name suggests.

So why is it shaped like a helicopter?

“’Cause otherwise you wouldn’t be talking to me, if it didn’t look so cool,” said Sandy Williamson, who sells the helicat for $70,000. “My wife calls it the testosterone factor. Every guy in visibility is going, ‘What is that?’”

Williamson said the watercraft was making its east coast and Florida debut at the boat show and had just arrived Friday night from Seattle, where he is based.

“It feels like you’re driving a jet fighter,” he said.

The helicat was part of the maritime offerings and musical entertainment on a more than 90,000-square-foot pavilion outside the convention center.

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The boat show continues through Monday and spreads from the Broward Convention Center to The Sails, Hilton Fort Lauderdale, Las Olas and Swimming Hall of Fame marinas and the Bahia Mar Yachting Center.

Mario Aiello, of Davey Marine Center, said the show had drawn a “better buying crowd” and attendees seemed to want new toys to take out to sea or parade on the Intracoastal. His company’s cruisers and sport boats displayed at the convention center ranged from about $42,000 to just under $90,000.

“If you don’t have fun now, when are you going to have fun?” Aiello said. “[We’re] noticing new boaters coming into the industry, which is a great sign.”

He said boating is a South Florida culture that unites friends and families.

Joe Murray, who moved from Cincinnati to Boca Raton less than a month ago, was eyeing personal watercraft to fit right in with other South Florida boaters. This was his first time at the annual boat show.

“If we’re going to live down here, you’ve got to have a boat someday,” he said.

For those who wanted to leave the boat show without breaking the bank, there were fishing poles, nautical-themed clothes and this accessory that Robert Clark was hawking: non-skid cup holders for wine glasses and bottles to mount anywhere on a boat.

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