What's This? Twenty Somethings at a Boat Show?

Posted by Darrell Nicholson at 11:52PM - Comments: (6)

Sailboat alley at the St. Pete Boat Show, as seen from an Amel 55, one of the largest sailboats at the show.

The St. Petersburg Boat Show drew about two dozen new sailboats to Tampa Bay last week—not a big showing but enough to catch a whiff of current trends. We’ve seen a steady decline in the number of sailboats represented at the show since the powerboat and sailboat shows were rolled together a few years back. The show is clearly dominated by powerboats now. Nevertheless, it’s a worthwhile stop if you’re in the market for one of the Florida-built boats—Catalina, Hunter Marlow, Island Packet, and Gemini. Other sailboat builders present were Jeanneau, Beneteau, Falcon Marine, International Marine, Fountaine Pajot, Mondo Marine, and Amel.

One of the most encouraging signs at this year's show was the number of young people looking at sailboats. I thought maybe show organizers had handed out a wad of free passes to the four universities in the area, but after speaking with a few of the young attendees, I realized that they were indeed chasing the dream of going cruising—now or in the near future.

That's not to say they were in the new boat market. Most of them were looking for boat show deals on gear and ideas on how to improve their old Pearsons, Cape Dories, and Cals, but seeing so many young faces was encouraging nevertheless. I sense that the growing library of blogs and YouTube videos created by young people engaged in the adventure of a lifetime are gradually filtering down to other sailors. Is cruising going viral among younger sailors? I hope so. Given the state of the economy and the lack of opportunity for newly minted grads, I wouldn’t blame them for shoving off. The economic doldrums of the eighties was one of the reasons Theresa and I took off in our twenties.

Regardless of the reasons for the notable turnout of young people at St. Pete, it was encouraging. A sustainable future will depend greatly on the emotional connection that future generations have with the ocean, and sailing is one of the surest ways to build that connection. And who knows, a few years vagabonding on the high seas might even lead to a half decent job.

If you’ve got a favorite blog of a young family or crew worth profiling, send the link to practicalsailor@belvoirpubs.com and I’ll see what we can do to help promote them.

Here's one to start with SV Delos, an Abel Maramu 53 sailed by a multinational crew: 


We took a peak inside the cozy interior of Voyager 20 from International Marine, makers of the West Wight Potter. I got to sail the boat yesterday and will be doing a full review for the magazine.


Catalina's uncoated lifeline wire is consistent with our recommendations here.


The Hunter 31, featuring a new deck and interior layout, was equipped with a swing wheel developed by Edson.


 some accessories—like this swim pool—less inviting than they might have been. Notice the chines on the Beneteau, a trend that his spreading throughout their product line. .
some accessories—like this swim pool—less inviting than they might have been. Notice the chines on the Beneteau, a trend that his spreading throughout their product line. .

Some accessories—like this swim pool—seemed less inviting in the marina than they might be in other locales. Notice the hard chines on the Beneteau, a trend that his spreading throughout their product line.


Joel Potter, Amel dealer for 30 years, leads his umpteenth tour of an Amel engine room, a marvel of OCD engineering.


Comments (6)

Honestly, I think it's great that the younger generation is becoming more involved and maybe actually living out the lifestyle. I sincerely wish I had been in a position to do that when I was younger. Better late than never, of course, but oh to have done it in my 20s or even 30s.

My oldest son is 19 and I've taken him several times. He enjoys it a lot so hopefully it'll at least open up his mind to different options.


Posted by: Skipper Mike | December 19, 2014 3:14 PM    Report this comment

I have attended the St. Pete Boat Show in prior years. 5 years ago I sold my new Beneteau 331, moved to San Carlos Mexico and bought a condo. I have since sold the condo and am now looking for another new Beneteau. Thanks to the French to continue to improve and evolve their sailboat line. The new Beneteaus with their enormously wide stern sections continue to lead the way in sailboat development and improvement. They own my future business.

Posted by: Unknown | December 11, 2014 9:02 AM    Report this comment

Ah, here it comes, the Alberg/Vavolotis Society is starting to come out, told you so...and btw: a few of the Pearson boats came from his drafting board

Posted by: Dory008 | December 11, 2014 8:54 AM    Report this comment

That is cool. Having owned a P26 as well as two CD Typhoons, I might be able to start my own cult.

Posted by: J. KENT C | December 11, 2014 3:41 AM    Report this comment

Call me a cultist then, I love my 28' Cape Dory.

Posted by: William j S | December 10, 2014 11:06 AM    Report this comment

I thought the same thing 'kids with baby kids and strollers with serious questions. Some had the sticker shock look of love and confusion? standing inline the question came up, what did you start on and what are you sailing now, I mention eight boats later I've settled in nicely with my third Cape Dory, his reply was comical "Oh, one of those 'cult boats' I never thought of it that way but Dory owners are scary, he's got his eyes on a sweet Pearson 26. I think these young people would fit in great in the sailing community! The economy will be there when they get back, and who knows maybe they will pickup some knowledge of how to get things done other than just demand it.

Posted by: Dory008 | December 10, 2014 9:59 AM    Report this comment

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