In the land of the egret and the ibis, there is now the IBEX—the International Boatbuilders’ Exhibition, and Conference, held in Ft. Lauderdale.
Though for years friends have urged me to attend, what got me off the pot in ‘99 was marine surveyor Jonathan Klopmann’s request to help him test moisture meters and report our findings at an IBEX seminar. Turns out that surveyors in particular go to IBEX for continuing education. Which is all to the good, as this profession has in years past suffered from lack of standards, accreditation and training.
The schedule of more than 50 IBEX seminars included sessions on “Working with Carbon Fiber,” “3-D Modeling,” Investigation Methods for Surveyors,” “Laying on a New Deck,” “Building and Marketing Affordable Boats,” “Galvanic Isolators and Marina Wiring,” and something ominously titled, “New World Order.”
Turned out that the New World Order is the cryptic ISO, CE and IMCI. No one can tell you what all these acronyms really stand for, or whether they are acronyms at all. The root of it all is the European Union, a handful of countries including England, France, Germany and Italy, that want, among other things, to standardize regulations for the importation of products. For boatbuilders, this is supposed to be good news, as a boatbuilder can build to one standard (instead of different standards for Italy, England, etc.) and export boats to any member country. The challenge is in developing and agreeing on the standards.
The New World Order is not in order yet. But it will be, and when all the of regulations concerning scantlings and safety are put down on paper, you can bet there won’t be one person in the whole world who will know what they all mean. You’ll have to hire a consultant who claims to know. Either that or try to interpret them as best you can, then ship your Acme 47 to Germany, only to have it come back stamped, “Return to Sender. Insufficient Documentation.”
The lighter side of IBEX is strolling the aisles of exhibitors, who unlike for the consumer shows, bring their heavyweight tech people. I had an interest in a structural adhesive called Plexus, which I was told is the goop to use for sealing the joint where a stainless steel rudderstock enters a fiberglass rudder. The Plexus people gave me a lot of “data” on its properties, then directed me outside the Convention Center to a tent where I could witness live demonstrations. Two young men started squirting Plexus onto pieces of metal and composite, talking as fast as their trigger fingers. Next thing I knew I had a huge air-powered gun cradled on my shoulder and was shooting Plexus myself. See! Anyone can do it! They didn’t seem to understand that I am not a boatbuilder, and was only looking for a 2-ounce kit. Nice guys, though. Eager.
But the best part of the show was watching Carl Cramer, publisher of Woodenboat and the sponsoring Professional Boatbuilder magazine in Brooklin, Maine, and creator of IBEX, hold forth one evening amongst 20 or so colleagues and friends at a local Italian restaurant. The show is so successful that Carl is hailed as a marketing genius, and everyone wants to get cozy with him. Sit at his end of the table. He’s generous and will laugh at your jokes, which makes you feel good about yourself.
I found it charming how a handful of Mainers can take on and take over, of all places, Ft. Lauderdale, what with its neon flamingos, tiki bars and flash-till-you-get-a-rash mentality. Babes and dudes. The only place in America where Camaro Z 28 convertibles outnumber Ford Explorers. I mean, underneath their white shirts and dress shoes, you know the Mainers are wearing plaid underwear and wool socks. You gotta love ‘em.
I had a great time. My only suggestion: It would have been nice to have a boat to look at.