Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Day To Remember

I spent yesterday at the Miami Boat Show, looking over a wide selection of fairly substantial boats (with, of course, equally substantial price tags). Some were old friends, some old friends in new frocks, and a few were surprises (some pleasant, some less so).

What follows is the very biased opinion of a former liveaboard looking over the market for a future floating home. This is only about the boats I looked at carefully, not a full show review.

My favorites:

1) The Island Pilot DSe. This gem of a long-range cruiser was everything I hoped and more. Changes to the technology coupled with some new features made for an amazingly open, comfortable cruiser. Plus, the idea of cruising for weeks on end, or hanging off a mooring buoy instead of a slip (saving money and staying off the grid) is very appealing. The designer was there with her for the show: it was a treat to meet him and learn about his latest creation.

2a) The Soluna 46. It seems Turkish yachtbuilding is coming along better than I thought. This solid cruiser is surprisingly economical, and her deck plans compare favorably with comparable (and comparable larger) models from Vicem.

2b) The Vicem 52. This design continues to evolve, and the changes are all good. Here I admit to a most un-PC thing: I am a real sucker for a mahogany boat, and the Vicem is just that: solid mahogany. The woodworking on the joinery alone makes these boats stand out: and there's a lot more to recommend them. The only detriment is her thirst: a sad but measurable side effect of building a (heavy) wooden boat.

3) The Krogen Express 52. Like the Vicem above, this design continues to evolve, making subtle but substantial changes (mostly to the construction). A fast trawler concept with an express yacht look, this remains among the more fuel-efficient of its kind, while retaining habitability.

Spectacular misses:

1) The Queenship Passagemaker 60. Seen in a vacuum, this is a substantial yacht. Compared to her peers (as inevitable at such an event), the combination of bland styling, lack of thoughtful features such as those found on the Krogen, Krogen Express, Fleming and others parked nearby, and less than ideal use of interior space all make this cruiser the plain-Jane cousin of even her mainstream competition and hardly more comfortable than boats ten feet shorter. I do hope they priced her accordingly.

2) The Great Harbor N47. This boat makes for a great barefoot charter boat, but if you're looking for a finished product she's not it. She looked like a floating holiday cabin, the joinery was nowhere near what I would expect, an in fact the only points she had going for her (against her competition) were her fuel economy and her "Made in USA" labeling. I'm all for domestic product when The US takes the time to do it right: this wasn't one of those times.

Some other finds, and a little drool material.

1) The Vicem 92. If I were a multimillionaire, with the cash to throw away, I'd have snagged this lady where she lay. She's beautiful inside and out, she's comfortable (even for the crew), and she's got the legs to go where I want and get home fast if she needs to.

2) The Azimut 43S. One of the smallest yachts we saw, this smallest (exhibited) Azimut was a dream. She's neatly laid out, comfortable for four, with some very smart features - including a full sunroof for the entire salon.

3) the Fleming 55. Unlike the Queenship, this is a true passagemaker. She's well-made, filled with thoughtful features like flashlight brackets and potholders for the range, and every inch a lady.


The show was well laid out, and transport between the sites was smooth and efficient. Three marinas and the convention center at Miami Beach were packed with boats of all sizes and all manner of equipment and tackle. Safety equipment, custom fittings and LED lighting appeared to be the stars. Of course the sharks were present: the paths leading to the exhibits were lined with marine finance kiosks.

MB and I spent a lot of time with the boats we really liked and/or with favorite characters from the business. I was remembered fondly (if vaguely) by the folks who introduced me to Krogen Express and Vicem some years ago, and welcomed by the Island Pilot designer, with whom I'd corresponded on the DSe for a while as the design evolved. Everyone I met agreed the market, while poor, was still there (apparently those with a LOT of cash are still buying things), and that the show was quieter than previous years (hardly a surprise). We left exhausted but exhilarated. I can't wait for next year.

Many thanks to MB for the pictures: genius boy here managed to pack everything but the camera. You can see his write-up for the event here.


  1. Faithful CorrespondentFebruary 15, 2009 at 12:24 PM

    Thanks for the tour. Once Upon A Time I dreamed of retiring on a boat and floating between the Upper Great Lakes and the Turkish Riviera. I came to realize that being confined between those mahogany walls would lead to a claustrophobia not unlike what can happen in the paradise known as Hawaii. I guess I'm not cut out for idle pleasures with only engine upkeep to preoccupy me.

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