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Boat show floating in sea of possibility


It is not difficult to become distracted among the shiny new hulls, polished stainless steel props and arrays of optional equipment at the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show, which opened yesterday at the Convention Center.

But, then, that is part of the purpose of boat shows, to surround the consumer with possibilities and allow him or her to shop for the best deal on the best equipment, services or boat.

"There are some people who, as soon as they enter the show, will make a beeline to this booth," said Ron Roland, president of Chester River Boat Sales, which has an impressive line of Pursuit boats on display. "Others will head straight for Boston Whaler or Grady White or some other manufacturer if they already know what they want."

But for others the course through the boat show can be confused. There are, after all, more than 150 exhibitors and more than 60 boat manufacturers represented by area dealerships with hundreds of boats on display.

The trend in the industry, according to the National Marine Manufacturers Association and area dealers, has been to larger boats over the past decade.

"I find that bigger boats are selling much better," said Al Anderson, sales manager of Jenkins Boat Sales in Glen Burnie. "And since the ban on rockfish was lifted [at the start of this decade] the 24- to 27-foot segment of the market certainly has taken off."

Picking what to see is, of course, a personal choice. But among the most versatile boats for Chesapeake Bay and inshore or coastal waters are the outboard or inboard/outboard-powered center consoles, walkarounds or express models in the 21- to 28-foot range.

Roland's series of Pursuits, ranging upward from a $35,000, 22-foot center console to a 34-footer costing $250,000 or more, are among the best such boats in the show.

Pursuit's parent company is Tiara, a Michigan builder that produces cruisers with excellent fit and finish. That same attention to detail carries over into the multi-purpose Pursuits, including two Denali models, the 2860 and the 2460.

"This is a boat built on the sports utility vehicle concept," said Roland. "Built with the idea you can do anything you want with it -- cruise, fish, entertain, do watersports. It is a sports utility vessel."

The buyer who selects the 2860 show model gets a single 7.5-liter engine and Volvo Duoprop and a lengthy list of standard equipment at a show price of about $77,000.

"We have positioned ourselves in the market to offer the best coastal fishing boat available," said Roland.

For those who are not financially positioned to deal at the top of the market for boats like Pursuits, Grady Whites, Makos and Albemarles, there are many alternatives at the show.

Riverside Marine has an outboard-powered Robalo 2440 Walkaround on display for about $30,000 less, including hard top, electronics box, stainless steel pulpit and rails and a 10-year hull warranty.

Anchor Boats of North East has two outboard walkarounds built by Wellcraft, including a new 22-footer that is a scaled-down version of the popular Wellcraft 24.

"The 22-footer is a refined version of the old 210 Coastal," said Matt Trainer, sales manager for Anchor Boats. "The cabin has been redone to give more room for a private head and the cockpit has been changed to make it more open."

The Wellcraft 22 show model price is $29,995 with an optional hard top, cockpit shower, fish boxes, saltwater washdown, 175- horsepower Mercury outboard and a 5-year hull warranty.

For the budget-minded, Jenkins Boat Sales might have one of the best buys of the show, the SeaPro 210, a 190-horsepower, inboard/outboard walkaround with adequate equipment, a seven-year hull warranty and a tandem axle trailer for $23,995.

"It is not of Grady White quality," said Anderson. "But it certainly is a good mid-range boat put together well and built by a bunch of offshore fishing guys who continue to make small improvements every year."

Baltimore's nine-day show is full of possibilities, and the only way to ensure that all are considered is to go to the show and make a day of it.

Pick up a free guide and floor plan at the door, walk all the aisles, picking up brochures, jotting down prices and noting where the best prospective deals are on the floor plan.

Then take a break for lunch, supper or a cold drink, sort through the possibilities and start out again.

Anyone who is ready to buy a powerboat can find it at the show, shop for the best financing, insurance and accessories and sign all the dotted lines before the show closes next Sunday.

Boat show facts

What: Chesapeake Bay Boat Show

Where: Baltimore Convention Center

When: Through next Sunday

Hours: Weekday hours are 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Show opens at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

Admission: $7 for adults and $3 for ages 6 to 12

Parking: Free at Oriole Park lot with shuttle service to the Convention Center.

More information: Call 410-649-7365 Pub Date: 1/31/99

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