The Great Southwest International Boat Lie…

Boat shows can be very informative and give you great opportunities to see new innovative products and boats. This is true for most boat shows it is not necessarily so with all boat shows.

The largest in water boat show in the Houston area is the Great Southwest International Boat Show.  You buy tickets, have free seminars along with paid seminars, products booths and boats to tour. The brochures and website paint a superb picture of how great the show is going to be. With expectations high we attended out first show and thought, not bad but it must be a slow year in the boat industry. Fast forward to our third show and we realized that this was nothing more than a last ditched effort for unenthusiastic sales pitches for mainly used boats in average condition. Of course who doesn’t want to see multiple booths of non boat related vendors because you can never have to much turquoise jewelry or knitted items.

There was an overwhelming lack of new boats, cutting edge technologies and food. For the “Southwest Largest” boat show, there was only three choices of where to get something to eat inside the show. Greasy food truck Greek meat something, something that was supposed to be Tex-Mex food stand and another food truck selling allegedly gourmet items which was anything but. There were two places to get overpriced beer and even more overpriced water.

Well, at least you get some free seminars right? Well about that. We attended a seminar on weather and charts which was a sales pitch for their paid seminar. We went to two part seminar on buying a used boat. The first part we spent a whole hour with the attendees telling their stories of what they have done so far searching for a used boat. The second half, on the second day for another hour, we were told about how difficult it was to find a boat without a broker and how we really should use a broker. It just so happened that the class was being taught by an available broker, lucky us. We were also told that regardless of what boat we wanted, we needed to spend the money to buy any boat now (business cards handed out). The reason was, lenders will not finance your boat if you do not have a history of boat loans. WTF? Of course this bit of wisdom was because all the boat finance companies he dealt with (another round of handing out his business card) operated this way and he has never heard of being done any other way in the 30 years he has been a broker. At this point I call bullshit.

A quick visit to my local bank branch and all the financial advise and wisdom given to us by our trusted boat broker speaker was absolutely false.  My bank advised me that they do personal loans, home equity loans and a variety of other loans options. The bank does not care what we use the money for as long as we make the payments. I specifically asked about buying a boat and was promptly told they only care if we make the payments. So getting money for a boat doesn’t seem to be as difficult as the broker told us.

Other great bits of wisdom from the Great Southwest International Boat show seminars have been:

  • Forget the float plan, just get a boat and go.
  • Don’t waste money on charts, the depths are usually wrong, use a chart plotter instead.
  • An entire seminar on traveling in the Caribbean was simply a slide show of the persons vacation to the Caribbean.
  • We were actually advised of great ways to skip paying fees for mooring balls. (arrive late and leave early)
  • Various sales pitches (infomercial style) for books the speaker had written, which were for sale at the end of the seminar.

So what about the boats? Well, the really nice large sailing vessels and cats were simply there to sell their charter services. There were very few motor yachts and only a limited number of new vessels. The docks were sectioned off by sales company with Marine Max having the majority of slips. Opportunities to excitedly look over boats was replaced with disappointment as we found a few boats that were not in need of some major repair. So much for being able to look at the new Sea Ray L series.

The best thing that we were able to do was at the 2015 show. We took some on water classes for anchoring and docking. Of course we paid for this but it was worth it.

I think next year we will make a plan to attend the Miami boat show.