It's no secret the houseboat industry has been on one wild roller coaster ride over the past few years. The manufacturers have gone from the highest of highs to what appeared to be rock bottom at times, yet have continued to remain optimistic about the future of our niche in the boating industry. If the 2011 On Water Expo is any indication of which direction we're heading, the days of struggling just might be in a rear view camera.
There was plenty of optimism in the air from both the manufacturers and the attendees as everyone came together for the third annual on-water show at State Dock on Lake Cumberland. The Kentucky marina was the ideal host and the weather couldn't have been better for the end-of-summer event that kicked off the last weekend in August.
An enthusiastic crowd was on hand and once again the bigger-than-life houseboats grabbed the most attention.
For three days attendees packed the docks to look at the latest houseboats in the industry, plus used versions of near-new houseboats. And that's not including the countless vendors and exhibitors that were also on hand. Throw in a few seminars and an on-dock poker run and you have the blueprint for a fun weekend.
For those looking for a posh upgrade, ideas for their existing houseboat or even those who were just looking, there were plenty of unique features that stopped dock traffic.
Positioned like welcoming pillars, Thoroughbred and Stardust helped anchor the show with two attention-getting houseboats at the start of the dock. These two boats could clearly be seen from just about everywhere and in addition to the beautiful glass exteriors, the interior view was even better.
Other industry leaders that had a boat on display included Horizon Yachts, Sharpe and Sunstar as well a second Thoroughbred houseboat. But the show wasn't limited to just new houseboats, thanks to Elite Boats Sales with a pair of used boats at the end of the dock. Other manufacturers also had used boats on display, providing plenty of options to look at. But the boat that may have stolen the show was the Stardust refurbished houseboat. Stardust has been restoring more and more older boats and bringing them back to life and you'd never guess the boat on display was pushing 10 years.
Besides all the new models, returning exhibitors on the main dock included HydraNautics who was constantly putting its dock ropes to the test while showing off the power of its bow thrusters. PCR Restorations had a boat in the water again as well to showcase its products and features that are available. And the Hydro-Venture, Inc. houseboat with its performance products was right in the middle of the dock. New to the show this year was Island Products, and its beach chairs were a welcome sight for those walking the show.
Don and Janet Hevener own Dreams In Motion boat transport and have been transporting houseboats nationwide and to ports for overseas delivery for over 20 years. This couple returned to the docks once again to offer their popular Captain's Course for those who wanted to get more comfortable operating their own houseboat or to just spend some time with a 100-ton master captain who provided tips to newbies as well as seasoned veterans.
Houseboat magazine fishing columnist Dan Armitage returned to the On Water Expo to offer his tips. As a full-time freelance fishing and boating writer, syndicated radio show host and a licensed USCG Master-rated Captain, Armitage travels the nation teaching fishing programs at boat shows, specializing in teaching children to fish, and contributes boating travel and fishing features to Houseboat and several other national publications. His seminars were a hit, especially with the younger crowd.
And new to the Expo-and soon to be regular contributors to the magazine-Rick and Merri Lauper from HouseboatsAtoZ.com covered houseboat maintenance and other important topics. Through this popular website houseboaters can get answers to all kinds of questions and those at the show were able to ask questions following the seminar.
Going Under Cover
Exhibitors were well represented in the covered areas of the show that ranged from the top boat brokers and insurance companies to financing and houseboat-specific products. Destination Yachts had a model houseboat on display as well.
The crowds were steady during the three-day show, plus there were plenty of great food options being served in this area.
Also set up on the main dock was the sign-up table for the All Hands On Deck Poker Run where the top nine hands walked away with some great prizes.
There was nearly $3000 worth of Sportsstuff water toys alone that attracted participants to try their luck. The Sportsstuff tubes (www.sportsstuff.com) ranged from the popular BANDWAGON tube to the new 8-person PAL LOUNGE.
The top prize for the poker run went to Vicky Stanfield from Alabama who quickly snatched up the new WaterMat Shark (www.thewatermat.com). The Shark is 50 percent tougher than the WaterMat Plus with 10 percent more surface area and it supports up to 2300 pounds. The WaterMat booth was a popular stop for both kids and adults during the show and the Shark was the obvious top choice for first place.
For those staying on "Houseboat Row," the end of the boat show each day didn't mean the end of the fun. State Dock (www.statedock.com) once again offered "boatels" or rentable houseboats that stay at the dock for attendees and exhibitors so they could enjoy the live bands and socialize with other houseboaters. Being able to stay at the dock and close to the show is the ideal way to enjoy this three-day event, which is exactly what the show producers at Houseboat magazine had in mind when the On Water Expo was first discussed. For more information on upcoming houseboat shows visit www.nationalhouseboatexpo.com.