Looking for a Deal at the Miami Boat Show

Sailing vessels from the tiniest dinghy to the biggest mega-yacht were on display at the recent Miami Boat Show. But is there a pleasure craft suitable for a lowly journalist? Can you say kayak?

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ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Alex Chadwick.

MADELEINE BRAND, host:

And I'm Madeleine Brand. Coming up, can you still execute someone if it causes pain?

CHADWICK: First, this from Florida. The Miami Boat Show claims to be the world's largest, with boats that sail, boats that motor, and boats that cost a lot of money. We sent NPR reporter and self-described landlubber, Eric Weiner.

ERIC WEINER, reporting:

To the uninitiated, the Miami Boat Show is difficult to fathom. Parking is a nightmare. The food tastes like cardboard, but for boaters like Harold Siegel and Gary O'Neal, this is Nirvana.

Mr. HAROLD SIEGEL (Attendee): It's the smell of fiberglass in the middle of the winter. It's the excitement of being on the water, but you're not on the water.

Mr. GARY O'NEAL (Attendee): We're actually in a big convention center right now.

Mr. SIEGEL: We're in a big convention center right now, and they have every possible boat, accessory, and item pertaining to boating.

Mr. O'NEAL: It's mind-boggling. There's so much money sitting here. That's what's amazing to me.

WEINER: Boats as far as the eye can see, everything from inflatable life rafts to mega-yachts with hot tubs and landing pads for your helicopter. Meanwhile, flat-screen TVs positioned strategically throughout the Convention Center entice with promises of bigger, faster, better.

(Soundbite of advertisement)

Unidentified Announcer: And if you think the Speedster 200 looks good atop this custom-matched trailer, wait til you see it in the water.

WEINER: There are all kinds of people here too, gazillionnaires, who have come to buy, and ordinary Joes, who have come to ogle and dream, but everyone here, like Heidi Rae Anderson and Quint Holgrave(ph), share a passion for the water.

Ms. HEIDI RAE ANDERSON (Attendee): Oh, I love boating. Yeah, it's great.

WEINER: How do you explain the appeal of boating to a non-boater like myself? What's so great about it?

Ms. ANDERSON: Man, the water, the rush, the wind in your hair, everything that makes you feel refreshed and clean.

WEINER: And what if you're like me and you don't have any hair?

Ms. ANDERSON: Oh, okay, the people that are bald, it's still a good experience.

Mr. HOLGRAVE: It's something about getting away from the office and cell phone and email and just being on the water. It just...

WEINER: Would you describe owning a boat as an investment?

Mr. HOLGRAVE: With a very poor return, but yeah.

WEINER: Boating is so brutally expensive, in fact, it has spawned an entire genre of jokes, like this one. What does B-O-A-T stand for? Bring on another thousand. Which are the two happiest days in a boater's life? The day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. The jokes hit home now more than ever. Gas prices are up, so are insurance rates after the recent hurricanes. Not surprisingly, sales are down, at least for smaller vessels, but oddly enough, the bigger boats are selling well. At the Miami show, there are plenty on display.

Unidentified Woman: It's up to you. Do you want to walk around or do you want to come in?

WEINER: People gladly waiting in line to board the Blue Water 52, base price $800,000.00. It towers over the convention floor like a beached whale. Well, a pointed whale, explains company president, Steve Klatmeier(ph).

Mr. STEVE KLATMEIER (Company president): Washer/dryer combination, a full-sized GE refrigerator, a dishwasher, a convection microwave oven, a...

WEINER: Klatmeier's company spends a small fortune carting the yacht from one boat show to another. Sometimes, it pays off instantly.

Mr. KLATMEIER: At a boat show in Chicago, a gentleman came in jeans and just a regular T-shirt, looked at the boat, walked around a little bit and said, I'll take it. Plopped down his credit card, we called the bank to say, you know, is this guy for real, and they said he can buy whatever he wants, let him put it on the card.

WEINER: For those of us with, shall we say, more restricted credit lines, the boat show can make you feel like a pauper, but there is a boat here for everyone. I found mine, a real beauty, and a sales manager, Rob Abbott explains at the right price.

Mr. ROB ABBOTT (Sales manager at boat show): 429.

WEINER: And what about your fuel costs?

Mr. ABBOTT: Zero.

WEINER: Fees?

Mr. ABBOTT: Zero.

WEINER: Insurance?

Mr. ABBOTT: Optional.

WEINER: Maintenance?

Mr. ABBOTT: Zero.

WEINER: This is the affordable boat?

Mr. ABBOTT: Absolutely.

WEINER: Okay, now I got to be honest with you. There's a lot of testosterone over there. There's a lot of large boats, a lot of macho boats, speed-racers. You have, officially, a kayak, if I may. Do you feel that you're holding your own in this exhibition?

Mr. ABBOTT: Absolutely. We've probably sold more boats today than all the other exhibitors combined, and we're not a lot-of-testosterone company. We're a lifestyle company.

WEINER: Toby Katz's(ph) latest kayak, they call it an SUV sport utility vessel, can be either paddled or peddled. It may not turn any heads at the marina, but when the next hurricane hits, you'll know exactly what to do.

Mr. ABBOTT: Put it in your garage.

WEINER: Eric Weiner, NPR News, Miami.

WEINER: Can I get a broshure actually...

Mr. ABBOTT: Absolutely...

WEINER: I might be interested in this. Okay. This is within my budget.

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