Boats of all shapes and sizes fill Cobo Center

Jim Lynch
The Detroit News
Jeffrey Vujevuch, right, of Akron with his brother, Joel Vujevuch of Newport look at a Glastron boat with Russ McMartin of Wilson Marine.

Temperatures outside Cobo Center struggled to reach the upper teens this weekend, but inside had a summertime feel.

Watercraft of all shapes and sizes crammed the convention center for the 58th Annual Detroit Boat Show. The event, which opened Saturday, is off to a strong start, which some see as a good indication for the industry.

‘We had a line for the opening that went all the way down to Hall B,” said Nicki Polan, executive director of the Michigan Boating Industries Association. “We haven’t seen that before.”

Many of those on-hand Sunday were regulars — people who make the Detroit show an annual stop in the months leading up to boating season. Others, like two-year-old Harlow Stewart and her mother, Aubrey, were taking it all in for the first time.

“There some beautiful boats here,” said Aubrey said. The Richmond family already owns a 26-foot Four Winns boat, but had their interest piqued by a jet-powered Yamaha that had drawn a crowd.

This year’s show features 700 boats spread across 350,000 square feet of show space. And it’s far from a look-but-don’t-touch experience. Visitors have the opportunity to climb aboard just about everything on display — from smaller personal watercraft, to large yachts.

Jeffrey Vujevuch, right, of Akron with his brother, Joel Vujevuch of Newport look at a Glastron boat with Russ McMartin of Wilson Marine.

Organizers have put together a host of activities for children who may not yet be in the market for a boat of their own. Those with energy to burn, can climb inside one of the inflatable Waterwalkerz that allows them to run on top of the water in a small pool.

Children also have the opportunity of getting their faces painted or posing for photos with a mermaid.

And those looking for something a little different can watch the Swampmaster Gator Show’s regular performances throughout the day.

Boats are usually business for Mark Yearn, a Milford resident who sells insurance for watercraft. And that business has made the Detroit Boat Show an annual trip.

This year’s show, he said, shows signs of growth that are welcome following many down years for the industry. A sputtering economy over a dozen years had a visible impact on the show’s offerings — with fewer people willing to spend on a leisure item.

Now, he said, things appear to be on an upswing.

“The show is bigger this year,” said Yearn. “They have more boats and more displays. I think it’s a sign of the recovery.

“Its been a struggle for the industry to come back. But what I’m hearing is that this has been a good year.”

Interest in the Detroit Boat Show ahead of the opening would seem to support that. Amanda Wendecker, a marketing manager with the Michigan Boating Industries Association, said all of the space at the show was reserved four months beforehand.

Not far from where the Swampmaster show is taking place, Sue Fulton is taking a break. Her husband is out there, somewhere amidst the endless rows of boats doing his annual comparison shopping.

“He’s just looking,” she said. “He just wants to see what’s comparable to our boat and see what the prices are.”

The Commerce Township couple are regular boaters on Lake St. Clair during the warmer months. The make an annual tour of boat shows in Detroit, Novi and Miami. Last year’s research landed them a Renegade center-console power boat.

Asked if it was dangerous to allow her husband out of her sight at an event like the Detroit Boat Show, Fulton laughed.

“No, no,” she said. “He’s got to have my signature if he wants to buy anything.”

JLynch@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2034

The 2016 Detroit Boat Show runs through February 21

Show Hours

Sundays: 11am - 6pm

Monday: 11am - 6pm

Tuesday through Friday: 3pm - 9pm

Saturday: 11am - 9pm

Admission

$12 for adults; children 12 and under are free with an adult; seniors 65 and older receive free admission on Monday.