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Sunday, May 27, 2018
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Tampa Boat Show draws serious shoppers, casual observers

TAMPA — From fancy, high-end yachts to simple, inexpensive micro-skiffs kayaks, the Tampa Boat Show has nautical vessels and gizmos galore.

On Saturday, boats large and small filled an expansive room at Tampa Convention Center and were anchored at docks outside. Hundreds of people climbed aboard yachts, cabin cruisers, pontoon boats, fishing boats, bass boats, runabouts and a solar-powered pontoon-style boat.

“This is our backyard show,” said Rusty Walker, business manager of St. Petersburg-based Thunder Marine. “It’s our Super Bowl of all the shows.”

Only Miami and Ft. Lauderdale stage larger boat shows in Florida, Walker said.

The show began Friday and will conclude Sunday. More than 500 boats are on display, the largest number of vessels in five years, the show’s organizers say. The biggest is a Horizon Motor Yacht which can accommodate eight passengers and a crew of four.

Among the smallest is XFish, a 12-foot micro-skiff. It is suitable for one passenger who can stand or sit while fishing or floating along.

“You definitely have to be into fishing and being by yourself,” said Eddie Couto of Rigid Boats. “A lot of people like to get away from everything. It’s a step up from a kayak.”

The show offers a range of activities including boating and fishing seminars taught by local fishing guides and captains, a chance to scuba dive in a heated 15,000-gallon pool, free powerboat rides and an appearance by SpongeBob SquarePants.

The show also features reality television star Johnathan Hillsbrand from Discovery Channel’s “Deadliest Catch”.

Dmitry Egorov came from Orlando for the selection of boats and discounted prices. In the afternoon heat, his sons, Amir, 8, and Bezhan, 10, found a cabin cruiser with a feature they especially liked: a cooling water-mister.

Benjamin Bonner, 8, was working hard to convince his father, Bill Bonner, that he should buy a 32-foot cabin cruiser.

“There’s an underground bunker,” Benjamin said after emerging from below deck to see the sleeping and eating quarters. “Just buy it.”

It was a no sale for Bill Bonner who said his family, including wife Kendall and 6-year-old Ryan, were there for a family outing. They were headed outdoors to the docks. “That’s what the kids want to see is bigger (boats),” Bill Bonner said.

Lithia couple Ian and Deanna Brown toured a 10-foot wide, double-decker pontoon boat with a slide and a sticker price in the low six figures.

“Very expensive and very big,” said Ian Brown. “If we bought it we’d have to live in it.”

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