PORT CHARLOTTE —Warm weather and gentle breezes drew large crowds to the Charlotte County Boat Show, and one yacht broker on Saturday said he’s never seen anything like the buying frenzy which took place the first three days.

“I’ve been doing this for 47 years,” said Bob Lersch of Antonietti Marine of Englewood. “Business is good — we’ve already sold seven out of 14 boats — half our inventory,” he said from inside one of the boats — a Sea Born.

He couldn’t step down, because a number of would-be customers were standing in line to ask him questions.

There were still several hours left to Saturday’s show, and Lersch said that usually the most buying activity takes place the last day of boat shows.

Today is the last day; it begins at 10 a.m. and runs until 5 p.m.

John and Laura Good brought the annual boat show, now in its 21st year, to the Charlotte County Fairgrounds. He is the executive director of the Marine Industries Association of Southwest Florida and Tampa Bay whose many members were present.

There were hundreds of boats — all power — on the fairgrounds, in a wide range of prices and styles. Some power boats were $40,000 or less, while one Grady White was sold earlier by Ingman Marine, for more than $300,000.

Michael Briner, whose grandfather founded Ingman Marine, said his company sells boats “from $18,000 to $1 million.” He said his company was selling 34 boats at the show and that “business is brisk.”

He said Ingman Marine tries to find a boat for everyone with an interest, regardless of their budget. He said the most popular type of boat sold in the area is “a family fishing cruising style.”

There was a good number of pontoon boats at the show as well, including the Premier Pontoon. Mary and Ray Joyce said they own a Premier pontoon boat, and were visiting from Hernando Beach “to buy accessories for our tritoon,” said Mary Joyce.

Yes, there are two-hulled and three-hulled pontoon boats on the market. The ones at the boat show were in the area of $160,000 give or take.

But the show wasn’t all about boats. There was a total of some 67 exhibitors selling everything from underwater lights, piling wraps, new docks and seawalls, fishing knives, fishing gear, furniture, art work, decorative art and, of course, boats.

Vickie and Noel Salvatierra said they recently moved to Punta Gorda Isles and were “just looking,” she said, adding that they were looking for a catamaran.

They said they also wanted to learn more about the local boating waters.

The United States Coast Guard Flotilla 99 out of Cape Haze, was one of several auxiliaries present at the show.

“Recreational safety is our mandate,” said auxiliary member Kevin Barron. His wife Kathy Barron, also an auxiliary member, said their purpose is to provide “safety knowledge.”

Kevin Barron said many people moving to southwest Florida are coming from “the upper Midwest and upper Atlantic coast and are used to deep, open water.”

He said the auxiliary provides safe boating courses, as do other Coast Guard auxiliaries.

The courses cover local boating law, safety equipment, navigation and other topics.

One of the more popular exhibitors was a local favorite who gave informative seminars: Fishin’ Franks owner Frank Hommema, who owns a popular bait and tackle shop in Port Charlotte.

He had a tented area with chairs, and gave fishing tips to a packed audience. One of the more interesting tidbits of knowledge was the fact that in 1968, when a man flew over Gulf Coast waters to survey baitfish from Naples to St. Petersburg, it was found that the trail of baitfish was unbroken and extended at least a quarter of a mile wide.

He proceeded to give tips on which rods, baitfish and tackle to use.

There were many who came to the show from out of town, including snowbirds Judy and Hans Nikesch who said they usually rent a pontoon boat. “We cruise on the Intercoastal,” said Judy Nikesch.

Perhaps the real heroes of boat owners are the folks from Sea Tow. Mike Degenaro, who works in Charlotte Harbor, said he averages about 1,000 tows a year, while Craig Marcum, who serves the Venice and Englewood area, said he averages about 500 tows.

If you go:

The boat show is at the Charlotte County Fairgrounds, 2333 El Jobean Road, in Port Charlotte. Admission is $5; kids 15 and under are admitted free.

The show runs from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. today. For more information go to: http://bit.ly/CCBoatShow


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