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Behind the Annapolis Sailboat Show, the Miami Boat Show our second choice for favorite boat shows. We’ve attended twice, once a few months after we placed the order for our boat, and once the year after that, when we sailed the boat to Miami in time to attend the show.
Time can dull the memory, and while we’d looked at lots of pictures and videos of Helias since we placed our order, but there was no substitute for getting back on the boat. As soon as we had a quick walkthrough, we both looked at each other and agreed: “We chose the right boat.”
It was a bit of a shock to be in a seminar and have someone turn around and ask us if we were from the blog Out Chasing Stars. And to have it happen again when we were out for the test sail – we felt a bit like rock stars. It was great chatting with these prospective Helia owners and share some of our experiences and plans. Meeting like-minded people was one of the main reasons we started this blog so it was fantastic to have people introduce themselves and get to know them a bit better. Our new friends had a distinctly international flavor, so we can officially say we’re famous worldwide!
When we attended the show, the Strictly Sail portion was in a separate area, far enough away that we had to take a shuttle when we visited the Miami Convention Center for the vendors. We spent most of our time at the Strictly Sail part of the show, attending awesome seminars and talking to lots of different vendors about the equipment we’re looking to install on Starry Horizons. The last day of the show, we were able to get over to the Miami Convention Center, which housed a huge amount of vendors, but we were surprised at how much of the show was devoted to powerboats and fishing gear. Guess that came from our experience in Annapolis, where there’s a huge amount of sailboats, but we were still able to make some connections with vendors we are really interested in.
When we attended, there were not as many catamaran manufactures exhibiting as there are now. For 2019, there were 17 catamaran brands exhibiting at the show, not as many as the Annapolis Boat Show but close:
- Fountaine Pajot
- Ocean Explorer
- Royal Cape
- St Francis
If I’m being truly honest with myself, the real reason I wanted to go to Miami was to talk to vendors. It was great to get on the Helia again and go for a test sail, but we were already quite committed to buying a Helia and unless the boat just started falling apart on the test sail (it didn’t) we weren’t going to be changing our minds. That left us with the opportunity to try to make, or at least come closer to making, some decisions on equipment for the boat.
In the almost 5 months since the Annapolis Boat Show, Amy and I have learned a lot about the Helia and the different systems and equipment on board. We’ve been very fortunate to chat with several other Helia owners, as well as other cruisers, and get some hints and ideas on things that would be helpful for us to look at. Therefore, we had a pretty good (read very extensive) list of different vendors we wanted to talk with. Even with three days at the show, we found that it was still tough to fit in all the seminars and visit with vendors, but we both feel good about what we got accomplished. Here are some of the highlights:
Mantus is fairly new to the anchor scene, but they are headquartered about 10 minutes away from where we live and I had watched lots of their test videos which were made on our home sailing waters. At the show, we got the chance to meet Greg, the owner, and learn some more about the design of his anchor. We were already pretty set that a Mantus anchor was the way we wanted to go, and came away even more convinced. Now, we’re just trying to figure out exactly which size anchor will fit on the Helia.
I had found Cruise RO on the web quite a while ago and was intrigued by what they had to offer. This system is set up to run off a generator, but offers a high level of output, using non-proprietary parts at a very competitive cost. Rich, the owner, was great in taking time to walk us through to components on display and show us how the system works. It’s definitely a manual operation as compared to some of the other options out there, but it seems pretty simple and straight forward. Fountaine Pajot offers both a 12V and a 220V option for watermakers from the factory, so we’re still debating installation through factory vs another option, but Cruise RO was one watermaker that stood out.
We spent a lot of time at the show checking out foul weather gear. We’ll be crossing the Atlantic in November/December and being prepared means a good set of foulies is a must. We were fortunate to meet Matt at one of the Gill booths at the show, and after telling him our plans for our boat, he pointed us straight to the gear we needed. Amy and I both liked the fit and the look of jackets (the hand warmer pockets were a nice touch) and the boat show pricing was tough to beat. We went ahead and bought OS1 Jackets for each of us and trousers to match. That should form a good base to start with, and now we can continue working on finding the additional layers needed. Its starting to get warm in Texas, but we’ll see if we can find an opportunity to test out the new gear soon.
We sort of ran into this company by accident as they were across the aisle from Cruise RO. Dedicated Marine specializes in custom bimini hardtops for Lagoon and Leopard cats that match the style and contours of the boat. They didn’t have anything mentioning Fountaine Pajot, but we figured we’d ask anyways and sure enough, they are currently in the process of building a hardtop for a Helia located in Miami. We’re following this one quite closely, as having a bimini over the helm is a must, and having a hardtop would allow us some additional options with regards to solar panels etc.
As I’ve said almost from the beginning of this blog, I’m a big fan of Furuno. I like the level of integration across all systems they provide and the MaxSea software still seems like the best out there. However… after almost 5 months of asking, I had yet to hear anything back from Fountaine Pajot on how much a Furuno system would cost, or even if they would be willing to install one. I had, however, gotten confirmation that a Raymarine system had already been successfully fitted on the boat, and they would have no problem going that route instead.
So, Amy and I went to talk to Raymarine and even in the last few months, they’ve put out some new technology that is getting closer to leveling the playing field. I’ll go into more depth on everything in another post, but with the new stuff Raymarine has done, and feeling there are more important issues where we’d like to push to have something done our way, we’re happy to have made the decision to go with Raymarine on Starry Horizons.
We also talked to a lot of other vendors, especially various sailmakers to try to work out the best options for some additional sails for us. Wading through the different types of sails can be tricky, and while we’re narrowing in on things, no decisions have been made yet.
Now that we only had a handful of vendors to see and things to shop for, we had much more time to check out the free seminars offered by the show.
Marine Weather with Chris Parker – Chris Parker is a name cruisers run into on the internet quite often. He is the chief forecaster for the Marine Weather Center. I have read from several people who have depended on Chris’ forecasting to make sure their travels are safe. Chris’ seminar was similar to one we went to in Annapolis by Lee Chesneau. It went over basic concepts of weather and weather forecasting and explained how to read weather surface charts. Weather is one of those topics which the more we hear it, the more comfortable we will get with using the tools available to us.
Force 10 – Storm Sailing Strategies – John Kretschmer is fascinating. He is a dynamic and funny speaker. While he did talk about storm tactics, he also regaled us all with some of his most extreme sailing stories. John’s website includes information about booking berths on his offshore sailing workshops. John discussed the pros and cons to various storm tactics, which is an entire blog post of itself.
While John has a website and blog, his Facebook seems to be the best place to follow his adventures.
Safety at Sea with Marine SSB – Taught by Captain Marti Brown, this course discussed the ins and outs of SSB communications. I learned a lot, but I know my Captain had already done a lot of research.
Fifteen Upgrades for Your Boat – Presented by George Day of Blue Water Sailing, this seminar was a discussion of the top 15 things that are most vital on your boat for a happy cruising life. My favorite was number 15: a blender for sundowners. That’s why we do it, right?
Rigging – Presented by Colin Mack of Mack Sails, it was very clear the Colin was extremely experienced. He talked about ensuring the quality of your hardware and maintaining it. He also showed us examples of failures in riggings, and talked about why those failings happened, and what to look for in your own rigging, especially chainplates.
Atlantic Crossings: Lessons Learned from 20 Transatlantic Passages – Presented by John Kretschmer again. This was my favorite session, mostly because it gave us inspiration and encouragement. A lot of people raise eyebrows at the fact that we are going to cross the Atlantic ourselves, but John’s words were that it has to do a lot with confidence. My Captain and I are confident we can do it and that’s what matters. John also talked about pilot charts and the necessary set up for an Atlantic crossing.
Para-anchors & Storm Drogues – Presented by Zach Smith of Fiorentino This was another presentation where Zach clearly is an expert and knew what he was talking about. He discussed how to pick out your para-anchor and best practices for deploying and retrieving. While we were the only multihull people in the room, Zach took the time to briefly cover multihull scenarios.
The Miami Boat Show was definitely a worthwhile trip, and we did a great job making decisions and narrowing down our lists in other areas. Attending twice, once before moving onboard and once after, was really critical, as both times we had such different priorities.
Not only did we get to attend the boat show, but we got to spend a couple of extra days checking out Miami!
Hotel: We stayed in the Springhill Suites Miami Airport East Medical Center. The location not the nicest part of town, but it worked out well for us. Particularly because we had free night vouchers! There is also free wifi and a shuttle between the hotel and the airport.
Transportation: We assumed we needed to take taxis around, but we didn’t have very good experiences with taxis. This is where our location came in handy. We realized that our hotel was a few blocks away from the MetroRail. We could hope on the MetroRail at Culmer, and take it to the Government Center stop, and transfer to the free MetroMover, which is a smaller rail line, with several tracks, including one that circles downtown. Taking the Inner Loop either way would drop us off after a few stops at College/Bayside, just a few minutes walk to the marina and the Strictly Sail show. The MetroRail is about $6 per person for the whole day. The cars also provide free wifi.
In Miami Beach, once you get there, you can rent bikes from Deco Bike. They have bike racks with automatic payment machines. There are probably 50 racks all over Miami Beach. You can’t miss them, and it saved us a lot of walking.
Food: Our first order of business after checking in was finding lunch. We went to Restaurante Monserrate for Columbian food, which as delicious! It was near an attraction we wanted to walk to so that worked well. During the show, we dined at a few places in the marina (Latin American Bayside Cafe, Hard Rock Cafe, and Hamburgesa), but found that the food was not terribly exciting. One night we did order delivery sushi from Sake Room, which was very good.
However, when I whipped out my Urbanspoon, we found that there are a ton of small restaurants in downtown Miami. We went to La Licuadora for Peruvian, Bali Cafe for Indonesian, and we had drinks at Biscayne Tavern. We did have to keep on eye on hours because downtown is a business district, and some places weren’t open for dinner.
Oh and for Valentine’s Day? A wonderful prix fixe menu at Tuyo.
You can read more details of my reviews here.
Attractions: The only attraction we really saw in Miami proper was the Vizcaya Museum & Gardens, which is a beautiful waterfront, Italian style villa. But, we spent an entire day on Miami Beach and went to the Bass Museum of Art, Holocaust Memorial, and Miami Beach Botanical Garden. Next, we walked along the beach for a while to enjoy the view, then rented our bikes to get to South Pointe Park to watch the boats coming in and out and enjoy the sunset.
It was a wonderful trip!