I just returned from the Miami International Boat Show, where I underwent an epiphany.
My position at this magazine affords me both a backstage pass to the latest boat and marine-engine projects in development as well as a front-row seat once those projects hit the water. For a boat nut and motorhead, it’s a dream job, but one that comes with some not-so-expected consequences.
One of these consequences, apparently, is that the future can creep up on me while I watch it coming. Call it not seeing the fleet for the vessels, but boats now display a level of technical sophistication, design and build refinement, and systems integration that I did not envision even five years ago. In the same way that solar panels on residential roofs overnight (seemingly) went from notable because of their scarcity to ubiquitous and hardly worth mentioning, recreational boats went and got sophisticated in every aspect by which one might assess them.
I mean, one can certainly still find boats where seams and screws show prominently, and aboard which the gauges remain dials instead of touchscreens. Boaters can still choose to take shade under hardtops supported by bare or anodized pipework rather than composite supports and take respite from the wind behind windshields lacking the optical clarity to be of use during nighttime navigation. Plain fiberglass countertops, monkey-fur cabin overheads and incandescent light fixtures still exist. One can forego seating and upholstery comprised of an eye-catching variety of materials and pleasing textures and colors for squishy foam covered in piped white vinyl. All these things can be found, but they no longer represent the norm.
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You won’t find an internal-combustion marine power plant that isn’t quiet, emits smoke and vibrations in offensive quantities, and requires technique and special knowledge to start reliably. Nor will you find electric marine motors that serve merely as proofs of concept. You can purchase viable electric marine power. These boat-propulsion characteristics now represent the norm.
In fact, the new generation of boats represent a quantum change in user-friendliness, reliability and style. If you haven’t been to a boat show to see where state-of-the-art currently resides, I suggest you do so soon. You owe it to yourself as a boat nut to see what there is to see, lest, like me, routine hides the future from view till it arrives.