STUART — Glen and Susan Henicle of Stuart appeared ready for a good dinner and a Friday night at home. After spending a few hours at the Stuart Boat Show, the prospective buyers stepped off the free shuttle bus to their parking spot with a tired, but satisfied air about them.
Susan certainly found a boat she liked, even if it did have a few too many bells, whistles and five TVs.
"We're looking for a small fishing boat," Glen said, "but we are also contemplating buying a cruiser."
The couple said they attend some of the larger boat shows — such as those in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Palm Beach — but enjoy the size and feel of the Stuart expo.
"We actually like the smaller, more personal shows," Susan said.
Glen noted that Friday's customer traffic was much to their liking. The Henicles had the ability to examine closely the models they liked and see a good selection of inventory with the features they are looking for.
The 37th annual Stuart Boat Show opened to mild weather and sunny skies Friday and according to organizers, the first day visitors responded enthusiastically. The weather is expected to warm slightly each day, but no rain is in the forecast.
"I haven't seen that many smiling faces among exhibitors in years," said Rick Allen of AllSports Productions, producers of the Stuart Boat Show for 16 years. "Our gate was up, the docks were full, I mean literally every boat had someone talking to its salesperson."
Christopher Cooke is showing a 2006 31-foot Intrepid walk-around listed at $124,000. The licensed broker with United Yacht Sales of Stuart echoed Allen's favorable description.
"The traffic was better on the first day than I've seen it in years," said Cooke, who has been involved with the expo for most of the past 10 years. "I was really surprised. And what's more, there were a lot of really qualified buyers, which is something else we haven't seen in some time."
The show features more than 200 boats on land and 200 more in the water worth well over $100 million combined. There are over more than exhibitors in the sold out show.
Allen said this weekend could be an indicator that the boating business is showing signs of recovery.
"I really think we're poised for an upswing," he said. "Things may be ready to turn for the better."
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