17 September 2009

Southampton Boat Show 2009

Wonderful day at the Southampton Boat Show yesterday. I'd never been to one before, but it was a fascinating day out. I knew that boating and yachting are big industries, and that they make a big contribution to the economy, particularly in the South and West of England. Despite that, I was still gob-smacked by the sheer range of boats, equipment and related goods and services on offer.

All of the big luxury boat suppliers seemed to be there - Sunseeker, Princess, Fairline, to name three - with boats that ranged from the lottery winner's dream up to the billionaire's mini-liner. Even at the smaller end of the market, these are seriously expensive to buy and run. I saw a Princess V62 (if I remember correctly) - beautiful boat, elegant design, tasteful bling-free interior. This has a fuel tank of 3400 litres and a range of some 300 nautical miles. But the price tag was in seven figures. Someone told me that luxury power boats typically cost up to half of their capital cost to run and fuel every year. Over 3000 litres for 300 miles suggests this may not be too much of an exaggeration.

There were huge numbers of yachts, either on dry land or in the water, and we particularly liked the Lagoon 620 catamaran, moored next to the some of the Princess boats: vast internal space in the main cabin - you could play table tennis on a full-sized table in there - and clever use of the hulls for accommodation, galley and so on.

The exhibition halls had masses of chandlery, clothing, advanced electronics, engines - just about anything the boating enthusiast could imagine.

But as a contrast to the bling palaces, the Jubilee Sailing Trust was showing people round the Lord Nelson, a three-masted sails training ship which takes 40 blind and disabled people at a time, with their buddies, on ocean trips. I think you'd learn more about yourself on one of their voyages than on one of the power boats. In fact, the cost of running one of the big luxury boats for a week could pay for a voyage for 40 blind or disabled people. Now, that's worth a thought.

I'm not a boat junkie, and never felt that I needed a boat. Not so sure now - some really impressed me. The show's last day is Sunday 20th September and if you're within reach, it's well worth a visit.

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