Compared to most, Alaskans are positively obsessed with boats. It's no wonder in a state with so much water. Most residents have some form of watercraft, as can be witnessed when traveling around any Alaska town. I look down my street in Anchorage, and every other house has a boat in the driveway. Or try to get a permanent slip in Whittier or Seward: you'll wait on a list until sometime in the next decade.
In many cases, these watercraft are tied strongly to fishing, and then the discussion gets serious. Which style is best for what application? Who makes the best boat? Where are the best places to fish?
That last is important, as determining where you will fish has a direct impact on what type of boat you'll need. A lower Kenai boat is dramatically different than an upper Susitna boat. Both are yet again far different than a Cook Inlet cabin cruiser or a skiff to troll for salmon in Valdez or Seward.
In my experience in Alaska, I've owned a riverboat, raft, drift boat, sailboat, zodiac, bay boat, canoe, several one-man rafts, and more float tubes than months in the year. It is just out of luck that I don't spend weekends tinkering with and pouring money into an offshore boat, as my job allows for enough fishing to satisfy the need. This experience is actually common in Alaska, and it goes to show how many types of boats are out there and that each has a unique purpose. It is for this reason that we never seem to have enough and are always talking about the next one.
At this time of year, when dreams of next year's long weekends catching an endless stream of glittering salmon drive us to catalogues, websites and magazine ads, we start the chain of events that ends in another monthly payment, and another spot needed in the driveway for the next boat. But unlike most of those other monthly payments, this bill will buy you a ticket to some of those magical fishing spots that help both fill the freezer and the camera.
If it is finally time to make that leap to owning your own saltwater boat, then both the manufacturer and dealer will need some time to get everything ready so that you can launch your new toy in the summer of 2008. It can be a long and complicated process to marry the boat to its electrical, power train and navigation systems, and it bears taking the necessary time in advance to get it all right. Getting stranded in open water in Alaska can be a deadly mistake.
Within the state of Alaska, there are a number of events that allow an interested boat buyer to inspect some of the boats that are readily available. In 2008, the Alaskan Marine Dealers Association will hold the 24th annual Anchors Aweigh Boat Show from February 1 - 11 at the Northway Mall in Anchorage. Numerous dealers will present many different brands of boats and motors. Likewise, the 2008 Great Alaska Sportsman Show is scheduled for April 3 - 6, at the Sullivan Arena complex in Anchorage, and highlights many boat, motor, electronics and tackle dealers. The Fairbanks Outdoor Show is scheduled to take place from April 18 - 20 2008 at the Carlson Center in Fairbanks. The third annual Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show is scheduled to take place at the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex from March 28-30 in 2008, and highlights a mixed array of services, including several boat dealers. Dewey's Cook Inlet in Anchorage hosts their own show at the Northway Mall in Anchorage each year as well.
For those in the Northwest, or those Alaskans looking for a reason to get out of the state for a long weekend in the midst of winter, there is the 2008 Seattle Boat Show from January 24 - February 2. The show, held at Qwest Field Event Center, contains more than 1,000 recreational watercraft. There are also 200 boats on South Lake Union. The Tacoma Dome boat show runs from March 27 - 30, 2008, and provides over 500 boats for the enthusiast to examine. If you are more inclined to continue south, then the 48th Portland Boat Show runs from January 5 - 13, 2008.
The National Marine Manufacturers Association (NMMA) is the principal trade association of the recreational marine industry and is comprised of over 1,700 members that produce the majority of the marine products used by recreational boaters and anglers in the United States. Check out www.boat shows.com for a listing of the boat shows that they run. One of their marquee events, the NMMA Miami International Boat Show, takes place from February 14 - 18, 2008, at three locations and has a list of exhibitors to make any boater drool. From the million square feet of boats and accessories at the Miami Beach Convention Center to an array of powerboats in the water at the Sea Isle Marina or an all-sail show at Miamarina at Bayside, this is an event worthy of a vacation. It doesn't hurt that when you are done, it's a short drive down to the Keys or flight to the Bahamas to get into some bonefish and tarpon.