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February 20, 2007

2007 Miami Boat Show full of surprises

New innovations in marine electronics among the revelations

As usual, the 2007 Miami International Boat Show was awash with a stunning array of new boats and power from the world's top marine manufacturers. New unveilings such as Boston Whaler's 345 Conquest (the company's largest outboard boat to date) and Yamaha's awesome 350 hp V8 outboard (the industry's first-ever 350 hp outboard) had the Miami Convention Center buzzing with excitement.

But plenty of other stories emanated from South Beach last week. And rather than rehash what you're bound to hear for months to come, here are a couple interesting sidebars that anglers and boaters likely will find interesting.

First, watch for big things from Jeppesen Marine. The firm, a subsidiary of The Boeing Co., held an interesting press conference Friday, February 16, that outlined the recent purchase of cartography and navigational data company, CMAP.

Jeppesen's marine division, which was formed during the 1999 acquisition of Nobeltec, is poised to become a real player in marine electronics. The company's aviation division is 70 years old and a real powerhouse in that industry. The affiliation with Boeing - combined with the technologies it is acquiring through the recent buyouts - should provide the kind of financial backing and innovation that will lead to fantastic new marine electronic products in the months and years ahead.

Speaking of cool electronics, SkyMate Inc., based in Chantilly, Virginia, unveiled SkyMate One, an innovative communication system that combines six marine wireless data services into a single package. SkyMate One unifies global cellular Internet, satellite audio entertainment and broadcast weather, ORBCOMM global data messaging, GPS vessel tracking and systems monitoring information all in one small unit. Watch for it on the market later this year.

Finally, at the Charles Industries press conference, owner Joe Charles discussed the River Forest Yachting Center in Stuart, Florida, and gave an update on a new yachting center scheduled to open in Spring 2008 in Ortona, Florida, which will provide access to the Gulf of Mexico.

The facility in Stuart has been extremely successful, according to Charles. The philosophy behind the venture is that yachting centers located on inland waterways provide valuable protection from hurricanes, as well as relatively easy access to the sea. What's more, as coastal marinas continue to be bought up in the waterfront real-estate craze, these inland operations are "bucking the trend," says Charles, and will provide boaters with viable alternatives.

They may not be limited to just Florida, either. John L. Smith, general manager for the facility being built in Ortona, says he believes these types of operations can be applied and constructed in nearly any coastal location across the country.

It's an interesting concept, for sure - and one of the many cool nuggets I came across while in Miami.