Boat show a safe harbor for deals

Mike Roberts of Grand junction finds a comfortable place as his daughter Emily, son Daniel, and Laurie Stein check out a boat for Lake Powell at the 20th annual Grand Junction Boat Show at Two Rivers. The show continues today till 9:00 pm and Sunday from 10:00am to 5:00 pm.

Judging from the less-than-packed parking lot and only 40 or so people milling around the Two Rivers Convention Center at one point during a boat show on Valentine’s Day, the attraction didn’t seem to lure many people.

But you don’t need a ton of people to sell a lot of boats —  just the right ones. Besides, healthy lake levels, more than gas prices of the state of the economy, sell boats, said Kurt Weythman, general manager of Marine Max.

“If you think about it, how else would you most like to spend a hot summer day?” Weythman said inside the convention center, where dozens of massive shiny new boats were on display during the 28th annual Grand Junction Boat Show.

Even if a gloomy morning matched the mood of recession, the folks who meandered into the center, many with children in tow, were dreaming of sunnier times. Some walked up stairs to platforms so they could lounge on the boats’ cream-colored leather seats, caress their exteriors or sit behind steering wheels, fantasizing about being the captain of such a beautiful vessel.

Grand Junction residents Ralph and Patty Pachecl stopped by just to take in the boats parked outside. The couple had owned a fiberglass 19-foot open-bow boat, but they sold it a couple years after their children were grown and family vacations dwindled. Ralph Pachecl said he wanted to own a boat again to go fishing. Patty Pachecl wasn’t convinced.

“I’m a little leery of buying anything right now, until you know what’s going to happen,” she said, referring to the recession.

On the other hand, the best time to buy may be now. A canary yellow Chaparral offered by Mattas Marine & RV went for $70,000 new in 2008 but has been marked down to $43,500, according to a laminated printout with the headline, “Best Time to Buy Ever!” 

Pachecl said her daughter-in-law, who works for a boat dealership, bought that same style of boat recently, but that was before anyone could find a deal like she saw at Two Rivers on Saturday.

Through January and February, prices generally dip on boats, Weythman said, but those price breaks dry up when the weather warms.

Experienced boaters know that some of the best prices are at boat shows, Weythman said.

Many in attendance Saturday were boaters from out of town who are looking to upgrade, he said.

Marine Max sold two boats by early afternoon, and sales people heard of a story of a couple planning to share a Valentine dinner to discuss whether to buy a boat. Another woman placed a deposit on a boat and said she would bring her husband back later to surprise him with the purchase.

Weythman said his company has sold 450 to 500 boats a year for the past couple years and has had a good start year.  High water levels at Lake Powell have fueled sales in recent years, and boaters don’t worry too much about the price of fuel, he said.

If boaters subject themselves to any cutbacks, it may be to purchase a smaller boat, Weythman said. About 80 percent of people who purchase boats from Marine Max have financed their boats, a service that most people are still able to use, he said.


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