Our editors set a destination for Miami to hunt for new boats, gadgets, and gear at the nation’s largest international boat show.
Exploring a boat show always brings back that kid-in-the-candy-store sense of wonder and euphoria – regardless of one’s buying intentions. That’s no different for your BoatU.S. Magazine editors. It’s our mission to scour the shows for the best and brightest new innovations – such as at February’s Miami International Boat Show. We dove into America’s biggest show with enthusiasm to find the hottest new boats, technology, gear, and emerging trends in boat design. Here’s what stood out among the more than 1,000 boats displayed near downtown Miami, everything from skiffs to superyachts.
Sea Ray SLX 280 Outboard
About five years ago, Sea Ray made a business decision to shift its focus from large cruising yachts to the 24- to 40-foot category. The standard SLX 280 comes loaded, with twin Mercury 250-hp Verado outboards integrated with joystick piloting; a digital touchscreen helm station consisting of twin 12-inch Simrad touchscreen displays with VesselView Link Data; and Active Trim control and monitoring. Add in Sea Ray’s familiar sleek design and styling, and you have a great luxury dayboat that will turn heads on the water. Options to consider: hydraulic submersible swim platform and electric tower with articulating bimini system. $259,000 | searay.com
New boaters have a great entry level boat here in a minimal-frills, low maintenance, SUV-towable deckboat that seats nine and doesn’t need big horsepower for tow sports. Part of Bayliner’s Element line of affordable boats, the M19 is built on a revised M-hull designed for increased stability and automotive-style handling. At 19 feet and 3,000 pounds with trailer, the M19 is towable with a small SUV and fits into a 22-foot garage with its standard swing-tongue trailer. The boat comes with trailer and 90-horse outboard. Upgrades, including bimini top, filler cushions, ski tow pylon, and more add another $3,200 to $4,200. Starting at $30,995 | bayliner.com
Grady-White 281 Coastal Explorer
Anglers who enjoy light-tackle fishing may be interested in Grady-White’s new addition to its bay boat selection. The Coastal Explorer is the company’s first shallow-water (19-inch hull draft) fishboat to incorporate big-boat features like an electric fold-down hullside swim/dive platform, a forward lounger/coffin box that adjoins the bowdeck with an insert to convert into either a huge sunpad or a huge casting deck, and electrically actuated forward-facing backrests for the bow seating. Rigged with twin Yamaha F300 outboards it’s capable of speeds in the upper 50s. A single F425 is also an option. $266,230 | gradywhite.com
Boston Whaler Realm 350 & Realm 380
These are model refreshes of the company’s do-everything pseudo center-console/express cruiser/bowrider combination, with a mix of fishing and entertaining amenities aft, a cabin amidships, and a bowrider-like cockpit forward. The size and layout create enough deck space so that anglers and nonanglers can enjoy the boat together without bumping into each other. Changes on the new versions include modernized furniture, restyled upholstery, the addition of a teak trim package, Simrad electronics integrated into the helm, enhanced lighting, and power combinations with the new 400-hp Mercury Verado V10 or the 600-hp V12 Verado platform. $726,419 & $1,016,997 | bostonwhaler.com
Caymas 34 CT
When Earl Bentz came out of retirement to start the Caymas brand about five years ago, he hit the water with a selection of freshwater bass boats and saltwater bay boats, then quickly expanded into the world of offshore center-consoles. Now the builder has taken an entirely different tack by building a powercat that rides on a pair of twin-stepped semi-asymmetrical hulls and can be powered with up to 900 horses. This is a fishboat to its core, with massive livewell capacity, huge insulated fishboxes, and impressive onboard tackle stowage. $400,000 | caymasboats.com
Solace 30 HCS
Having debuted its first boat in 2019, Solace Boats may be a fairly new company, but it’s based on solid experience, led by CEO Stephen Dougherty, co-founder of both Edgewater and Everglades offshore fishing boats. This new one, however, is a hybrid bay boat. Not only is it one of the largest hybrid bay boats on the water, it’s also one of the most advanced. Construction is vacuum-infused carbon fiber and epoxy, the variable-degree deadrise hull has twin steps, and the all-aluminum hull gets PPG Coraflon anti-corrosive coating. $579,500 | solaceboats.com
Boatbuilders since the 1960s, Parker has focused on no-nonsense fishing boats with few frills. That changed a few years ago, and the 2900 is the latest in its new generation of center-consoles that have a greater family-friendly setup. There’s fold-out seating along the transom, integrated bow seating, and even a double-wide lounger in front of the console. Perks like USB charging ports and stereo systems have been added, and the boat has an upgraded finish. $199,000 | parkerboats.com
The new generation of watersports is here to stay with sales of new inboard wakesport boats nearly tripling over a 10-year span to 13,857 sold in 2021, according to industry data. While these niche boats aren’t for everyone, and their unique functions make them more expensive than similar-sized dayboats, the H20 is a great starting platform with everything you need to surf, including a trailer. Standard features include Mercury 6.2L 320-hp, 500-gph automatic bilge pump, tow tower, 9-inch MFD, Mercury VesselView, and SmartTow engine data. Seats up to 12, with a 2,400-pound ballast tank. A nice design feature is the twin rear-facing cockpit seats for spotting that put your toes right up against the transom for a front row seat of the action. Upgrades to consider: sunshade for tower ($1,360); ski pylon ($715); surf pipe ($999); and power platform ($1,999) that uses hydraulics to raise the swim platform vertical for compact storage. $81,690 | heydaywakeboats.com
Yacht When it comes to power catamarans, they tend to fall into two categories: smaller cats geared toward fishing and larger, more luxurious models designed for cruising. The latest from the 10-year-old boatbuilder is the Aquila 42, designed for spending multiple nights aboard in comfort, with two cabins – each double berths with private heads, walk-in showers, and freshwater electric toilets; a large saloon area with comfortable, U-shaped seating; and large galley area with common household amenities. An expansive hard top with stainless steel supports and overhead lighting make the flybridge great for socializing as well as navigating. $813,442 | aquilaboats.com
Kudos to aluminum fishing boatbuilder Lund for launching a unique and affordable starter boat. The is a small and slender multitool of a vessel that makes small-boat angling an adventure for two with a 9.9-hp Mercury outboard and galvanized trailer. The boat’s rotomolded polyethylene construction makes it rugged and low-maintenance. Advantages are compelling: shallow draft, rugged hull, low maintenance, easy to drive. Veer buyers also have the option of going electric by opting for Mercury’s new Avator 7.5e electric outboard. $11,995 | veerboats.com
Solara S-250 Center
Walkaround There was a time when trailerable dayboats were designed for either play or fishing, with little that served both interests well. But the fishable family boat trend continues with a brand-new boat brand – Solara – a hybrid design of a center-console and walkaround that might be the right blend for the casual angling boater. Fluid Motion (builder of Ranger Tugs and Cutwater Boats) introduced the Solara brand with 25- and 31-foot trailerable models. Unlike most manufacturers, Fluid Motion sells factory-direct and the boat is so loaded, the only option is hull color choice. The S-250 includes a Yamaha F300 outboard, auto-leveling trim tabs, bigger-than-expected cabin with head for overnighting, hardtop, plus an arsenal to suit any mood – built-in fish box/cooler, livewell, raw-water washdown, six rocket launchers and nine rod holders; or bow lounge seating for six, bow beaching ladder, pop-up ski pylon, front and rear floodlights. Also standard: Garmin 8612xsv navigation system with GPS and sonar, bow/stern cameras, electronic shift and throttle control, digital fuel flow data, autopilot, battery charter, and 2000W inverter. $199,937 | solaraboats.com
Digital Developments Evolve At A Breakneck Pace
This year, a slew of new products and advancements will improve our navigational, fishing, and safety abilities.
The consensus seems to be that bigger is better when it comes to MFD displays. Furuno has upped the ante by introducing a pair of new über-large models: the TZT22X and the TZT24X. With 22- and 24 inches of full HD 1920 x 1080 resolution, it’s now possible to enjoy splitting the screen with six different display windows on a single machine. Both units enjoy all the features of Furuno’s TZtouch3 system and can be integrated with existing TZtouch3 networks. $TBD | furuno.com
Instead of going bigger this year, Raymarine opted to go faster. Armed with a six-core processor, the new Axiom 2 Pro line of chartplotters are faster than previous models and integrate seamlessly with everything from radar to video feeds. $2,749.99 to $6,499.99 | raymarine.com
Also upgrading an existing platform for 2023, fishfinder manufacturer Lowrance is boosting its HDS PRO with integrated ActiveTarget2 Live Sonar as well as Active Imaging HD. The improved definition helps you identify fish, and the ActiveTarget allows you to watch fish react to your lure in real time. Displays screens come 9, 10, 12, and 16 inches. $2,099 to $4,999 | lowrance.com
This venerable fishfinder specialist has rebranded its FishSmart app into a new One Boat Network app that brings both mapping and system control to your smartphone. “Make your smartphone the brains of your boat,” Humminbird touts. The app allows you to plan your next trip away from your boat, access tutorial videos and product manuals, and offers on-water help with a call back from product experts with a few clicks. App is free; $24.99 for access to LakeMaster VX maps for North America and CoastMaster VX maps for the U.S. | humminbird.johnsonoutdoors.com
GOST Mini-Dome LED 1080P SS
Global Ocean Security Technologies, which specializes in marine security, tracking, monitoring, and video surveillance systems, has a new line of low-profile cameras. The design benefit is the Mini-Dome can be installed vertically or in bulkheads, rather than overhead, offering a less conspicuous, sleeker, and unobtrusive look. Measuring only 3 inches in diameter and 1 inch above the mounting face, the camera is small enough to be used in cramped locations. It has built-in IR LED illuminators providing a 33-foot (10-meter) range of night vision. The 1.8-mm wide-angle lens comes standard, with 3.6-mm and 2.8-mm lens options available. $499 | gost.com
ACR ResQLink AIS PLB
Though we may love catching fish or doodling on digital charts, the main point behind developing most modern marine electronics in the first place is safety. In that vein, ACR has introduced a new personal locator beacon (PLB) that integrates AIS functionality. It’s the world’s first PLB to integrate both satellite and local transponders, sending a digital mayday to boats both far and near. $499 | acrartex.com
Sometimes a little simplification is in order. With a nod to newbie sailors and shorthanded crews, Zeus S is designed to make sailing easier, displaying information tailored to the sailor’s needs in that moment and hiding unnecessary clutter. Zeus S comes with new sailing modes, preset dashboards, and data views for a variety of sailing situations, along with enhanced features for a simpler sailing experience – all powered by C-MAP charting options. Users select the relevant mode for their situation, and the system provides just the right information needed for cruising or racing in a simplified, easy-to-understand display. Available in 7-, 9- and 12-inch screens. Starts at $999 | bandg.com
Toys & Tools
No boat is ever truly finished. There’s always some gadget or gizmo that can make your day on the water better. Here’s some cool new gear to take your boating experience up a notch.
Bow cockpit cushions make it comfortable to sit or lie down, but that’s about it. Replace them with a DeckPad, and not only do you have a cushioning inflatable pad with EVA foam and stainless-steel D-ring attachment points, you also have a floating “dock” you can deploy when it’s time for lounging on the water. DeckPads are created for specific model boats via LIDAR laser scanning with more than 500,000 data points for a perfect fit. If your boat isn’t among the hundreds of models in their database, custom jobs are available. $1,395 | deckpad.com
It’s all about the zipper, says Melanie Cole, co-founder of Ugo, which makes waterproof bags and cases for smart devices up to 13 inches. This German-engineered waterproof zipper has durable, rugged injection-molded polymer teeth fixed on both top and bottom of the zipper tape, and has been tested to 10,000 pulls with zero effect on wear. One customer claims he recovered his still-working phone after it floated for a month at sea. Starts at $74.99 | ugowear.com
Flippers are great, but if you really want to swim under your hull, this Portable Series is one of a kind. No other electric-driven device on the market is as compact, modular, and powerful for its size and weight, according to the Austrian manufacturer. Clever adapters transform almost any diving, snorkeling, stand-up paddling, or kayaking water sports gear into a jet-powered device. Press one button on the dual hand controller and the 500W jet engine can move a person up to 5 feet per second underwater. An airline-compliant smart battery (yes, you can take SCUBAJET as a carry-on) delivers up to two hours of battery life. Note: The product has no flotation and will sink. The entry-level model is $1,250 | scubajet.com
Experienced boaters may have an emergency repair kit stowed aboard. But is it as well-organized, protected, and waterproof as SeaKits, which come in different sizes to cover a wide range of boats from those used offshore to personal watercraft? Items like basic tools, waterproof tape, first-aid kits, signaling devices, and more are packaged in IP-rated boxes and bags, ready for immediate deployment. $269–$995 | seakits.com
All Things Propulsion
There never has been more equipment options that make your boat move. Outboards are getting smarter as they get bigger, and the number of manufacturers offering electric motors is proliferating.
This new outboard engine boosts the juice from 425 to 450 horses, getting additional power via improved intake and exhaust design as well as changes in the cams and valves. And this engine has another advantage: a phased angle control charging system that can produce a net 96 amps at idle. That means it can run energy-hungry items like gyroscopic stabilizers and air-conditioning systems without the need for a generator.
Starts at $49,500
But that’s not all the news from Yamaha Marine. A couple of years ago, Volvo Penta introduced the Assisted Docking system, giving the captain better control when docking a boat by anticipating and automating his or her intentions, compensating for variables like wind and current, and helping the vessel stay on its intended course. At the Miami show, Yamaha reported that it should have its own auto-docking system, called DockPoint, the newest feature of Helm Master EX Full Maneuverability that guides an outboard powered boat to the dock, on the market in 2024. Boats that essentially dock themselves at the touch of a finger – a giant step for marital harmony. OEM | yamahaoutboards.com
Sailors have an intriguing electric inboard option with the new I-Series, available in 10kW, 20kW, and 40kW input power. The I-Series has a compact design that integrates motor, gearbox, motor controller, system control unit, and cooling system into a small space, 60% less than a typical combustion engine. The I-10 (12-hp equivalent), I-20 (24-hp), and I-40 (48-hp) are also 65% lighter than a typical combustion engine with an easy-to-maintain, high-performance, and durable LiFePO4 battery (available separately). $5,499 (I-10), $7,499 (I-20), $9,499 (I-40) | ePropulsion.com
For go-fast boaters, Mercury Racing created its Ventera four-blade prop designed to handle big-outboard horsepower on the fastest high-performance center-consoles, daycruisers, and bay boats. The prop features an increased blade diameter of 15 inches and a new blade thickness curve to handle more power without sacrificing performance, according to Mercury. Cruising speed efficiency is also enhanced, and the company claims the prop can hold the boat on plane at lower speeds in rough water. $1,325 | mercuryracing.com
Traffic Jam On Electric Avenue
One clear takeaway from three days at the Miami International Boat Show is that electric boats and electric motors are making strong headway.
At first glance, it looks like a typical 22-foot Four Winns bowrider, with another sleek white single outboard on the back providing plenty of power and a crisp wake. Instead, bolted to the transom is what the company is calling “The world’s most powerful outboard electric powertrain.” This year, Vision Marine Technology of Montreal, Canada, which builds the E-Motion 180E partnered with the American manufacturer to introduce the Four Winns H2e.
The system consists of two high-voltage, high-density, 700v battery packs with a fully integrated onboard charger that can be plugged into any 220V dock shore power system for overnight charging. Because electric power delivers instant torque, acceleration is rapid, with a top speed of about 40 mph with the equivalent of 180 hp. Estimated range is 70 miles at a cruising speed of 20 mph or 3.5 hours, depending on type of boat, weather conditions, load, and propeller. The boat was one of several electric propulsion boats among dozens available for sea trial at the show.
I sea trialed an X Shore Eeelex 8000 26-foot electric runabout built in Sweden that cruises at 20 and tops out around 30 mph. The electric option intrigues me as a devoted small powerboater. With instant torque, electric propulsion blasts the boat out of the hole, and it handled just like a gasoline-powered luxury runabout. My sea trial captain said, in his experience, you can spend a full day of cruising, watersports, and anchoring out, and still have plenty of charge to get home.
The 21-foot electric X Shore 1 launched last year priced at $139,000 to distinguish itself as significantly less expensive than other high-performance electric boats. That’s $139,000 for a stripped-down Euro-styled bowrider. and the 22-foot Four Winns H2e starts at $198,000. But if electric power can deliver the same active and gratifying day on the water as with gasoline, will consumers seriously consider electric as pricing comes down? Beyond price, there is added incentive.
At the helm of an electric boat, you quickly realize you don’t miss the engine drone one bit. And what an experience to be cruising at 25 mph and hear only wind, water on the hull, and a rippling wake. Conversations don’t need to pause when the speed begins. As an electric skeptic, I’ve come away thinking of electric power not as a replacement for internal combustion, but as just another option, one with great appeal to certain boaters.
In a sign of the times, there was an entire room at the Miami Convention Center dedicated to all things electric – with multiple electric motors, including electric outboards, and electric charging stations. Nautique even has an electric wakeboat, which requires loads of power to make waves. Electric power is becoming a real contender.