As a dose of wild winter weather blasted through Detroit, the "Tiki Bar" was open, as Jimmy Buffett would sing, at the 2013 Detroit Boat Show, sponsored by the Michigan Boating Industries Association.
And, what an opening it was, says Nicki Polan, Show Manager. "There was an incredible line up waiting to get in. The aisles are packed with everyone trying to get a blast of summer with the snow falling outside."
Continuing, she laughed and explained that the "Tiki Bar was rocking and we are already seeing folks setting at the tables (to work out the financial part of a boat transaction), so we know we're going to have strong sales."
The weekend traffic was reported to be up 20% over last year, with the vendors using words like, "great traffic and strong sales." Wilson Boats clangs, or rings their bell after each sale. In a couple hours the bell rang numerous times, which is always a good sign.
Joel Crevier of Bees Sports, who offers the Lund line, shares that, "The traffic is up and there is a lot of positive feedback. It's pretty exciting with a lot of interest - and I've been doing this since 1984."
Harbor 9 Marina was well represented as Rick and Patti Parenteau, owners, paused a moment to chat at Mike's Marine Supply display. Patti is also a Director of the Nautical Mile Association in St. Clair Shores. Rick explained that, "It is the first time in five years that the Boat Show has used both halls for display. Previously the second hall had been used for trailer storage."
Our next display, as it were, was SpongeBob SquarePants and his side kick Amy. So instantly recognizable, everyone passing by said "Hello" or waved. Some even had their pictures taken with SpongeBob.
As we made our way through some of the larger vessels, we came across Pete Beauregard, Jr. and his sister, Lori, of Colony Marine. They were not able to stop and talk as Pete shared that they "were with a client." And while we were not able to laugh for a few moments with them, it reconfirmed the thoughts that many serious buyers came to the Boat Show to take one home.
We had a moment to speak with Chuck Wegmann and Dave Longtine of the Brighton location, who also shared the excitement of a great turnout on Opening Day, and how it permeated throughout the entire Southeastern Detroit Region. Harrison Township's Travis Nivelt echoed their sentiments, and confirmed those "good vibrations."
The "good vibrations" were evident everywhere around the Army Corps of Engineers booth, as their people were answering questions left and right. Major James Booth, head of the Detroit Office, took the time to share the Corps Monthly Bulletin on water levels in the Great Lakes with us.
Major Booth went on to say that, "Weather, short term, drives the seasonal levels (of the lakes). And with low to no snow/ice and rain, there has been no seasonal rise." He continued on saying, "A lot of snow and spring rain could result in a seasonal rise."
A seasonal rise could be what has been happening in the world of Lake Toyz, according to Bruce Welford. Lake Toyz has a very interesting line of toys - from kayaks, to paddle boats, for two and single, and a water hammock, to name a few, which is similar to a huge trampoline surface, only with heavy duty netting, that floats on the water. We thought of the Au Sable River right away.
Lake Toyz has a biking model, too, for those of you who are trail riders, now that water trails are established from Detroit, north to New Baltimore and Harsens Island. Those Blue Water Trails might be the perfect place to try out this Water Bike.
Trying out something different was the prevailing thought as we headed toward our interview with two of the Swamp People, Trapper Joe and Trigger Tommy. It seems that hunting alligators for them is as normal as working for a car company in Detroit, as Joe tells us he "started as a kid, and I've been doing it for 30+ years." His Dad continued until he passed at 93, when Joe took over the business.
The season for alligators is August 20 through September 20, and during the rest of the year Trigger Tommy shares that they go "shrimping, and trapping for minks, musk rats, and nutria, which are big rats, and craw fishing."
The short alligator season is to help maintain the population, as in 1978 there was a big decline, which changed things. "Now, in June, 50% of the alligator eggs are collected and incubated to help preserve this population. It does help, as the males will eat the babies," Tommy tells us.
And, for comparison, he continues saying, "The alligators which have been incubated and fed after one year are about 3 foot in size. Those in the wild that survive, are about 1 foot."
Trapper Joe shares that the amount of tags they are given to catch the alligators are dependent on the "number of land owners, (whose properties are worked), fishing regulations and the wildlife itself."
The entire alligator "is used, except the stomach, and the record catch is 17 foot, weighing in at 1500 pounds," Joe finishes. Tommy chimes in, "It's good fried with red gravy (tomato gravy)."
According to Mae Malbrough, sister to Trapper Joe, and marketing person of the group, "Joe is a LaFont and Tommy is a Chauvin," which seemed to be common surnames in the area.
Mae's smile brought people over to check out the Swamp People alligator back scratchers, hats, tee shirts, pictures, and more. They had a video, too, which showed their Dad pulling an alligator into the boat at 89 years old. Swamp People definitely have a life time job providing you have the guts to venture into it.
After the excitement, we ran into Marko Kozina of the Border Patrol, along with Cst. Kevin Bakker and Cst. Jeremy Dunphy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. It instantly reminds you of how many people and organizations are involved in Border preservation and security, and the large job it really is.
Security also took us by the Macomb County Sheriff, Anthony M. Wickersham, Marine Division's display. Along with Boating Safety Classes, there is a long list of other areas, such as Search and Rescue, Enforcement of Michigan Marine Laws, Patrols of Lake St. Clair and Connecting Waterways, and many more, in which they are involved. Again, lots and lots of people involved in waterway and border safety and security.
Next we found ourselves at the Lake St. Clair Tourism booth where Brad Simmons and Nancy Knuth were having a great time getting the Lake St. Clair Tourism maps into the hands of all who walked passed their booth.
Additionally, Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc., with a grant from Keep America Beautiful, is providing boater and pocket ash trays for free. According to their information, cigarette butts are the most frequently littered item and tobacco products comprise 38% of all U.S. roadway litter. Their campaign is to keep the butts - cigarette, cigar tips, etc. - out of the Great Lakes.
The Lake St. Clair Tourism Booth, the St. Clair Shores Nautical Mile Booth, the Michigan Sea Grant Booth, along with Belle Maer Harbor and MacRay Harbor were immediately on board to support Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc. and Keep America Beautiful with displaying the ash trays and working to get them into the hands of boating smokers.
Brad Simmons shares, "They love it (the ash trays). They can put them on their boat, or dock or even a piling."
Ken Kmieske was in The Nautical Mile Booth. Ken also belongs to the Anchor Bay Yachting Association and the Jefferson Yacht Club, who provides the luncheon for the St. Clair Shores Coast Line Clean Up to be held on May 19. The Harrison Township Environmental Committee also hosts their Boat Town Nautical Coast Clean Up that same weekend.
While we were there we saw Ken in action. In his outstretched hand, holding a boat ash tray, he said to passer by Michelle Trevino, "Are you a smoker?" As she reached for the ash tray she remarked, "Good idea! I'll put it on my boat!"
Great job done by Keep Michigan Beautiful, Inc., Keep America Beautiful, Lake St. Clair Tourism, The St. Clair Shores Nautical Mile Association, Michigan Sea Grant, Belle Maer Harbor and MacRay Harbor for starters.
And starting May 18, the Dossin Great Lakes Museum re-opens to the public after renovations, according to Earl Stilson, member of the Board of Directors, who was manning their display.
In addition, with the recent commitment by the John A. and Marlene L. Boll Family Foundation of $500,000, a complete redesign of the main gallery of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum will be possible.
The "Built by the River" exhibit will open in the renamed John A. and Marlene L. Boll Family Foundation Gallery. According to Joel Stone, Curator at the Detroit Historical Museum, under whose purview the Dossin Great Lakes Museum falls, "Anyway you look at it, Detroit was built by the river. Whether you're a maritime enthusiast or simply someone who wants to better understand the development of our region, we're confident you'll enjoy exploring this new exhibition."
While we are on the Detroit River, we have to include the Gold Cup races. This yearly event brings out the fastest in powerboat racing, with breath taking, heart stopping images that stay with you for a life time. This year's event, according to Jennifer Falcinelli, is July 12-14, so circle the dates on your calendar as you see this information and the photos included.
Lastly for the history buffs, Tall Ships enthusiasts and Put-in-Bay devotees, there will be a Battle of Lake Erie Bicentennial - Tall Ships Festival and Re-enactment of the Battle of Lake Erie - August 29 through September 2 at Put-in-Bay. Other ports include Port Clinton, Catawba Island, Kelleys Island, Middle Bass Island in Ohio and Pelee Island in Ontario.
Remember the phrases "Don't Give Up The Ship" and "We Have Met The Enemy and they are ours" both by Oliver Hazard Perry? That will give you an idea of where to start regarding the Battle of Lake Erie, which is quite the interesting story.
The Tall Ships, too, each have their stories, and they are unbelievably awesome to see and understand that this was how everyone got around on the water. Definitely worth going to visit being this close.
In the meantime, Cobo Hall is so very close and this MBIA 2013 Boat Show is really something to be seen and experienced. And if you are in the market for a boat, personal watercraft, kayak, a dock, toys, electronics, canvas, fishing charter - see Steve Jones on the Fish Predator, boat shoes, Ryba Fudge, a place to dock your boat, entertainment, or even future entertainment, or a stop at the "Tiki Bar," then get on down to Cobo Hall - they have your answer, with a lot of Boat Show prices.