Playing host to tinnies and cruisers
  |  First Published: September 2007

A warship was about the only model of boat not represented at the sixth edition of the Whitsundays’ Oceanic Boat and Leisure Show – everything else was there if you were looking to have fun on the sun-drenched waters. There were the top of the range luxury cruising yachts returning little change from $4 million down to tinnies that a couple of months’ labour would cover and just about everything in between.

The mooring berths at Abell Point marina were shoulder-to-shoulder as visitors checked out what the latest Sunrunners, Rivieras and other sports cruisers while the carpark was turned over to the smaller boats – the tinnies and half-cabs, jetskis and even the unconventional boats with wheels.

The show had everything for anyone who wanted to enjoy the aquatic lifestyle so readily available from the Whitsundays.

Fishing, diving, cruising or sailing – they were all catered for with a range of models that would suit any wallet. Undercover was a variety of incidentals that are just as necessary to enjoy the water – shoes, shades and marine loos, chamois for cleaning everything, rigging and chains, engines and engineering services, details on chartering a bareboat to cruise the islands or all the incidentals for buying a home locally or tips on the best holiday spots.

But this year’s event proved that life in the fast lane is really catching on in the Whitsundays and that the lifestyle is indeed one to be savoured by the rich and famous.

Teasing those whose tastes are well funded was a fleet of pleasure boats, from an invitation-aboard only Princess with a $3.7 million price tag to those more moderately priced at just a few hundred thousand. And then there were the smaller boats.

The jetty fingers at Abell Point marina beckoned thousands of dreamers and believers to see the best ways of enjoying the Coral Sea and its archipelago of sun-drenched islands.

Many had buyers on the day – finance could be arranged on the spot – or others went away to start selling the old boat and move up to something bigger and better.

All of Australia’s leading boat manufacturers were represented, some with one model for inspection of the latest technology and comfort, others with a couple and many with laptop computer visuals of the complete range in detail.

Marius Pieterse, sales manager for Sunrunner, a leading NQ distributor of sport cruisers, summed up the show’s success by pointing out that the Whitsundays had a fair slice of people who could afford the luxury trappings.

“Our cruisers sell from $159,000 to $1.2 million and the islands here are ideal for sports cruisers,” he said.

“There has been an influx of the higher socioeconomic group; there’s been a ridiculous amount of money coming in here.

“It is now one of the best spots in the world and all the facilities for these boats are here,” Mr Pieterse said.

Kerrie Parker, representing the Princess group which is based on the Gold Coast, said the multi-million yachts gave value for money – and more.

“They are hand-built to British designs of the highest standards and workmanship. They don’t need a crew they can be remotely controlled from on the boat or even on the dock. Even the gangplank has a remote-controlled hydraulic system for any level at the dock.

“All are privately-owned and there is quite a strong presence of them here already. There are eight on Hamilton Island and we’ve had some current owners looking at these new models,” Ms Parker said.

Rotary Club of Airlie Beach spokesman, Phil Woodbridge, said the two-day event looked to have drawn a much bigger crowd than last year’s 7000, but numbers were yet to be tallied.

“We’ve had brilliant weather after a week of rain and cold and the town has been packed. Many are going to stay for next weekend’s offshore powerboat race so it’s turning into a massive event.

“Rotary first organised this as a community fundraiser six years ago and this will push our donations to local organisations to close to $200,000,” Mr Woodbridge said. – Laurie Mills

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