Pepper takes a drink from the new water fountain display while on a walk with his owner, Mike Williams, at the Port of Everett on Wednesday in Everett. The Boats Afloat Show, which has been held on Seattle’s South Lake Union for some 30 years, is relocating to the Port of Everett next fall. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Pepper takes a drink from the new water fountain display while on a walk with his owner, Mike Williams, at the Port of Everett on Wednesday in Everett. The Boats Afloat Show, which has been held on Seattle’s South Lake Union for some 30 years, is relocating to the Port of Everett next fall. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

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‘The future of boating’: Everett will be home to Boats Afloat

The annual show is leaving Seattle’s South Lake Union and will call the Port of Everett home.

EVERETT — The largest floating boat show on the West Coast is leaving congested Seattle to tie up in Everett.

The Boats Afloat Show, which has been held on Seattle’s South Lake Union for some 30 years, is relocating to the Port of Everett next fall.

The four-day event showcases more than 200 new and used boats and 40 shore-side exhibitors. It draws up to 10,000 visitors.

The move to Everett will “create room for us to grow,” said Bonnie Robertson, who has been executive director of the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association for the past 15 years. The nonprofit trade group runs the boat show, which is in its 41st year.

It was time to leave Seattle, Robertson said.

“It’s not news to anyone that South Lake Union property is being redeveloped. Our lease will be terminated Oct. 1, 2020,” she said. “Seattle, especially South Lake Union, has become completely inaccessible by traffic. We just don’t fit anymore.”

“The landscape of Lake Union has changed drastically in the last 10 years,” Robertson said. Google is moving into a massive campus in the neighborhood. Its employees are joining legions of Amazon workers there.

“We were excited at first when Google and Amazon moved into South Lake Union,” Robertson said. “We thought a whole new population would become interested in boating. Turns out not so much.”

“There are five or six boat brokers on South Lake Union that might be needing a new home at some point,” she added. “Everett is going to be the future of boating.”


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Although the lease deadline left leeway for the Yacht Association to stage next year’s exhibit — it’s usually held in September — the decision was made to stage the 2020 show in Everett, Robertson said.

“We’ve been looking for another location for two years,” she said. “We were ready to rip off the Band-Aid and go.”

The floating boat show will be held at the port’s Dock 5 and Central K-dock, next to the newly opened Hotel Indigo and the Marina near 13th Street and West Marine View Drive.

Floating docks will be brought in to add moorage to create the show’s on-the-water footprint, Robertson said.

“We’ve taken our dock managers up there, and they shouldn’t have a problem with the configuration,” Robertson said.

“We create a giant rectangle with two points of entry that can accommodate 200-plus boats. The next phase is trying to figure out how many of our floating docks we will need to utilize.”

The group is in talks with city of Everett and Port of Everett officials to manage traffic and off-site parking.

Boats Afloat held its final Seattle show last month. The event offers family boat rides, kids’ sailing lessons, toy boat building and docking clinics. Day passes are $14 and four-day passes are $25. Those prices might change when the show is held in Everett, Robertson said.

“We have another one (show) in January in conjunction with the indoor Seattle Boat Show — we have the water location. I believe this will be the last show we do with the Seattle Boat Show,” she said.

Lisa Lefeber, the port’s deputy director and incoming CEO, said the move further supports “the strong and diverse maritime economy we have here in Everett.”

The event connects the region’s boating community to the city and port, and gives tourists a reason to visit the area, Lefeber said in an email.

Dan Eernissee, Everett’s Economic Development director, said the city is collaborating with the port to prepare for the boat show in the fall.

“The event will be an economic engine for years to come, supporting our entertainment, retail and dining businesses throughout the city. We look forward to welcoming many overnight guests and visitors to Everett,” Eernissee said in an email.

The boat show also stands to benefit Snohomish County’s tourism industry.

Tourism research company Dean Runyon Associates reported that visitors to the county spent more than $1 billion last year. Those staying overnight spent more than $772 million at hotels, restaurants and local businesses, while day-trippers parted with $294 million, the study found.

The Yacht Association hoped to keep the show in Seattle and sought alternatives around the city, but nothing panned out.

“At the end of the day we realized it would be in the best interest of the boat show to work with an existing marina,” Robertson said.

The Everett port’s Waterfront Place District will be the backdrop for the event, offering visitors hotel, restaurant and shopping options, she said.

Robertson and local port authorities expect the Port of Everett location will draw up to 10,000 visitors.

By comparison, the Everett Farmers Market attracts 3,000 to 5,000 people each Sunday.

The floating boat show was launched in the late 1970s by a group of sailboaters. “I think they felt there was a need for an in-the-water boat show that surpassed that which an indoor boat show could present,” Robertson said.

For the first 10 years, the Boats Afloat show was held at Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina. About 30 years ago it moved to Lake Union.

Janice Podsada: 425-339-3097; jpodsada@heraldnet.com. Twitter: JanicePods.

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