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The Show Must Go On

While most boat shows have pulled the plug on hosting these mega-boat-buying events for now, anyone anywhere can 'virtually' attend the Seattle Boat Show.

Virtual Seattle Boat Show

The annual Seattle Boat Show is the largest on the West Coast and typically showcases more than 1,000 boat and yachts and 400 exhibitors. But with COVID-19 still in the air, organizers needed to decide whether to host the January tradition in the Pacific Northwest.

"Interest and demand for boats and accessories are at an all-time high right now, and many industry experts are predicting an even bigger year in 2021. If people wait until next spring to go boat shopping, it may be too late," explains George Harris, President, Northwest Marine Trade Association (NWTA), which organizes the show. "That's why we're so pleased to be producing a rich and robust digital experience that will allow boaters to easily shop, tour, and compare boats and accessories all in one place and make a plan for 2021."

NWTA held out hope of hosting an in-person show, but by mid-October "it became clear there was going to be no way for in-person. So we activated our digital contingency plan, which we developed all summer long," Harris says.

You'll still have to pay to attend, however. The show will take place Thursday, January 28, through Sunday, January 31, 2021. There will be four levels of ticketing starting at $5 (Mate), and escalating to $89 (Admiral). Each price allows different levels of access to content and value adds such as BoatUS Membership, a Waggoner Cruising Guide; and a subscription to Sea Magazine.

Attendees can view hundreds of boats and accessories from the comfort of their couches and connect with the 160-plus exhibitors via live text chat or by scheduling Zoom, FaceTime, phone, or in-person meetings for boat and product tours and to discuss special show pricing.

The three-dimensional show floor will feature the iconic Seattle Boat Show red carpet and allow boaters to simulate cruising the aisles, Harris says. Some exhibitors will have a virtual porthole into their showroom floor and retail locations. Attendees can explore the 3D virtual scans and feel like they are visiting businesses around the region and getting a glimpse behind the scenes.

The ability to connect with and learn from other boaters is another new feature. The Community Forum will have topic-based channels such as fishing, sailing, or cruising, where boaters can chat, ask questions, and share tips and resources.

For information about exhibitors and a complete schedule of seminars, Boat Show U, and Boat Show TV, visit


Rich Armstrong

Senior Editor, BoatUS Magazine

A journalist by training, BoatUS Magazine Senior Editor Rich Armstrong has worked in TV news, and at several newspapers, then spent 18 years as a top editor at other boating publications. He’s built a stellar reputation in the marine industry as one of the most thorough reporters in our business. At BoatUS Magazine, Rich handles everything from boat and product innovation and late-breaking news, to compelling feature stories, boat reviews, and features on people and places. The New Jersey shore and lakes of lower New York defined Rich's childhood. But when he bought a 21-foot Four Winns deck boat and introduced his young family to the Connecticut River, his love for the world of boats flourished from there.