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Author Nancy J. Cohen discusses the writing process and life as a Florida resident.

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Palm Beach Boat Show

Posted by Nancy J. Cohen on March 26, 2011

I attended the Palm Beach International Boat Show ( on Friday. This must be one of the more interesting things I’ve done lately in the name of research, seconded by the Flagler Museum as reported below. I’m immersing myself in the yachting world for a proposed new mystery series, and this involves a tremendous amount of world building in an unfamiliar milieu. It’s similar to how I created my hairdresser sleuth, Marla Shore, for my Bad Hair Day series. Only now it’s a totally different setting where I have no prior experience and limited contacts, so there’s a steeper learning curve. Personal interviews, on-site research, trade magazines, and trade shows are some of the ways I’m gaining the knowledge I need.

We drove north on I-95, exiting at Okeechobee Blvd and then heading east, past City Place, toward downtown Palm Beach. There we followed signs to a parking garage where event parking cost $20. By the time we arrived at 10:00am, the only remaining spaces were on the roof. Imagine what it will be like this weekend?

We walked two blocks to the show entrance where we showed our E-tickets ($12 each as opposed to $14 at the door) and were given pink plastic bracelets to fasten on our wrists. Then we entered a white tent filled with exhibits of all sorts of marine related items: branded tee shirts, insurance, thin leather wallets, Coast Guard exhibits on boater safety, Wi-Fi setups, fiberglass coatings, fishing rods, binoculars, sunglasses, fish sculptures, and even Egyptian sheets.

How do I remember what was there? I took notes. I went armed with the tools of the writing trade: notebook and pen, camera, business cards, and a canvas bag for collecting brochures. Oh, and a husband for toting said bag and providing pleasant escort duty.

More interested in the boats, we headed to the docks. A brick walkway borders the waterfront, probably a pleasant stroll when it isn’t so crowded. The sun beat down upon us, but being Floridians, we’d worn hats.


I looked at the show guide for the three boats that are in my story. I wanted to get a firsthand experience seeing and touching and feeling them.

Our mission was successful. I went aboard all three models, glad I was right on the mark about some things in my story and seeing other details I’d have to modify. We learned to remove our shoes before stepping onto the swim platforms and boarding the yachts. We explored the flying bridge, the cockpit and salon, the lower helm, the galley and dinette. We climbed down narrow stairs and peered into staterooms that looked cozy and inviting. We drooled at the luxurious interiors with rich woods and designer fabrics.




If I didn’t have a specific goal in mind, I would have liked to explore the megayachts parked at the far end named after James Bond movies like Octopussy and Quantum of Solace.


Seeking information, I must have asked the dumbest questions anywhere but the yacht brokers were happy to enlighten me. “Hi, I’m a mystery writer,” I would start out. “I’m writing a book with scenes on different yachts, and I need my information to be accurate.”

Now tell me which of my questions sounds the dumbest [and remember, All blog commenters this month get a chance to win a collection of romance novels; click on Contest tab for more details]:

“Would you mind telling me, is this deck space called the cockpit?” [Initially I thought the cockpit is where you drive the boat like on an airplane; but now I know better. That’s the helm.]

“What do you call this kind of wood flooring?

“Is this upholstery actually leather?”

“What do the squiggles in this diagram mean?”

“What is this type of door called?”

“Is that an engine room? Oh, I’ve never seen one of those before.”

One of the bigger yachts had the aft section open to view, showing storage space and a stairway that dipped downward. I accepted an invitation to take a look and soon was being given a tour by the engineer. Yes, this ship was big enough that she needed a full-time engineer to tend the twin engines, generators, a/c system, waste cleansing system, desalinization machine, and more. The lean man who spoke with an accent explained about separating fuel from sludge and who knows what else. I felt like I was being given a tour by Scotty on the Enterprise. By then, my head was spinning with bits of technology that I would never need to know. Like, if a fire broke out in the engine room and it couldn’t be contained with the fire extinguishers, they’d evacuate the room and pump in carbon dioxide to smother the oxygen. No one could reenter for twenty-four hours. At least, I think that’s what the engineer said, but don’t bet on it. My thoughts reeled, and I bumped my noggin on the way out, forgetting to duck under the low ceiling.

The guy outside asked if I’d lost a necklace. My hand went to my neck: empty! Thank God he was honest and gave me back my gold chain. I hadn’t even noticed it had dropped off. Was the heat getting to me, or was I a total ditz?

We consumed hot dogs and ice cream at the food court, which offered outdoor seating by the amphitheater with cheery red and blue umbrellas and white plastic chairs. If your tendencies run more toward alcoholic beverages, there are a couple of tents by the water where you can buy beer or rum drinks. One of these bars had a guitar player serenading guests. Various vendor stands offered fast food and soft drinks.


As for other facilities, the lavatories are inside trailers conveniently located by the show entrances. There’s also an indoor exhibit hall with air conditioning if you want to cool off.

It was a fun experience and a glimpse at a life many of us will experience only in our dreams. As for my research, mission accomplished!


4 Responses to “Palm Beach Boat Show”

  1. All you need is what 3/4 of a million?? In my next life! LOL They are beautiful Nancy!
    which one you want?

  2. Mary, we’re talking millions for the bigger yachts, like the one with the engine room. Some of the more modest ones cost as much as we might pay for a house. As for me, I want one with a crew!

  3. Rebecca Greene said

    Too bad they didn’t let you take it on a test drive. 😉 Thanks for including us on your tour.

    PS – I’m with you – if I had a boat that big, I’d want a crew!

  4. A test drive, what a good idea. Imagine how clogged the waterways would be with thousands of people wanting to do the same!

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