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What boaters are buying in the Quad-Cities
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Many types of boats were featured at the Quad-Cities Boat, RV and Vacation Show, including this 26-foot Sea Ray Sundeck.

The Quad-Cities Boat, RV and Vacation Show had plenty of boats on display for folks to look at last month, but if you looked carefully, there seemed to be more of one style than any other.

That is because Quad-City buyers really like open-bow boats. The dealers are well aware of that and take the type of boats to the show that sell the most.

Joe Wakeen said the most popular type of boats sold at his Wakeen’s Family Boating Center in Rock Island are 17- to 22-foot bow riders or deck boats. The 17-footer usually has a four-cylinder, 135-hp engine while those in the 22-foot range generally have the 300-hp, 350 Magnum engine. He says the average price people pay is somewhere in the $25,000 range.

Steve Rogenski, owner of Tempo Marine & Sport, soon to be in East Moline, reports that their 185 Bayliner, listed at $13,995, is their top seller. At that price, it also has the 135-hp, four-cylinder engine and the trailer is included. About 98 percent of their sales are bow riders. Rogenski says that is because the Quad-City boating style leans heavily toward going to a beach where being able to easily climb in and out is important.

Tempo also sells a lot of personal watercraft, or PWC, and the three-seater Sea-Doo is by far their most popular model. Almost 90 percent of new PWCs going out their door are now three-seaters, which are wider, longer and more stable. They start around $7,500 with a 110-hp engine and run up to $13,200 for a loaded one with 215 hp. The engines in all of them are four-cycles. Sea-Doo still makes a two-cycle engine, but Tempo doesn’t stock it.

Grace Marine in Bettendorf handles Crownline, and owner Carl Hoyt Sr. says about 90 percent of what they sell are also bow riders. He echoes the feeling that beaching is the No. 1 boating activity in this area. His average price for a complete package fluctuates between $18,000 and $25,000 with trailer. The smaller boats typically have a 190-hp, V-6 engine while the bigger ones have 222-hp, 5.0-liter engines.

Three-seaters are also the purchase of choice by a wide margin at Hawkeye Motor Works in Davenport, which sells Aquatrax from Honda. Joel Reno says his units average around $9,000 with a 137-hp engine. He says that when people first look at the engine, many of them think it is the engine that was in older Honda Civics, but the engine actually was adapted from Honda’s motorcycle line. All are four-cycle.

Two models shown toward the top end of the bow rider market were the Envision 26-foot, P’zazz DLX and the new 26-foot Sundeck from Sea Ray. The Envision is made in Monmouth, Ill., and its unusual feature is a mid-cabin cuddy directly ahead of the helm. Their boats are billed as high-performance, family boats and the 26-footer, with trailer and the standard, 320-hp, 6.2-liter motor at the boat show was priced at $68,000.

The Sundeck is a new boat this year from Sea Ray. It has a large, deep cockpit and helm area and plenty of storage room. With the 375-hp, 496 Magnum motor, it had a boat show special price of $67,991 without a trailer.

Gary Kramer can be contacted at

GETTING THERE               

Because boat shows are traditionally held in the dead of winter, dealers have difficulty from time to time getting their boats to and from the shows. But few can match the difficulty Matt Matigian, CEO of Envision Boats, had getting a boat to the Salt Lake City Boat Show last winter.

“It was the same weekend as the St. Louis show, which we attend, and I lost a coin flip so my job was to take a 10,000-pound, 32-footer with twins by myself through the Rocky Mountains in winter,” Matigian said.

Normally, a trip like that is a two-man job, but they were short-handed due to their attendance at St. Louis.

He began in Chicago and was cruising through western Iowa when a car pulled alongside and the passenger mouthed the words, “Your tires are smoking.”

“I pulled over, walked down the port side of the boat, went around the back and saw flames shooting out of a starboard axle,” he said.

He managed to extinguish the fire, which was caused by overheated bearings, but quickly ran into another obstacle when he found out no replacement parts were available locally. While Matigian  waited for a day and with the clock running until the show, a repairman drove almost all the way across the state, got parts and returned to the boat only to discover they weren’t exactly what were needed.

By salvaging pieces of the old parts and using “bubble gum” technology, Matigian was able to get back  on his way. His big concern, however, was heading into the steeps of the Rockies with only five of his six brakes operational.

By driving straight through from western Iowa to Salt Lake City, he made the show in the nick of time. “If I had gotten there 15 minutes later, the trip would have been for naught,” he recalled.

“No way was I bringing that boat home,” he laughed, and as it turned out, both he and a happy buyer left the boat show satisfied.