Bart Barnes is a salesman at Clemons Boats in Sandusky. (Bart Barnes)

Meet Bart Barnes, a salesman for Clemons Boats in Sandusky, which is bringing more than 30 boats to the Mid-America Boat Show starting Thursday at Cleveland’s I-X Center.

“The service department is turning and burning,” said Barnes, 28, of Castalia.

See more on boat dealership prep for the boat show.

Barnes grew up in Norwalk and at his family’s cottage in Put-in-Bay. He worked at Miller Boat Line as a teenager, got his certification at the Marine Mechanics Institute in Orlando and started at Clemons, where he started as a yard technician, moving boats, and worked his way up to sales.

He’s passionate about teaching boater safety to newbies.

“It drives me absolutely crazy when someone comes in when they’ve been boating for 10 years and they don’t know what port or starboard is and who has the right of way,” he said.

The boat show marks the beginning of the sales season.

“Our down time is Thanksgiving until the New Year,” said Barnes “We came back Jan. 2, and it’s put on your running shoes. You go from 0 mph to 100 mph. There’s no case of the Mondays.”

Read on to see what’s new in boating, and what boat lines will likely sell out.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

What’s the attraction of the boat show?

It’s almost like homecoming, with everyone you haven’t seen in a while. For us in sales, it’s game time. But for our clients it’s homecoming. We’re the football players on the field. The clients are getting ready to party.

It sets the tone for the year, talking about boats and building relationships. The whole experience is great.

Why should boaters go to the show?

We have one of the biggest displays in 52 years. Our space is massive. I was joking with the boss that we’re going to have to get Segways just to work our display.

We’ve got some new brands. And everybody’s looking at these boats. Customers are very educated, looking at catalogs on line. They kind of know what the boat’s about. But it’s another thing to be able to get on the boat, feel it and touch it and see why the boat is what it is. Things  you don’t get from a catalog, like the position of the steering wheel and how many coolers or cup holders does it have.

What kind of boats are your best seller? And how high is demand right now?

We are selling a lot of day boats; anywhere from 25 to 32 feet is our bread and butter. You don’t see as many cabin cruisers getting moved.

The demand is very strong right now. If people don’t buy a boat in the next three months and they want a specific brand or line, they’re not going to have a boat until at least midsummer. They cannot produce boats like they do vehicles. A lot of man hours go into these products. It takes more than a week to build the smallest boats.

So while we’re not going to sell out of every boat in every line, we will sell out of the Boston Whaler Vantages, for example. That’s a very hot boat. We will sell out of Bennington pontoons and tritoons this year. That’s one of the most popular boats in the United States.  

What are the new trends in boating for 2018?

Three big things:

Joystick docking: That is the future. Even if you don’t need the joystick to dock, you’re going to need it for resale. Because people want it. It’s not so much that docking is difficult. It can be stressful. Using a joystick just takes away the stress.

Vessel view mobile: It syncs your motor to your cell phone to show how many hours are left in your gas tank. Say you suck something up in your prop and the motor isn’t running smoothly. It’s like a check engine light. It will notify us, your dealer, that you’re having a problem, and I can log into the system and tell you what’s going on. I can tell you you need to get a tow, or run it back straight to us. It can help you find your sweet spot of gas burn.

Infrared sensors: Like radar, but can give you more specific shapes. It can pick up hazards in the water. There are a lot of people who won’t boat at night because there’s so much unknown. Infrared makes it known.

Why boat, anyway? What’s so great about boating?

It’s camaraderie. Everybody on a boat is waving at each other. When you come into a dock and it’s windy, everyone wants to help you out. Everyone wants to invite you over for their specialty boat drink.

Why wouldn’t you boat? I guess is the question. I love it so much, I don’t know why you wouldn’t. Most of the earth is made of water. What are you missing by not getting out on the water?

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