Big boats, big price tags

In an empty Lido Marina Village office space, Duncan McIntosh has assembled his boat show preparation essentials: a coffee maker, creamer and sugar.

"All the stuff that'll probably kill you," he said with a laugh.

McIntosh has organized the yacht shows in Newport Beach, including the one that opens Thursday, for decades. Beginning as an experiment in new ways that he might sell boats, the shows have evolved into a twice-a-year community staple.

The fall event is the Lido Boat Show, and the spring gathering is called the Newport Boat Show.

Experience aside, ensuring that the upcoming event runs smoothly will nonetheless require hard work and — inevitably — lost sleep. This fall's Lido Boat Show will be about four times larger than the first, 35 years ago.

On Thursday morning, McIntosh popped a "dark and intense" coffee packet into his machine and sat at the plastic folding table serving as his temporary desk. With the computer whirring in his otherwise empty makeshift headquarters, he reviewed a printed list of contact information for boat brokers.

"This is almost my life on this piece of paper," he said, glancing up from the packet. "Most of it is on my phone now but this is the way it started, you know?"

Preparation for the upcoming exhibition began just before Labor Day, McIntosh said.

The show, hosted in the harbor waters alongside the Lido Marina Village stores and restaurants, demands the installation of roughly three-quarters of a mile of temporary dock.

Potential buyers and the simply curious are expected to explore the more than 200 vessels. The boats feature luxury entertaining areas, staterooms, guest cabins and crew quarters.

Not only do McIntosh's events showcase more inventory than before, but the boats are also larger. A majority of those expected to arrive in the coming days measure between 35 and 65 feet. The largest will measure 118 feet.

"They're bigger, they're wider, they're deeper, they're taller," McIntosh said.

And they come with big price tags. While you might be able to pick up a boat for $500,000, another is going for $5.9 million.

Among the highlights are a yacht previously owned by Hollywood comedian Jackie Gleason and a boat that last year cruised 100 miles using just solar power.

But McIntosh hasn't always been promoting such large vessels. The Long Beach native once ran a smaller boat yacht brokerage on West Coast Highway now called Johnston Yacht Sales.

The current owner, John Siple, said he no longer participates in the shows because they largely feature such big boats, which don't match his "blue-collar" offerings.

"If someone wants to buy a boat, they better come find me," he said, laughing.

McIntosh, though, grew tired of waiting for potential customers to walk through the door. Instead, he decided to try something new.

When an offer came, McIntosh sold his brokerage. He began to develop boating publications, including a boating tabloid called Waterfront. And, of course, he had boat shows to organize.

"It was time to do something different," he said. "Beats a regular job, that's all I can say."

Over the years, McIntosh has gone out several times to safeguard boats during storms in the middle of the night. He recalled chasing down one 80-foot yacht in a 13-foot work boat after it got loose. Unable to reach the boat, McIntosh tied a rope to its anchor and pulled it back up the bay.

Physics dictates that the course of even such a large ship can be altered if enough force is applied, he said.

"The question is," he continued, "will it happen in a reasonable enough time that you can save it?"

Another year, he helped save a man in a submarine who got lost and bumped into the bottom of a boat on display. He also when a woman stumbled drunk off a pier and needed to be pulled out of the water.

The Newport Beach boat shows tie into the boating culture of the area, said John Buettner, who co-owns Stan Miller Yachts with his brother and participates in the shows.

They have become the most important for his business of any in Southern California, he said, explaining he could imagine no better venue.

"This is the best marketing I can have, especially going into the fall," he said. "It's more than just making a sale at the boat show. It gets you in the public eye."

Buettner started as a salesman with the company in the 1970s and couldn't recall a year when the company didn't participate. He will bring 16 boats to this year's show and expects ultimately to sell them all, probably in the weeks after the show.

"He's our guy, there's no question about it," Buettner said of the work McIntosh has done to promote the boating business.

And yet McIntosh, who now owns Boating World, Sea Magazine and the Log Newspaper, maintains he's just another businessman.

As he put it: "I'm just a guy from Long Beach trying to make a living in the boat business."

If You Go

Where: Lido Marina Village waterfront, at Via Lido and Newport Boulevard.

When: noon to 7 p.m. Thursday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sept. 29

Cost: $15 for adults, free for children 12 and younger

Car parking: Shuttles will run from lots at Newport Harbor Lutheran Church, 798 Dover Drive, on Thursday and Friday and from Hoag Health Center, 500 Superior Ave., on Saturday and Sunday

Boat parking: Vessels measuring 22 feet and smaller can use available dock space


Notable Boats

Savoy: a 1970 yacht formerly owned by comedian Jackie Gleason

Riding Currents: a Duffy Electric Boat equipped with solar panels, which last year powered a 100-mile trip

Argo: a nearly $6 million, 108-foot Sunseeker Predator with "plush accommodations and colossal entertainment spaces"

Isabella: a custom-built 118-foot motoryacht with four guest cabins

Phoenix: One of only two twin-engine Nordhavn 55 boats currently on the market

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