A true harbinger of spring, the Long Island Boat Show casts off Thursday, March 23, through Sunday, March 26, at Grumman Studios in Bethpage. With more than 70 vendors and kids activities, this event focuses thoughts on warmer days ahead.

“It really is something special,” says Vincent Mazzone, events manager for the New York Marine Trades Association, which produces the extravaganza. “It’s one-stop shopping with the latest models, electronics, gadgets and service providers gathered together. You can start fresh with a new boat, accessorize your current vessel or simply look around to get ideas and see what’s new.”

BARGAINS ABOUND

With many boat dealers looking to move out last year’s inventory even while introducing their newest designs, there’s opportunity to come away with a sweet deal on anything from your first boat to a better cabin stereo system. There’s a labyrinth of vessels on display to poke through, ranging from 10-foot inflatable dinghies to 40-foot luxury cruisers costing upward of $350,000.

David Kirshner, 50, an insurance salesman from Mt. Sinai, purchased his first boat at a Port Jefferson show in 2014, a mid-size bowrider that included a small head sufficient for day trips. An upgrade came the next year at the Long Island Boat Show in the form of a 32-foot Cruiser with a cabin and more seating. “It has a stand-up bathroom, a pullout bed, refrigerator and microwave,” Kirshner says, making longer day trips and overnight ventures more manageable.

Larry Pittinsky, a 51-year-old attorney from Lido Beach, also plans to attend this year’s show. He already owns three boats: one for cruising the waters around Freeport, another for fishing and clamming, and a 10-foot inflatable dinghy.

“I like that this show has a lot of vendors but remains intimate enough to speak one-on-one with sales staff,” Pigtinks says. “That provides the chance to ask questions you need answered and get a feel for who you might like to do business with.”

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DIFFERENT STROKES

That personal touch really is the biggest selling point for the Long Island Boat Show, says Phil Doti, who owns Great Oak Marina in St. James and is attending as a vendor. “Dealers at any show know the capabilities of their vessels, but the local staffs you’ll meet here understand Long Island waters in particular,” he explains, including the most popular destinations and on-water activities in the area’s many bays, ports and harbors.

Aside from buying a boat you can actually afford, the next most important choice for would-be skippers is matching the boat to your needs. You’d be surprised how different that can be from one customer to the next, says Jeff Strong at Strong’s Marina in Mattituck, another show vendor.

“Inshore anglers usually want an open deck so they can move around while fighting fish. They also want something that cleans up easily. Center consoles are perfect for this,” Strong says, while “serious big-game fishermen need something that’s fast, dependable and built to take a pounding when winds rise up unexpectedly.”

MORE THAN BOATS

Besides checking out the latest boat models — big and small — the show is a good spot to tie up loose ends.

Stop at the Kingsborough Community College booth if you are interested in getting a captain’s license or thinking about a maritime career. Sea Tow or Boat U.S. memberships offer added peace of mind on the water — both organizations have captains standing by 24/7 to help when the unexpected happens. Other vendors cover boat financing, boating safety, marine security systems, insurance, dockage, underwater lighting, electronic packages, custom canvasses, service and storage.

The U.S. Power Squadron’s exhibit has a Boating Skills Virtual Simulator that you can step aboard and cruise around a virtual lake while learning important lessons about docking, working with spring lines, moorings and operating in heavy seas.

There also are boat clubs, where, for $5,000 to $6,000 per year, members get use of club-owned vessels without having to worry about maintenance and winter storage, among other logistics. Freedom Boat Clubs, Strong’s Marina and Long Island Boat Rentals are among show vendors offering such programs.

“I’m excited to take it all in,” says Kirshner. “There’s always something new to see at this show. I’m not planning on upgrading my boat this year, so I’ll probably just relax as I stroll through the exhibits. Then again, you never know.”