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Local marina makes waves at the Baltimore boat show

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Beacon Light Marina offers tips for buying a boat

The Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show, coming to the Baltimore Convention Center January 23-26, is bigger and better this year, with even more boats, marine equipment and activities for the entire family.

This year’s show will feature more than 300 boats, educational seminars, shopping experiences, and family-friendly activities. The event has grown by more than 30,000 square feet with the addition of the brand-new Discover Boating Experience, which offers guests a place to relax while enjoying seminars and inspirational stories from exhibitors, and the Tackle & Fishing Store, where guests can watch demonstrations, receive hands-on tutorials, and learn more about conservation and the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay.

Sheila Johnson, who owns Beacon Light Marina on Seneca Creek in Bowleys Quarters, says the Baltimore Boat Show is a great opportunity for boaters to shop for the latest in gear and equipment ahead of boating season, in addition to checking out that new boat they have been dreaming about.

Johnson, along with her husband Chris and son Joe, is in her tenth year exhibiting at the Baltimore Boat Show. Beacon Light was incorporated in 1965, and it is one of the longest running marinas in our area. Their big product line is Yamaha boats, outboards and parts. Yamaha is the #1 seller of 18-24-foot boats in the U.S. Beacon Light will bring nine boats for display, and the marina on average sells 70 boats a year, with 8 to 10 boats purchased at the Boat Show.

“There are many promotions that are only available at the show, and they are always a surprise,” said Johnson. For example, incentives could be $500 worth of fuel or accessories or an extended warranty. Yamaha informs the marina the night before the show. Johnson says that Yamaha is a unique brand because they handle the financing of the boats themselves.

“Saturday is the busiest day at the Boat Show, so if you want to have a serious conversation about buying a boat, it’s best to come Thursday, Friday or Sunday,” she added. “These are the lower traffic days. And as a bonus, if you come on Thursday, everyone still has plenty of giveaways available.”

“We talk to a lot of people at the show who come to the marina later for a demo ride as long as they pre-qualify,” said Johnson. They offer demo rides on their boats when the weather trends at 60 degrees and above, and Beacon Light is one of the few marinas that takes in trade-ins.

Johnson says the largest boat they will bring to the show is the new 27-foot Yamaha 275, with a starting price of $99,999 according to Yamaha’s website. “The 275 will be the star of our show,” said Johnson. “It was introduced in late 2019, and 2020 is the first full year it is being manufactured.”

If you’re ready to dive in and buy a boat, Johnson gives the following advice:

Buy a boat you can afford. Remember to factor in additional expenses such as fuel, storage, maintenance, winterizing and insurance.

Explore all your financing options.

Make sure you have a good warranty for peace of mind.

Absolutely go on a demo ride before you buy.

“There are lots of different boats for lots of different budgets,” said Johnson. “You don’t have to buy the biggest boat to enjoy your time on the water.”

She adds that Essex and Middle River are the least expensive areas as far as slip prices: “We are in a great location for access to the Chesapeake Bay. And boat ramps at public parks such as Wilson Point, Cox’s Point and Dundee Park allow boaters to store their boats on their own property or storage facility as an affordable alternative to slips.”

“Essex and Middle River are also centrally located, so you can come out of Middle River and head to Hart-Miller Island, Fairlee Creek, the Inner Harbor, Kent Island, Annapolis and more,” said Johnson. “These are all great spots with great restaurants and things to do all within a 30-minute boat ride.”

Also at this year’s Baltimore Boat Show are the Virtual Fishing Simulator, Touch-A-Boat Tour, Miss GEICO Offshore Racing Boat, Build-A-Boat for kids, Boating Career Day, Boating Skills Virtual Trainer, the Progressive Insurance Boathouse, featuring a docking pool and virtual reality boating experience, and the 10th Annual Crab Pickin’ Contest sponsored by Conrad’s Seafood restaurant and 100.7 The Bay.

In addition to Beacon Light Marina (, other local Essex, and Middle River exhibitors include:

Baltimore Boating Center

Bowleys Marina, Inc.

First Captains Boating Services

Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show

Thursday, January 23 – Sunday January 26, 2020

Thursday, Friday & Saturday, 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM

Sunday 10:00 AM – 5:00 PM

Baltimore Convention Center, 1 West Pratt Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201

Admission: Adults ages 13 and up are $15.00. Children ages 12 & younger are FREE.

For tickets, online discounts, and more information, go to

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