Boat Show: Check in on coming Navy Pier Marina, pontoons, RVs and yachts

An opening tour of the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show brought an check in on the coming Navy Pier Marina, pontoons, RVs and yachts.

SHARE Boat Show: Check in on coming Navy Pier Marina, pontoons, RVs and yachts

One of the most imposing yachts at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show on an opening-day tour.

Dale Bowman

Casey Polk got a gleam in his eye when I asked how fast the one South Bay Pontoon at the Munson Marine display would go.

“Go as fast as you want to go,’’ he said. “It will throw you back in the seat. Push the joystick. It is fun.’’

The 20-foot pontoon came in at a show price of $99,995. In my lifetime, the revolution in electronics for boating is probably the most notable; second would be the evolution of pontoons from slow putt-putt utilitarian boxes to high-end go-fast boats.

Such are the stuff of dreams at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show.

The 90th Boat Show, by far the most venerable of Chicago outdoor shows, opened Wednesday and runs through Sunday at McCormick Place South. 

While I enjoyed the cool pontoons, the coolest boat for my tastes on opening day was the “Rare Bird’’ at the Arrow Marine booth. It was from Streblow Custom Boats and had a brown, red, white and blue paint job, which was out-gaudied by its red interior.


The Navy Pier Marina booth at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show.

Dale Bowman

Besides dreams, I also came to the show this year and made a quick trip to find the booth for the Navy Pier Marina. It is booth A527. Once you get close, you know you’re there because of the big artist’s rendering of NPM, slated to open in the spring of 2021 on the north side of Navy Pier.

Here’s the problem, the north side of Navy Pier is one of the best shore fishing spots, especially in winter, in Chicago. There have been a lot of rumors flying ever since Randy Podolsky started pitching the idea several years ago.

I happened to get lucky and caught Podolsky at the booth and did a quick video interview on the prospects for fishing access.

I was encouraged by his responses; there will be fishing. During the busy summer season, it obviously will be limited. We will have to see if it comes to pass but, in the offseason and before it freezes up, he talked of even allowing access on the pier level if anglers are able to keep it in good condition.

I want to work up something fuller on this because, while words are nice, actions and commitments on paper are better.

At the Timber View R.V. Center of Frankfort spread, I was struck by the 41-foot Cedar Creek Silverback Edition. It comes in just under 400 square feet, the maximum allowed for RVs. It’s show-priced at $55,000.

Service tech Chris Clarke said they’re bought by everyone from retired couples to union workers, such as pipeline workers, to those who have a permanent camping spot. He recommends a 3/4-ton diesel pickup to tow it.


The Cedar Creek Silverback Edition goes 41 feet and has nearly 400 square feet at the Timber View R.V. Center space at the Chicago Boat, RV & Sail Show.

Dale Bowman

As I was getting ready for the show to open, lines of several hundred stretched back before the 2 p.m. opening, I noticed there were six listings for kayaks and six for hunting boats. Kayaks are another growth industry, especially in fishing. The odd thing is, in all the decades I’ve gone to the show, I don’t often remember seeing a hunting boat. This year, I noticed them.

OK, so one of my favorite stops had little to do with boating. At ‘‘The Original Dave’s Coffee Cake, Handcrafted in Rock Falls, Illinois,’’ I was given a sample in place of a business card.

That’s getting it done.

I was solo this year, so my wife didn’t have a chance to drag me into the biggest yachts, that Chicago winter ritual of taking off your shoes and trekking through the cabin of a yacht.

All the same, I remain stunned by the big yachts. Queens of the Show are Skipper Bud’s new 2020 46 Cantius and the new 2020 Prestige 460, a 46-foot luxurious yacht from Springbrook Marina. 

Instead of yacht dreaming, I did such things as stop by the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary spread.

That’s where Ron Dziagwa pulled me into a game of guessing how fast things break down in nature. You have to match 12 numbers with 12 items. I thought I might be able to ace it but ended up going 4-and-8.

Embarrassingly bad.

“Don’t be embarrassed; it’s educational,’’ Dziagwa said.

One way to look at it.

The show has draws for the whole family, including a Huck Finn Trout Pond, Remote Control Sailboat Racing, which looked pretty cool but I didn’t try it, and a chance to learn tool and boat-building skills at the Chicago Maritime Arts Center. New options include the Discover Boating Experience (DBX). There are the usual hours of seminars on boating and sailing. RV expert David Solberg covers many topics for the RVs.

Show information is at

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