Palmetto Expo reveals wide range of nautical commerce

Industry show reveals wide range of sea-going options

rdymond@bradenton.comMay 6, 2013 

PALMETTO -- Nautical industry variety was on display this weekend during the Spring 2013 West Marine Nautical Expo and Nautical Flea Market at Regatta PointeMarina in Palmetto.

The two-day free event, which nearly filled nearby parking with spectators, had everything from 23-foot custom-made, classic sport fishing boats listed at $48,000 by Odessa's Ron and Celisa Cook to striking marine photography by Palmetto resident Jay Campbell for $15.

Throw in $33 for a UV-resistant Lexan plastic visor to

shield ports from sun or rain, made by "Ma and Pa" Paula and Bob Biles, owners of Bradenton's Southern Reinforced Plastics Inc. at 2904 29th Ave. E, and you pretty much have the scale of the event.

Besides the retail side, the show included a continuous lineup of live bands and nine nautical seminars, including three on closing day Sunday.

"This was our first show and I loved it," said Campbell. He and his wife, Karen, recently sold their home on a South Tampa canal to live full-time in a vessel named "Largo" at Regatta Pointe Marina.

"Regatta Pointe put on a great show and there was great support," Campbell added. "We sold some pictures, also."

Campbell's work skillfully blends photography with an unabashed preference to "saturate the color" via computer. The results are unique.

"I like to combine the incredible details of photography with the colorful expression of painting," Campbell said.

One of Campbell's most famous marine pictures is of a gray-blue heron shot near sunset while he lay prone on Regatta Pointe's westernmost dock waiting for the bird and the dying light to unite.

For most vendors like the Cooks, Campbells and Biles, the largest boat show in Manatee County is all about pressing flesh and getting the word out about their businesses.

The Biles introduced a new product called Captain Moab's Ship Balm, which is basically lanolin used as a waterproof protectant.

"It's got a thousand uses on your boat from lubricating screws to sealing electrical connections," Paula Biles said.

The only product the Biles found close to it was made for the breasts of nursing mothers, Paula Biles said.

To cut the slight odor of lanolin, the Biles add a couple drops of lavender oil to every pound of lanolin bought in bulk.

The Biles showed cans of Captain Moab's to many passersby.

Other vendors fed the ultimate dream of all boat enthusiasts.

"We go to five shows a year and what it's all about is wanting to talk to people and getting the word out of what you can do, which, in our case, is build a custom boat exactly to your specifications," Ron Cook said. "It's a long lag time. We recently sold a boat after a year and a half of working with a client. So, someone we met today could be a buyer down the road."

Cook, who bought the Sabalo brand, Spanish for tarpon, said this is not the ideal time to sell big-ticket items but he will be well-positioned when the economy does turn around.

"This is not the best time for boat building, but we enjoy it and don't need a lot out of it thankfully," said Cook, a retired attorney. "Now, we are investing in our boats and getting our lineup set for when things do break loose."

Proceeds from the event benefit Manatee Children's Services.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, Ext. 6686.

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