Houston Boat Show helps Houstonians get afloat after Harvey

January 7, 2018 GMT

The Houston Boat Show paused to pay tribute to boat owners who risked their lives to rescue Houstonians from Harvey’s historic floodwaters and is serving as a first stop for some boat owners looking to replace vessels damaged in the hurricane.

More than 63,000 recreational boats worth about $655 million were damaged or destroyed in hurricanes Harvey and Irma, according to preliminary estimates from the Boat Owners Association of The United States.

Sales have been steadily increasing in the weeks leading up to the 63rd annual boat show as people have started to move forward, said Jonathan Whitmire, general manager of Texas Marine.

“Insurance money is starting to come through and people are starting to replace their boats,” Whitmire said. “There were a lot of boats lost on Lake Conroe and Lake Houston in their slips. A lot of boats were totaled in that area.”

The more than week-long show opened Friday with a ceremony to honor 18 “Hurricane Harvey Boat Heroes,” people who took to the waters to help thousands of Houston-area residents during the storm. Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis were among those to turn out.

“When Hurricane Harvey hit, it became a situation that inspired many people who had boats and the ability to navigate dangerous waters to become heroes for people who needed help,” said Ken Lovell, president of the Houston Boat Show since 1988.

Whitmire, who oversees more than 100 employees and manages stores located in Conroe, Beaumont and Clear Lake, had eight employees lose their homes and belongings to flooding.

“Boats guys who have been doing this for a long time are almost a dying breed and we stick together when something happens,” Whitmire said. “All of our manufacturers made donations and we ended up raising over $30,000 for hurricane relief and to help our employees get back on their feet.”

The Houston Boat Show is Show is the largest indoor boat show in the U.S. and is open at NRG Center through Jan. 14. The show features all types of boats, as well as fishing gear, arts and crafts, camping gear, fishing and activities for kids and food vendors.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $5 for children 6-12. Children 5 and under are free.