We've never had it so good. No, really, we haven't...

We?ve never had it so good. No, really, we haven?t. I was heartened as I walked round the Southampton International Boat Show by the extraordinary variety and choice of boats and equipment on offer.

It was tempting, in my twelfth visit to SIBS in a professional capacity, to adopt a been-there, seen-that mentality. After all, the stands and boats are generally in the same places year-in, year-out, and at first glance it all seemed to be more of the same.

However, several days of meandering round the show made me realise that, yes, it may have been pretty familiar, but despite that there were some really interesting and exciting boats out there. And it was the ?oddities? that caught my eye. By oddities I mean boats not in the familiar mould, not white GRP flybridge cruisers or Med-oriented sportscruisers.

Three retro-styled boats ? the Swordsman 30, the Aquila 27 and the Dale Nelson Classic 45 ? all looked fabulous and brought a breath of fresh air to the show. I?m a big fan of the retro movement, and while they may not be everybody?s cup of tea, there?s no denying that they look fantastic.

I was also pleased to see a Riviera 37 sportsfisher. Having just taken delivery of a Sunseeker Sportsfisher 37, this magazine likes the rugged no-nonsense design of this type of boat. They?re the 454s of the waves and blend utilitarian form with a modicum of comfort. Like 454s, they?re designed with a particular purpose in mind, but you don?t have to go sportsfishing every weekend to appreciate the design and build of these boats.

But for me the star of the show was the Nordhavn 57. A true little ship, the Nordhavn impresses in so many ways. This is a boat for the adventurer, for whom good seakeeping, a 3,000-mile range, and design aimed at the seafarer is more important than glitz and glamour. I?m pretty sure that if I had the money, I wouldn?t buy a Nordhavn. But that?s because I?m in the midst of my mid-life crisis and thus easily seduced by glitz and glamour. At the moment I?m more Azimut 68S than Nordhavn 57. But give me another ten years and I could easily see myself hankering after something like the Nordhavn, succumbing to the call of the sea and the lure of faraway anchorages.