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See You at the Boat Shows

Who’d miss the greatest show in town?

Like carnivals and county fairs, the U.S. Boat Shows bring a welcome return of familiar pleasures.
    So I’m not going to look back at old editor’s letters as I write this week because no doubt I’ve said the same things before.
    That’s because I go to the Boat Shows for the same thrills every year.
    I anticipate the makeover of Annapolis with the kind of profound appreciation of novelty and abundance Thomas Wolfe recalled in Circus at Dawn, one of my lifelong favorite short stories.
    Where everything was familiar, suddenly everything is different.
    It happens overnight in an astonishing feat of power and speed.
    By the light of day, you enter a city already thriving and teeming.
    So many boats, so many people, so much color, so many banners, such a bazaar of goods and wares. The unaccustomed rise and fall of the floating docks under your feet adds spring to your step. The crowds make you feel you’re in the center of big doings.
    If the sun is shining so much the better. (As we all know, the weather gods delight in throwing at least one November howler into fair October, and the Boat Shows’ span of nine days over two weekends gives plenty of invitation for such mischief.)
    All together, entering the Boat Shows makes you feel that anything is possible.
    Under such stimulation, maybe you had better leave your checkbook at home.
    So I love the Boat Shows for all the things I love about the Boat Shows.
    Sure novelty is part of the pleasure.
    A new model of the make you fancy is always a thrill. Maybe it’s four or five feet longer, and proportionally beamier, than the boat you’ve been feeling a little cramped on — though any current boat is none too small when you’re underneath painting the bottom. Maybe it adds a feature you’ve wanted or gets rid of a problem testing your patience.
    On my 28-foot Albin, that’s the table. I can’t imagine why designers who got so many things right went so far wrong on that one, which is a nuisance in every way. Worse, I compare its inadequacies with the splendid design of tables — note the plural — on our old Sea Ray, which did as well or better in smaller space on many scores and soared on table management.
    Or maybe a chance visit puts atop your want list a brand new boat that makes you pant with desire. It has happened to me, and it will happen again. Someday, I’m going to buy that boat. After my ship comes in.
    Novel or familiar, everything seems new at the Boat Shows. The dark sprinkles of acid rain seem never to have touched the boats at the Boat Show. Polish is so high that light gleams in a cacophony of reflection. Decks are bright white or rich wood. Canvas is taut and unfaded. Cushions are firm. Furnishings are luxurious. Yes, these are dreamboats. And I’m a dreamer.
    But minor wonders are satisfying, too. I prowl the merchandise tents for perfect solutions. The deck brush or boat hook that correct the faults that flawed every one in the series I’ve owned. The polish that transforms my dull deck into one of these bright ones. Handsome lines. The ideal anchor. A good spotlight to keep me off the rocks.
    At the Boat Shows, wonders of the world of boating are on display for you and me to see, to board and dream on, even to own. With thrills like that, I can do without the Tilt-A-Whirl and cotton candy.

Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; [email protected]