The U.S. Boat Shows Are in Town

And are we in trouble ...

Avoid the occasion of sin. That precept of my Catholic education should, over the years, have kept me away from the U.S. Boat Shows, which occupy Annapolis October 6 though 16.
    First the Sailboat Show, returning for its 42nd year, validates the city’s title as Sailing Capital of America. Yes, it’s a self-conferred title. But through October 10, it’s as hard to contest as Napoleon’s self-coronation as emperor of the French. As I write, hundreds of boats are arriving, tying up on a 11⁄4 mile of portable floating dock, transforming the heart of the city into a giant marina surrounded by what is likely the world’s biggest boat store, though Guinness has so far failed to document that record.
    If the Sailboat Show were a virus, Annapolis would be Ground Zero of its conquest.
    As it is, it’s a dangerous place. Mention its name in the hearing of people tilted even slightly nautically, and you’ll hear a tale much like this true story.
    I bought a boat at the Sailboat Show. It was a Hinckley. My husband and I were dreaming that someday we’d go sailing, so we drove up from North Carolina. We met Bob Hinckley, and he told us about a bargain he had outside the show. We went to see the boat, and then and there we decided to buy it. We had to sell our house to afford it, but we didn’t tell him that. We quit our jobs and sailed until I got the bug and wanted kids.
    The narrator, it so happened, was about to do it all again 25 years later.
    Two of us were listening to her tale.
    I bought my boat at the Sailboat Show, too! said the other.
    The Powerboat Show — with its own fleet of hundreds, including three Hinckley motor yachts — is my occasion of sin.
    I didn’t buy my boat there, but I did my shopping there. When husband Bill Lambrecht and I began dreaming of a new boat, we made the U.S. Powerboat Show our hunting grounds. Over three years, we studied and compared brands, starting with the Sabre and working down through Back Cove and Legacy to the Albin we finally bought from a broker we met at the Boat Show — after we’d gotten the all clear from a surveyor we met at the Boat Show.
    That was five years ago. Since then, we’ve been mostly temptation-free. Twenty-eight feet is plenty, especially when you’re filling the tank or painting the bottom. But I do find myself longing for a salon, drawers for clothing, one more burner on the stove and an oven. With those, we could go anywhere. If we had the time …
    But unlike my life-changing, live-aboard friend Christine, I’m not going there.    
    So this year, I’m avoiding my occasion of sin by going to the Sailboat Show. With 300 boats in the water, there’ll be plenty to see, from dinghies to the big fast sailboats many of my marina neighbors favor to more catamarans and trimarans than, promoters crow, “anyplace else on the planet.”
    Take off your shoes, and you can board almost all of them. I will.
    I’m intrigued by how the living quarters of boats are laid out and finished. To a small-house dweller and weekend live-aboard boater like me, maximizing space is as compelling as solving crossword puzzles, and boat designers often do it brilliantly.
    The Sailboat Show will be purely window-shopping, but a boat show is a good place to dream. Since an intriguing Fisher 30 docked next to us, I’ve been imagining that husband Bill and I could learn to manage a motor-sailor like that. We’ve promised ourselves that next spring, we’ll start at the beginning, learning to sail on little dinghies. Wouldn’t it be fun, I’ve been thinking, to sail for the experience of wind and wave and water, and use our powerboat for destination cruising?
    Perhaps a motor-sailor would serve both purposes.
    “A motor-sailer I have always admired for sailing ability, motor ability as well as strength is the Fisher,” I read online.
    Good thing no Fishers will be at the Sailboat Show, as far as I can tell by the show’s online preview at http://www.usboat.com/us-sailboat-show/boat-brands.
    On the other hand, I might run into one at the Powerboat Show ...