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Boat Shows Are Back

Insider tips to make the most of this Annapolis tradition

By Kathy Knotts and John Stefancik

There’s no denying that we missed the Annapolis Boat Shows last year. They have been part of the October events scene for 50 years now—and last year would have technically been their golden anniversary, if not for the pandemic.

For the newcomers: The Annapolis Boat Shows were the first (and are still the largest) in-water shows created for buyers and sellers to see what’s new and improved and to support an industry vital to the heart of Chesapeake Country. City Dock in downtown Annapolis becomes a hustling, bustling world of not only boats and gear, but seminars, shopping, eating and partying.

To get an insider’s guide to the best ways to enjoy the boat shows, we turned to CBM Publisher (and boat show aficionado) John Stefancik for his top tips.

  1. Be sure to wear boat shoes! They slip on and off easily and because most of the beauties at the show are already owned by someone, the dealers want to keep the footprints to a minimum.
  2. It’s more than just boats. The shows have the very best deal on clothing you will find, usually even better than online. Whether you need new foul weather gear, sunglasses, shoes, hats for late-season boating, or you just want to add something to your kit, this is the place. Comfortable clothes bought at a discount makes boating more fun. Walk every tent; you’ll find things you never even knew you needed.
  3. Do your holiday shopping right here during the boat shows. You’ll find gifts and items in almost every price range that sailors, fisherman and boaters will enjoy. (Mom, I hope you are reading this!)
  4. Learn something…whether onshore or on the water. Within the shows, you have tremendous opportunities to learn more about boating at multiple sites. (See our schedule of seminars!)
  5. The food for sale at the Fleet Reserve Club is dependable and good. So are the sandwiches sold by other churches, schools and volunteer organizations outside the show. These are good people and a great part of the show experience—especially the ice cream! 
  6. For the Powerboat Show, get in line early for the larger yachts and you’ll see amazing things from luxury to ultimate experiences. In the afternoons these boats become busy. 
  7. At the end of the day go up on the deck at Pussers, get yourself a Painkiller and enjoy the view of the show. Don’t forget to join the CBM Bay Weekly crew on Saturday night of the Powerboat Show for our Boat Show Bash with the Jimmy Kenny Pirate Band. If you like laidback rock or country (like Jimmy Buffet or Kenny Chesney), you are going to have a good time at our bash! 
  8. Pay attention to the name tags/badges of the exhibitors. You will find some of the biggest names in sailing at the Sailboat Show. America’s Cup and Volvo Ocean Race rock stars, owners of sailboat manufacturers, famous yacht designers, and sailing personalities from around the world—most are likely here at some point during this show.
  9. Ask the exhibitors where they came from … often you find out that they literally sailed the boat you are seeing across the ocean from faraway places such as South Africa or Scandinavia just days earlier.
  10. Be sure to either extend your stay through Monday evening (Oct. 18), or return to the show to watch the breakdown of the Sailboat Show. This used to be something only the locals participated in, because it’s interesting and lots of fun to watch sailors handle boats in and out of slips and through the docks while the show is being broken down. Often there are people hanging from the rigging throwing trinkets to the crowd. 
  11. Take the Watermark water taxi from Eastport to the show. This is a great way to see the show from the water. Trips run $4-$9 each way and the taxi runs 8am-11pm. Parking is usually easier in Eastport than downtown. Call 410-263-0033 to be picked up or find their dock at the boat show entrance. More at watermarkjourney.com.
  12. Catch a shuttle. If you or a guest are staying at an area hotel, you can get a complimentary shuttle on a 28-person minibus from Pasadena-based ZBest Limousine Service to City Dock thanks to a partnership with Visit Annapolis & Anne Arundel County. The bus stops at Live! Casino & Hotel, Hampton Inn, and Residence Inn Arundel Mills BWI. Guests at other area hotels can also park at the casino and catch the shuttle from there, daily beginning at 9am.