Sunday, January 15, 2012

Boat Shows

What do boaters do in the winter when it's too cold actually to go boating? (Not counting those crazy frostbite sailors of course.)

Well, it's kind of a tradition in these chilly northern climes to check out a boat show or two. Kick the tires (metaphorically speaking) on all those expensive yachts that you will never be able to afford to buy. Talk to the sales people and do some comparison shopping on the boats that you might actually be able to afford to buy. Visit the stands of all the other vendors for everything boaty under the sun - from resorts to refrigerators, trailers to telephones, binoculars to bilge pumps. I usually leave a boat show having bought huge bags full of nautical swag of various sorts.

Of course not all boat shows are equal. When I used to live in the UK I was spoiled. The London Boat Show is amazing and the Dinghy Show at Alexandra Palace was even more my cup of tea (as we say in England.) When I first came to the US I was somewhat disappointed to discover that some apparently important boat shows have nothing but powerboats. Yes, it is true that if you Google "best powerboat blog on the planet" you will arrive at Proper Course. But I'm not actually a powerboat guy; I'm a sailor. If I'm going to go to a boat show, I want to see sailboats and sailboat stuff.

But some boat shows in the US don't have any sailboats at all. (Or hardly any.) Can you believe it possum? I was most disappointed in that regard when, on our first week in the US in 1989, we went to the New York Boat Show. And there is another boat show, not a million miles from where I live now, that it is mocked every year by a group of guys from Sailing Anarchy who meet up for a few beers first and then proceed to have their photo taken in front of what they consider to be the most hideous powerboat in the show.

But I digress. There is a boat show in New England next month that definitely looks like it's worth a visit. It is called, strangely enough, the New England Boat Show. It's at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center from February 11-19.  And right at the top of the Features page on their website there is an article about something called SailFest. And it says...

Featuring the latest in Sailboats for your racing and cruising pleasure. See, board and explore sailboats from 8’ to 42’ from more than twenty manufacturers. Shop more than 100 booths of sailing related products and services including sailmakers, canvas, sailboat hardware, cordage, marine electronics, rigging equipment and services, time share companies offering large sailboats for fractional ownership, sailing schools, foul weather gear, sailing gear, clothing.

(OK. I admit it. I bolded all those references to sails and sailing and sailboats. I was just so excited to see them.)

Wait. Boston Convention Center? One of my three readers works just across the road from there. Let's do lunch. Have your people tweet my people.

Wait. Where was I? Oh yes, New England Boat Show.

Another pet peeve of mine about boat shows is that some of them are just rows and rows of vendor booths pushing their products or services. When I go to a boat show I want to be entertained and educated too. I want stuff going on that is not all about trying to make me buy a bilge pump or a seat cushion (neither of which would be of much use to me on a Laser anyway.) I want seminars. I want interactive exhibits. I want to meet famous sailors. I want scuba diving lessons. I want Jimmy Buffett. I want dancing girls... No wait. I'm getting a bit carried away here. But you get the idea.

And it does look as if the organizers of the New England Boat Show have made the effort to offer many of my "wants" (but perhaps no dancing girls this year?) There's a chance to meet Abby Sunderland, the youngest solo sailor ever to circumnavigate the globe. There is radio-controlled sailboat racing. There are seminars on all sorts of yachtie topics from How to use your boat's radio to Lines and knots, from How to love the fog to Ethanol. Mmmm. I love ethanol.

And there is a Power Boat Docking Challenge. Hmmm. After that little incident with the fuel dock in Stamford on my Bareboat Cruising Preparation course I think I'll keep clear of any docking challenges that might be watched by persons of a nervous disposition. I didn't really totally demolish the fuel dock... honestly. Well, it didn't actually explode... much.

Where was I? Oh yes. The New England Boat Show.

Oh look. There's even a booth devoted to Old Charts of New England where you can learn about "the history behind the surveying of the U.S. coast, how chart making got its start in the United States and the importance nautical charts played in the growth of our nation." I'll definitely have to check that out. I have one of those old coastal survey charts on my wall, a much appreciated present from my son when we moved into this house. I would love to learn more about how it fits into the history of chart making in this region.

OK. That's it. I'm definitely going to go to the New England Boat Show. Any readers or other bloggers from New England want to join me?


Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

Tillerman, do me a big fave? Look for an E-33 and an Alerion Express-33? If you find either, go aboard and sit on them? And tell me what you think. I want to hear it from someone I can trust. But don't mention my name!

Tillerman said...

Doc, I don't see either of those on the list of "boats by brand" at the exhibition but I will keep an eye out for them.

What exactly am I supposed to be looking for when I "sit" on them? Are they more or less comfortable than a Laser? Because I suspect I already know the answer to that.

I won't mention your name, Doc. Nobody would be believe it anyway. I will just tell them I am checking out boats for my friends Ben and Jerry. OK?

Doc Häagen-Dazs said...

More comfortable than a Laser? Both of them should be outfitted with cushions. That should tell you something. And don't be calling them Couch-33's.

JP said...

A very timely post having just spent yesterday at the London Boat Show!

No dancing girls but other stuff of interest which will post on said...

Hey, I know what you're talking about! I have been sorely disappointed by the complete lack of canvas at many a boat show, after getting all excited to see some live sailboat porn. The should make it a rule that you have to disclose in ads if you're strictly a powerboat show.

Brian said...

Enjoy your blog and thought I'd add my $0.02 here. I've attended the Boston/New England February Boat show for over 25 years. It's always been a nice way to spend an afternoon with my old man and now my son but it certainly never has and never will cater to sailors, unfortunately. The Miami Boat Show/Strictly Sail is so much better (both the weather and the boats, dancing girls etc..)

PeconicPuffin said...

Pansies! A boat show? With the wind we've been having?

BTW Lord T but a member of your peerage (age-wise) was going for a nursing home cheat this very weekend. No boat shows for him.

bonnie said...

My favorite big boat show (as opposed to paddlesport shows) of all time was one of the New York ones when there was a juge blizzard. I'm sure the vendors were gnashing their teeth inside but they were incredibly nice to the 20 people who actually turned up. I got a really excellent balaclava that I wear when it's under 20 and for some reason I've decided to go out in a boat, and some toy fish that I use as throw pillows, but the best thing was that there was no line for the scuba tank and you could stay in there all day if you wanted to. I think I was in there for a good hour and I even got to play with the little Undersea-World-of-Jacques-Cousteau hand-held mini-propulsion unit for half of that.

Actually come to think of it, that may have been the only time I went to the New York Boat Show. But it was fun. Even without sailboats.

Deb said...

Heading to Strictly Sail Chicago next weekend. Not the biggest by far but just enough to carry you through the nasty midwest winter. Going mostly to look for a new dinghy this year.

S/V Kintala

Deb said...

BTW, boat shows are a great place to get some deep discounts. I bought my Sailrite machine at the Annapolis show and got a couple hundred off. As long as you know pretty much what you're looking for already so you don't suckered.

S/V Kintala

B.J. Porter said...

We could have used you at the Providence Boat Show this year. There were a couple of nice beers at the Union Station Brewery as usual, and a dreadful selection of boats to choose from. There wasn't even a Laser there to fondle this time around.

We may make it to Boston; as midwinter shows in New England's OK. It's all about the accessories these days for us anyway; we're not buying a boat but we're always looking for new solutions to old problems.

George A said...

Dancing girls or no, I've got to git me over to that dinghy show at Alexandria Palace before I get to old to flap my wings. I've heard that it's good times.

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