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Boat Show Dreaming

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After enjoying a production at the Houston Grand Opera last week, I learned that “Show Boat” is nothing like a boat show. “Show Boat” has some catchy singing and fine dance moves, but it falls short in the boat department.

Boat shows, on the other hand, provide maximum boat exposure. They reveal boats at their best – all shiny, fresh and full of the promise of adventures to come. Just step aboard and set your imagination afloat.

I’ve attended shows throughout the southeast with dreamy desire dripping from my eyes as I ran my fingers over fresh fiberglass contours, or caressed perfectly varnished teak.

I’ve spent hours manning a booth in St. Petersburg, Fla., singing odes to LED navigation lights for some friends. We helped other boat buddies at a booth in the U.S. Boat Show in Annapolis, Md., boasting about the joys of boat slip ownership in North Carolina.

I even organized and promoted the Oriental Boat Show in the Sailing Capital of North Carolina back in 2009. With a sense of pride, I’ve since watched it grow into a significant annual event in the community (catch the next show April 12-14).

With all of my boat show experience, I’ve come to appreciate the individual personalities of shows and how they reflect the surrounding boating community.

In small towns like Southport and Beaufort, N.C., or Georgetown, S.C. – where nautical traditions run centuries deep and maritime museums are big attractions – a boat show means it’s time to bring out the classic wooden vessels. I imagine that is the type of event one might find at the Sunnyland Antique Boat Festival in Florida (see pg. 16).

In more modern cities, it’s all about the newest yachts on the market. Think South Florida with shiny megayachts to match the skyscrapers and sun-drenched beaches.

This month, I’ll visit the South West International Boat Show at South Shore Harbour Marina on Clear Lake near Houston (see pg. 11). Organizers expect to feature more than 400 boats in and out of the water during the March 21-24 event.

This is the latest incarnation of the Clear Lake boat show where I sold my first sloop more than a decade ago. Back then, venerable brokerage yachts floated alongside the latest offerings by the major boat manufacturers. It was bittersweet bidding farewell Libertine, my Endeavour 32, but we were already hard at work upgrading our Morgan 38 Sea Spell to fulfill our cruising dreams.

As I observe my fellow boat show attendees, I’m sure I’ll recognize the faraway look of new boaters as they gaze upon the vessels that will transport them to the boating bliss of their dreams – whether it’s the perfect fishing hole, a run on a wake board, a remote anchorage in paradise, or the docks of some historic seaport.

Wherever the waters flow, there’s a boat at the boat show that can take you there.

I’ll see you on the water.

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