The Annapolis Sailboat Show is near and dear to me as a sailor. My dad Dennis (who writes the AAS SE Pro Tips column) and a friend actually designed a small plywood sailboat to display at the first show in 1970. They built two – if neither sold, they’d each get a boat out of it. Well, one sold (it was Dad’s).
He and my mom, Gail, have attended nearly every show since. I started going in high school, joining in my parents’ annual tradition.
In 2010, my 35-foot yawl, Arcturus, was in the show. My wife Mia and I were displaying our boat’s new synthetic rig in conjunction with John Franta and his company Colligo Marine. The year before, Franta had a Westsail 32 in the show rigged with Dynex Dux, and I was intrigued. The boat was gorgeous in its own right, but it was the rig that caught my eye. Traditional yet modern, old techniques – deadeyes and lashings, tarred service – that incorporated new materials.
Mike Meer, then owner of Southbound Cruising Services, showed us around the boat and described how his company had done rigging. Later that weekend, I attended a seminar by Brion Toss, author of “The Rigger’s Apprentice”, and one of my sailing heroes. Convinced of the merits of Dux, I befriended John at Colligo and got a job as a rigger the following summer with Mike and Southbound. The following year, it was Arcturus on display with her new rig, and I gave a rigging talk with Mike and John. And that’s one of the best things about boat shows – you never know what you’re going to find or who you’re going to meet.
The vendors and the visitors, the boats and the parties – it’s a world unto itself. Annapolis is the capital of Maryland, but it becomes the capital of boating on the East Coast for two weeks in October. The harbor is transformed and people from all over the world flock to the City Dock to see the latest and greatest in sailboats one week followed by powerboats the next week.
Local businesses offer show specials on everything from oil lamps and barometers over at Weems & Plath in Eastport, to oysters and Guinness at McGarvey’s Saloon downtown.
The U.S. Sailboat Show is bigger than the U.S. Powerboat Show, though both claim to be the oldest and largest in-water new-boat shows in the world.
This year the show opens on Oct. 4, which is VIP day (the show is geared more to industry insiders on this day, but remains open to the public, albeit at a higher price), and runs until Oct. 8. Beneteau usually has an enormous presence, as do Catalina, and more recently the German builder Hanse. Plus, each year the multihull builders keep adding boats, reflecting the trends in sailboat cruising.
One of the more exciting parts of the sailboat show actually happens after it’s over. On Monday afternoon, at exactly 5 p.m., the show officially closes and boats start moving out. And it happens fast. Spectators traditionally gather on the roof of Pusser’s at the Marriott dock to watch the organized chaos as the show is dismantled in a matter of an hour or two. If the wind is right, some of the smaller boats moored in Market Slip (Ego Alley, as it’s known locally), will pop their spinnakers and sail out of the harbor to the delighted cheers of the crowd on the roof. Others effortlessly motor down the entire channel – in reverse.
The impending Powerboat Show necessitates the quick removal of the sailboat fleet. As quick as the sailboats leave, the powerboats enter. That show runs Oct. 11-14.
Whether you’re a sailor or powerboater, a boatowner or simply up for a weekend out, Annapolis is the place to be in October. Keep your eyes open – you never know where a chance meeting might take you.
Andy Schell is the former editor of All at Sea Southeast. He is currently en route to Stockholm on Arcturus, but will indeed be back for the Sailboat Show in Annapolis this October. Follow Andy and Mia online at andyandmia.net.