In these days of rising oil prices, it might cost twice as much to drive half as far, but the wind is still free.
Some of the 50,000 visitors expected to descend on Annapolis this weekend for the world's largest sailboat show may well share those sentiments. At least, promoters of the 21st annual U.S. Sailboat Show hope so.
Promoters don't expect crowds to stay away from the show, running today through Monday, just because consumers are spending less money on recreation, said show spokesman Jeffrey Holland. Although sailboat sales have suffered for the past few years, he said he believes things may be changing.
In fact, Holland said, sailing hit popularity peaks during the gas crises of the early and late 1970s. When sailboat mania leveled off, powerboat sales rose dramatically, he said. Now, sailing's day may have come again.
"People are buying sailboats again, more than in the last three years," Holland said. "It's curious that it coincides with the rise in gas prices.
The last two times there was a gas crisis, sailboats boomed."
In another sign of a healthier industry, more sailboats will be displayed this year than last, in the water and ashore at City Dock and Harbor. Fewer and fewer boats had come to each of the shows since 1986.
This year's number is 275, up from 250 last year, Holland said.
Visitors can expect everything from 20-foot micro cruisers to 68-foot bluewater yachts, including sloops, ketches, racing boats, performance cruisers and motor sailers. Also on hand will be sailing regattas and boat displays by major international manufacturers.
Sailing personalities include international sailing champion Teddy Turner, son of America's Cup Champion Ted Turner, who will display the Challenge America he plans to enter in the 1994 Whitbread Round-the-World race; Jim Dickson, a blind sailor who sailed alone from Rhode Island to Bermuda in 1987, and Tristan Jones, sailing adventurer and author.
Yacht designer Gary Hoyt will unveil his new 32-foot Manta sloop, the most revolutionary new sailboat design since the fiberglass hull.
And Multihulls magazine will sponsor a new multihull section, with cruising and racing catamarans and trimarans.
Besides shopping for boats, visitors can look for sailing schools, charter services or new equipment and accessories.
Once the sailors leave town Monday, boat show officials will be preparing for another 50,000 or so visitors, expected next weekend for the 19th annual U.S. Powerboat Show.
More than 350 new sport boats, runabouts, family cruisers, sportfishermen, performance boats, trawlers and motor yachts, from under-20 feet to 80 feet, will be displayed in the water. Another 250 -- trailerable sport boats, dinghies and inflatables -- will be displayed ashore.
Prices range from less than the cost of a family car for a fully-equipped runabout to the rate of a waterfront condo for a yacht equipped with gold-plated bathroom fixtures and a full-sized Jacuzzi.
Though organizers don't keep track of the show's sales, they believe most serious boaters wait for the prestigious Annapolis shows to make a purchase.
Boat manufacturers know that and look to the Annapolis shows as "the main crux of their entire year's marketing strategy," Holland said. "The impression I get is that if anybody ever does buy at a show, they buy at this show."
The sailboat show is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. today through Sunday and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children age 12 and under.
The powerboat show runs from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Oct. 12, and Oct. 13, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 14. Admission is $8 for adults and $4 for children age 12 an under.