Sunny weather and a love of the water drew thousands to the Annapolis boat shows over the last two weekends.
And to the surprise of some in the marine industry, many visitors did more than just look.
Dealers and suppliers left the shows with either solid leads on sales or actual sales. Exhibitors at the 21st annual U.S. Sailboat Show the weekend of Oct. 5 appeared to have fared better than powerboat exhibitors last weekend.
Many in the industry had predicted less fruitful shows at a time when consumers are holding on to their recreational dollars.
Crusader Yacht Sales in Annapolis grabbed visitors' attention with a new Pacific Sea Craft model designed to sail around the world, said Nancy Cann, president of the dealership.
"There was a 45-minute line to see the boat throughout the show," and a good deal of interest in other newly debuted models, Cann said.
"There are a lot of contracts floating around the office," she said.
"We have seven full-time brokers and it took two days to get the leads divided up. That's how many leads we got."
For Ivon Paulin, whose Oceana Ltd. of Annapolis supplies boat yards and boat builders with repair equipment, "It was the best sailboat show in 10 years. People are hanging on to their boats and doing repairs."
Mick Blackistone, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, believes sailboat show sales will end up on a par with last year's, if not better."
"People come into the sailboat and powerboat shows recognizing it's a buyers' market," Blackistone said. "Also, the industry has done more promotion of sailboats than it has done in previous years."
Another reason for the surge in sailboats' popularity might lie in proposed gas tax increases and rising gasoline prices, Blackistone said.
"People on the fence between a sailboat and a powerboat are focusing on sailboats," he said.
That became apparent at the 19th annual U.S. Powerboat Show, which started off slow during two days of bad weather. Powerboat sales have been leveling off for the past year and a half.
"I'm not sure that powerboat dealers left with the enthusiasm that the sailboat dealers did," Blackistone said.
"We had a better show this year than a year ago," said Dave Harrison, owner of Harrison Yacht Sales in Grasonville, on Kent Island.