If you're thinking of adding a new electronics system or any other substantial pieces of equipment such as winches, windlasses, anchors, stoves, sails, etc. to your boat, it doesn't usually pay to wait for the spring rush, when that new gear is at a premium in terms of both price and availability.
Despite the snow on the ground, boating gear bargains abound this time of year, with special boat-show prices being offered by many dealers.
Boat show, you ask? This isn't October. What boat show?
Actually, the granddaddy of the bargain-pricing shows is the immense New York Boat Show, which began last weekend. Experienced boating insiders know that price wars between competing dealers have been known to drop consumer costs into the basement.
That show ends today, but the bleed-over in terms of excellent prices on the hottest new items -- as well as old, ever-popular ones -- will last for a while yet. Many dealers extend the courtesy of special boat-show pricing to their local customers and phone orders during this time period.
New York City is a bit far away for most of us, especially since Anne Arundel sailors will have ample opportunity closer to home to take advantage of special boat-show deals.
The Washington Boat Show, set for Jan. 16-21, and Baltimore-based Chesapeake Bay Boat Show, scheduled for Jan.26-Feb. 3, are here in our own back yards, and generally draw a number of local businesses as exhibitors, along with some big national concerns.
For serious bargain-hunters, however, a two-hour trip to Philadelphia for the show there, Jan. 19-27, can be well worth the extra time and effort. It is a bigger show, where the potential for serious competition for customer dollars between dealers is higher.
But if winter driving over long distances isn't your cup of tea, don'tdespair about finding excellent prices as well as product availability this time of year.
Just let your fingers do the walking, as they say, or stop by your local chandlery, rigger or sailmaker to check on price and availability of that new item you're thinking about.
In many cases, it doesn't matter whether that company is going to be in a boat show, since serious price breaks -- and good product selections -- are widely available throughout the industry in the winter.
At Coast Navigation, known for good prices year-round, especially on a wide selection of electronic equipment, special boat-show pricingwill be in effect in the Legion Avenue store during both the Washington and Chesapeake/Baltimore shows.
"We'll be in both the Baltimore and Washington shows, as well as Philadelphia, Cleveland, and Miami," said Coast Navigation spokesman Beth Kahr. "We'll have our boat show specials in the store during the Baltimore and Washington shows."
Kahr said Global Positioning System units are "the hottest thing going these days," and added, "We have some really great prices on some exciting new things, and basically just about everything will be onspecial."
Over at Boaters' World in the Festival Mall off Forest Drive, District Manager Jim Rose explained that his outfit will participate in the Washington boat show only, but that special pricing during the show also will carry over into the store.
"We'll have somespecials at the show that won't be in the store," he said, "but we've got a lot that we'll also have here in the store."
Rose indicated that VHF radio and Loran prices are likely to be very good in both places, "since they get so competitive during the show, and the prices come way down," and that Boaters' World also will be offering specials on binoculars, barbecues, hand-held spotlights, and other items including shoes, jackets, and foul-weather gear (a show-only special).
Although Fawcett Boat Supplies on City Dock won't be taking part in either Baltimore or Washington shows this year, store manager BillGriffin said that specials are available anyway.
"We basically have an extended winter sale on some of our soft goods," Griffin explained, adding that plumbing, electrical and rigging upgrades are also agood idea at this time of year.
"We run the sailboat systems special all year round," he said, explaining the 20 percent reduction on system-component purchases of $150 or more, "and you can really get some outstanding service this time of year because we're not all that busy, so our experts can take just about all the time you need to help you put something together."
E & B Marine Supply in Pasadena will be represented at both the Washington and Baltimore shows, and willoffer some boat show specials, although the prices will be good at the show only, spokesmen there said.
On top of good pricing and extra service, most of the retailers in the area said this is a particularly good time of year to make purchases, since the items you want are likely to be in stock, rather than back-ordered.
This is true atthe local rigging companies, too, where spring rush can mean extra expense as well as delays.