There are more yellow ribbons and American flags than salty burgees flying at Baltimore Convention Center where the 37th annual Chesapeake Bay Boat Show continues through Sunday. The Persion Gulf is on everyone's mind, and the big question concerns how long the war will last.
Skippers have a history of going full steam ahead in cruising and buying, but this year many are hesitating about that new boat. They will sign contracts when the conflict's end is in sight.
But new models hold the curiosity of boating buffs. Crowds have been good since Saturday's opener, though the Super Bowl cut into the Sunday afternoon gate. This year's show -- though with not as many craft of more than 35 feet as previously -- has its best variety ever of popular sized smaller boats.
In these trying times it is fitting that the show's queen is a nostalgia gem, a 26-footer that takes one back to the post-World War II era when Chris Craft speedboats were the rage. The Windsor Craft 26 is a maxi version of those old distinctive craft, though this innovative new version is of fiberglass -- with an awful lot of mahogany mixed in.
She makes one think of when boating was an exciting, upbeat sport, and the speedsters were classics.
This $75,000 gem has all the classic lines, but with almost twice the room. You forget her lapstrake hull is of fiberglass. That can be forgiven; there's more than enough wood to please the traditionalists -- and there's also an awful lot of speed.
Thanks to her 270 Volvo I/O, she tops at 40 miles an hour, cruises at 28 to 30 on eight to 10 gallons an hour. "It's a boat built for those who want something different," said Rick Boehemer of Southern Maryland Marine.
This product of the Hatteras, Wellcraft, Aqua Sport, Larson family is much more than a runabout with fancy bright hardware, glistening epoxy-sealed wood trim, and lots of wave-riding zip. In that 10-foot beam, there are all kinds of extras for a daycruiser.
On deck there is as much room as on a comparable deck boat. There is a pump-out head in the V-berth, seats that convert to lounges for sunbathing or sleeping, a stationary dinette, generator, built-in 12/110-volt refrigerator, ice maker and blender, a wheel with tilt steering, folding windshield, stowage compartments everywhere, TV on a swivel, and available is a convertible top that can create a houseboat atmosphere.
The show's eye-catching houseboat is the mini 29-foot Baymaster by Holiday Mansion. She might look boxy, but she will do 18 knots at less than a dozen gallons an hour, and within her 12-foot beam she is loaded with everything bigger houseboats have, including sleeping accommodations for six and a full head with shower. Plan on spending between $40,000 and $50,000 depending on what you want in extras.
Among the smallest boats in the show is the Bullet 13 Mini Offshore of 12 3/4 feet that will perk at 40 knots with a 40-horse Tohatsu. This local made product tagged at $5,500 is unique among its look-alikes thanks to a large open stowage area behind the driver's seat.
She weighs only 350 pounds, is peppy enough for waterskiing, that stowage space spaces her an ideal tender, and there's room for a couple of heavyweights to fish with their tackle boxes within reach.
Another dazzler in this line of mini craft is the Jetexpress of about the same size, which seats three (if they're thin) and is matched with a 70-horse Yamaha jetpump with reverse thrust and steerable nozzle arrangement. All for $6,295.
If straight waterskiing is your bag, the 21-foot Supra Sunsport, a 10th anniversary edition in attractive black and white with futuristic interior design, will do in the low 40s. Plan on spending about $27,000.