Two boat shows will debut the next two weekends in Annapolis, at a time when many in the maritime industry are slowly emerging from a struggle just to stay afloat.
For consumers, industry officials say, the timing is perfect.
"This is a buyer's market," said Mick Blackistone, executive director of the Marine Trades Association of Maryland, which is sponsoring this weekend's Annapolis Spring Boat Show. "Dealers are negotiatingto sell their products."
"Everyone's just recently become much more optimistic as to the success of the shows," said Jeffrey Holland, the shows' spokesman. "People are relieved the war is over and didn'tget any worse. They're listening to economists that are saying the recession isn't bad and will be over during the summer sometime. People have been holding on to an old boat or not buying a new boat. It's built a pent-up demand for something new and fun."
Boat sales havesuffered from an economy in recession and a perception of a poor economy, said George W. Brown, executive director of the Yacht Architects and Brokers Association, a national association with some 40 members in Annapolis. YABA will sponsor the Annapolis Brokerage Boat Show next weekend.
But sales have been picking up, he said.
"I would have had a great deal of trepidation if asked January 1st, but there's been a significant improvement in yacht brokers activity throughoutthe membership in March and April," Brown said. "They were two pretty good months."
Interyacht, the Annapolis area's largest yacht brokerage, sold 20 boats valued at more than $2.2 million during March, a record for the brokerage. Interyacht expects to sell a similar volume in April.
Blackistone agreed that "things are really turning around sharply, though we're still seeing a soft market in large new boats and, to a lesser degree, smaller new boats."
That market has been devastated by a new federal luxury tax, which adds 10 percent of the price of a boat of $100,000 or more, Blackistone said.
Marine trades, which has been pushing for repeal of the tax, will meet in May with Maryland's congressional delegation to discuss how the tax hurts the state's marine industry.
As sales of the larger boats continue to suffer, sales of boats of less than $100,000 are beginning to increase because of the failure of the Linowes Commission state tax reform proposal, Blackistone said. The proposed restructuring of state taxes would have added a personal property tax on new boats, a 5 percent gas sales tax and a tax on services.
The first boat show will open Thursday with new sailboats and powerboats. At the next show, the first weekend in May, yacht brokers will display used sailboats and powerboats.
At each show, as many as 100 boats will tie up at the Annapolis Yacht Basin, on Compromise Street between the Marriott Hotel and the Annapolis Yacht Club, and in a grid of floating docks inAnnapolis Harbor.
Visitors also can shop for new small boats, including polling boats, rowing shells, yacht tenders, sailing dinghies and inflatables, as well as for new boating equipment, accessories and service at display tents.
International Yacht Shows Inc. will produce the shows. The company has managed the U.S. Sailboat Show and the U.S. Powerboat Show in Annapolis every October since 1970.
Previous spring boat shows at Sandy Point State Park and in Baltimore never took off because they failed to draw enough exhibitors or spectators, Holland said.
The Annapolis Spring Boat Show will run from Thursday through Sunday. Hours will be from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission willbe $6 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.
The Annapolis Brokerage Boat show will open May 2 through May 5. Hours run from 10a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.Sunday.
Admission will be $6 for adults and $3 for children 12 and under.