Casting aside memory of winter's punch, Marylanders flock to see summer's toys Annual boat show offers relief from snow

January 15, 1996|By Jonathan Bor | Jonathan Bor,SUN STAFF

After a week of winter heroics, thousands of exhausted Marylanders put down their shovels yesterday and did what came naturally. They looked at boats.

They looked at personal watercraft, the marine equivalent of snowmobiles. They looked at modest powerboats that cost as )) much as midpriced cars. And they gawked at towering yachts that could require second mortgages and sky-high payments.

At the Chesapeake Boat Show, which opened Saturday at the Baltimore Convention Center, there were gizmos that use sonar to spot fish, gizmos that use radar to spot boats and gizmos that use satellite transmissions to plot your boat's location anywhere on the globe.

But with all the attractions, the mere thought of hot summer days and soft breezes seemed a sufficient draw. Where else could a person put away all thoughts of snow, slush and gridlock and get into some serious dreaming?

"We're looking forward to the summertime," said Sue Ellen Crabbe of Brooklyn Park. "You look at these and think, 'Wait until that snow melts.' "

"This is what you live for," said her husband, David Crabbe, a part-time commercial crabber. The owner of a 19-foot runabout, Mr. Crabbe said he was "mainly looking" -- and thinking of better times.

Mr. Crabbe, who lives on a cul-de-sac that is "never plowed," said he shoveled three hours without stopping Jan. 8, then shoveled Tuesday and shoveled again Friday. Yesterday, he spoke longingly of the Chesapeake Bay. "I like to get out there before the sunrise," he said. "It's just something in me."

Walter Touchard of Middle River said the blizzard made it easy to start planning for spring.

"If it's in your blood, you think about it," said Mr. Touchard, who was leaning against a railing outside a 31-foot yacht with a $123,000 price tag. He said his brother-in-law was touring the boat, a treat that required the removal of shoes.

"He likes to look at the big stuff. I don't like to look at something I can't afford." The owner of a small boat, Mr. Touchard wanted a slightly larger one for his outboard motor. No appointments, please.

For the record, the priciest boat was a 38-foot, 10-ton yacht made by Cruisers that could be yours for $190,000. It sports two bedrooms, a double-berth dinette, a stereo system and a command center so laden with neat gadgetry it has the feel of an airline cockpit.

"If you can stand $15,000 down and $1,500 a month in payments, we can put you in this boat," said Mike Piasecki of Warehouse Creek Yacht Sales in Stevensville.

The boat show, staged by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, features about 450 crafts -- all of them powerboats. It runs daily through Sunday. Spokesman Henry Brehm said there is a practical reason to hold the show in January: Buying now gives manufacturers a few months to outfit a boat to the owner's specifications and make a spring delivery.

One dealer, Bill Gay of Tri-State Marina in Deale, said the weekend turnout was "a little slow." But he wasn't gloomy. Mr. Brehm would not release attendance figures.

"I think most people have a snow shovel in their hand. It's a little expected, and we still have another week. It's going to make for a good weekend ahead. People have cabin fever."

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