Browsers, buyers mix at boat show Brokers look for sailors in khakis without socks

October 12, 1997|By Laura Sullivan | Laura Sullivan,SUN STAFF

John Upchurch skipped the last two stairs on the galley ladder as he jumped down into a $500,000 yacht.

"Wow," the young Annapolitan said, scanning the cherry wood interior of the 52-foot vessel. "This place is nicer than my apartment."

Upchurch, 19, and his friends, Sean Jackson, 21, and Bonnie Lee, 19, were what brokers at the U.S. Sailboat Show at City Dock in Annapolis called "rookie sailors" -- the opposite of serious buyers. The three were too young, too casually dressed and too excited about testing the spring effect of bedroom mattresses.

Like most of the estimated 10,000 people who crammed onto half a nautical mile of portable docks yesterday to see the 234 boats on display, they were just window shopping and collecting pamphlets in their yellow plastic boat show bags.

Brokers with a sharp eye, presiding over a table full of glossy brochures, have learned to pick out the serious ones.

Stan Addess, a salesman for Bay Yacht Agency in Annapolis, said the easiest way is to watch what they do.

"People who open the top hatch on the engine in the stateroom are serious buyers," he said, watching the 52-footer, adding that those who open the closet are not.

Many brokers also say serious buyers are more likely to come on "VIP day" -- the eve of the official opening -- or as the show opens or just before it closes.

Asking for a brochure doesn't mean much to brokers.

Aboard the Privilege 51, a $720,000 catamaran equipped with a windsurfer, 14-foot dinghy and water skis, sales representatives managed the throngs of people passing through while others waited in line outside. Salesman Tucker West estimated that more than 700 people had passed through the boat by midafternoon -- just three of them serious buyers by his account.

"Buyers go right into detail," Tucker said.

Jim Perrie, owner of A-1 sailboats, said sometimes it's easier to pick out buyers by their clothes.

"Stereotypically, of course, a serious sailor looking to buy will be wearing khaki shorts with no socks," he said.

And on top?

"Something with a little alligator on it."

The show runs through today, and will be open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children under 12.

Pub Date: 10/12/97

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