Smooth sailing for shows

Preview: Despite recent storm destruction in Annapolis, the sailboat and powerboat shows are going on. Hands-on experience is the shows' drawing card.

October 12, 2003|By Doug Beizer | Doug Beizer,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

When Hurricane Isabel slammed into the East Coast last month, organizers of the U.S. sailboat and powerboat shows feared the Annapolis event could be in jeopardy.

Despite significant destruction in parts of Annapolis, the city and the boat shows are ready for visitors, said Kathy Wood, president of the shows.

"We prepared for the storm, and had no loss of equipment or damage," said Rick Franke, a spokesman for the shows.

The show's 240 floating docks and 50 temporary pilings were kept safe on high ground and are now set up in their temporary home in Annapolis harbor. The more than 200 tents and 500 wooden floor sections were also intact after the storm, Franke said.

That's good news for the exhibitors who will bring more than 250 sailboats and nearly 500 powerboats to the harbor.

Morris Yachts, for example, is bringing one of its 48-foot vessels, and the plans for a 36-foot day/weekend boat the company hopes to have ready by summer, said Marnie Read, a spokeswoman for the company.

"The boat show is a great way for the builder to show what they're doing and get feedback from the customers," Read said.

"And it gives people a chance to go onboard these boats, which is better than looking at pictures on a Web site," she said. "They walk around, touch things, really get to know these boats."

Morris has already gotten good feedback on the 36-foot boat it's developing, she said. It's designed for short, or single-handed sailing.

The hands-on experience is what has kept the two shows - sailboat and powerboat - going for more than 30 years, Franke said.

"The shows started small, and when they started out, they were about the only shows in the water," Franke said. "And people liked that, and it helped people make up their minds about boats."

At this year's powerboat show, nearly 500 boats ranging from 17 feet to 70 feet are expected.

Cruisers Yachts is introducing its 455 Express Motoryacht, the big sister of its popular 405 model. Part of the crossover trend - boats that function like express cruisers, but still have spacious interiors - the 455 Express includes an L-shaped sofa and an extra-large refrigerator/freezer. The master suit has a queen-sized bed and a private head.

Global Yachts is unveiling the new Uniesse motor yacht to go along with the 55- and 72-foot versions.

Mirage Custom Boats will bring its new Pilot House 32 "Classic" to the powerboat show. The company calls it classic because of its interior package that includes mahogany trim and furnishings. A 230-gallon fuel tank gives the boat a range of more than 700 miles.

While many custom boat builders sell only a handful of vessels a year, they like the exposure shows provide, Franke said.

"Annapolis has the reputation of being a selling show. In other words, this is the one where people sign on the dotted line and buy the boats," Franke said. "And that's what these boat shows are all about, regardless of where they are."

However, buying a luxury yacht is not what draws most to the shows, Franke said.

"One is the entertainment factor. It is kind of neat to see a big boat like that," he said. "And, quite often, while looking at somebody else's large boat, owners will find ideas for their own boats - something similar they can do on their smaller boat."

This year's sailboat show will feature 34 boats in the 30- to 40-foot range, and 24 catamarans in the over-40-foot range.

Corsair will display its new 36-foot folding trimaran (looks like a single hull boat with two outriggers). The cabin sleeps six adults with a private aft cabin and a head/shower. A 6- or 8-cylinder vehicle can tow the boat.

J/Boats will bring its new J-133 boat, a 43-foot racer/cruiser, to the show.

Swedish builder Najad Yachts is introducing the Najad 400, a 40-foot sailboat.

On the smaller side, Vanguard Sailboats will be at the show with its well-known Sunfish and an 8-foot Pram.

Off the water in the nearby tents, the shows will feature exhibitors displaying boat accessories, electronics, clothes and other items.

For Franke, the show isn't just about dreaming about a bigger boat.

"I may come and drool over this 65-footer, and then I'll go back into the tent and I'll buy a new GPS for my boat, or buy a CD-ROM chart program for my onboard electronic chart kit."

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