Calling all boat lovers on deck

ON THE WATER

October 05, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY

Thierry Torres sailed through a hurricane to deliver a 44-foot catamaran from France to Annapolis this week.

"It was either go through the winds or miss the boat show," he said after lowering himself from the boat's mast where he was adjusting the rigging.

Torres, a native of Brittany, France, rode out Hurricane Philippe sitting on the boat's flying bridge, which is an open deck with a steering wheel. He didn't dare strap himself down to the deck with a lifeline - "If you capsize, it's a trap," he said.

Most workers setting up for the U.S. Boat Show in Annapolis this week did not have such heroic tales to tell, but many of the major manufacturers hawking their yachts agreed that having a presence at the annual show is essential.

"If you are an exhibitor selling a boat or a product, you cannot miss this show," said Tim Dowling, an operations manager with the show. "A large number of people who come to this show are interested in buying something."

Organizers expect 100,000 people to visit the boat show over two weeks, which exhibits sailboats tomorrow through Oct. 10 and then switches to a powerboat show from Oct. 13 through Oct. 16.

Because the show is so big, and so complicated, Dowling and his teams of organizers didn't have much time to chat.

"Basically we're converting downtown Annapolis into a 500- slip marina," he said. He was spotted later balancing on a wobbly dock, directing a crew where to pound down a temporary piling.

There will be 250 sailboats and 500 motorboats for sale, said Rick Franke, a show spokesman.

Before they can be sold, they must be polished.

Jack Heffner, a co-owner of Gratitude Yachting Center in Rock Hall, kneeled on the teak deck of a 49-foot-long sailboat, scrubbing the port window with marine fiberglass wax.

"If you think you're done, you're not ready," he said, with sweat beading on his forehead. "There is always one more thing to polish - or something to clean."

Not all the owners prepare their own boats. A team of boat cleaners wearing matching blue shirts sprayed and polished the boats.

"They do a major cleaning before the show - then they come back every night and spiff everything up," said Glenn Winter, 58, a New Jersey-based dealer for Catalina Yachts.

You'd think a brand new yacht wouldn't need much spiffing up - but you'd be wrong.

Many of the boats were coated with salt, scuffed from dark-soled shoes and strewn with wrenches, hoses and empty plastic bags.

Winter said an interior decorator would come aboard later to, among other things, arrange gold-trimmed throw pillows in the cabin.

While he chatted, his co-workers were busy hoisting colorful flags and banners on the rigging and rolling out carpet on the docks.

"You want to dress the boat up and make it look nice," he said.

The strategy works. He said that in previous years they've sold 70 to 80 boats at the show. Their boats go from $5,000 for a dinghy to $350,000 for a 40-plus-foot yacht.

But there is also a lot of industry schmoozing that goes on. "There are lots of parties. It is really a giant rendezvous for the sailing industry," Winter said.

Of course the tens of thousands of nonindustry types will be tramping on and off the boats every day.

And despite the hopes of the organizers and dealers, many will be coming for voyeuristic reasons.

Watt Wood, 59, stood on a sturdy Montgomery 17 and explained the appeal of the show:

"You can step aboard vessels you could never afford."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

Boat shows

What:

The United States Sailboat and United States Powerboat Show in Annapolis

When:

A preview for the sailboat show is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. tomorrow. General admission to the sailboat show is 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday -Sunday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Oct. 10. The preview for the powerboat show is 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 13. General admission is 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Oct. 14 through Oct. 15 and 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Oct. 16.

Where:

Annapolis City Dock.

Cost:

Admission on preview days is $30. General admission is $14 for adults and $7 for children 12 and under in advance; and $16 for adults and $8 for children the day of the event.

Information:

Call 410-267-6711 for tickets; 410-268-8828 for general information or visit usboat.com.

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