At the Annapolis Boat Show, the motors take over City Dock

ON THE WATER

The yielding of the yachts On the water

October 12, 2005|By ANNIE LINSKEY

Watching the U.S. Boat Show "changeover" from the crowd feels a bit like seeing the changing of the guard at Buckingham Place. Nearly every spectator is there - at least in part - to see if anyone messes up.

Hundreds lined Annapolis' dockside bars Monday as about 250 sailboats motored away from their temporary slips to make room for the powerboats, which will be on display tomorrow through Sunday.

Getting out is tricky. The boats, many longer than 40 feet, must be maneuvered through a maze of docks before reaching the open harbor. There are plenty of objects to crash into.

It took two hours and 40 minutes to clear out all the sailboats this year - so the boats were leaving at a rate of more than one a minute in very close quarters.

As a boat by Farr Yacht Design moved precariously close to another blue-hulled vessel, a collective "oooooooh" came from the crowd. With what looked like inches to spare, the Farr yacht slipped past without scraping the other boat. The crowd cheered.

"It is one of those cult things," said Richard Price, 59, of Rockville, who was watching at Pusser's Annapolis Pub and Restaurant. "It gives you something to do while you are drinking."

Price was drinking beer, but the beverage of choice was a rum and fruit juice brew called a Painkiller.

All but two boats departed under power. Many went in backward because they didn't have enough room to turn around.

Skippers waved their arms to work up the crowd. Some throttled their engines, speeding out of the marina.

The highlight came when two J/Boats left the dock under sail. Monday night's conditions did not make sailing easy - there was almost no wind, and the boats had to weave between the docks going downwind. Both boats did two jibes with their spinnakers up.

"That is known as showboating," explained Rick Franke, a spokesman for the event.

The changeover is, in fact, a highly organized event. A thick three-ring binder of instructions details what is supposed to happen minute to minute.

During the boat show, many of the yachts on display are trapped in their slips by docks on all sides. In order to get the boats out, docks must be removed, then the boats leave, then the motorboats go in and the docks are put back.

"It all starts to come apart simultaneously," Franke said. "It is almost like a military operation."

The changeover is necessary, Franke said, because there is not enough space in Annapolis to have the sailboat show and the powerboat show at the same time.

A major part of the spectator fun is getting a good place to stand. People crowded on the docks. One woman squatted on a second-story ledge. Others crowded onto the stairs.

"We know through the years that people don't want to lose their spot," said Laurel Sands, a waitress who came around to take drink orders from people standing on the stairs. "There is cheering going on, and we circulate with the Painkillers."

Almost everyone in the mostly over-40 crowd wore brightly colored foul-weather gear.

At Pusser's, two youths wearing baggy jeans and oversized polo shirts were in charge of keeping people off the stairs. Nobody paid much attention to them.

Nobody paid much attention to the disc jockey, either. He yelled: "How many of you have been to the Virgin Islands?" And then: "How many of you are planning on going to the Virgin Islands?" There was no answer.

Instead, all eyes were on the gleaming boats as they paraded out.

Greg Marsh, 59, watched the yachts from a good second-floor spot and said: "It would be interesting to have a calculator and know how much money is going around that curve."

His wife, Leslie, 57, answered: "Millions and millions."

annie.linskey@baltsun.com

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