Shifting the boat show in Annapolis from sails to motors requires a delicate dance

ON THE WATER

October 16, 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 Palace. Nearly every spectator is there - at least in part - to see whether 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 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 all of 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 "ooh" 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 brew of rum and fruit juice called a Painkiller.

All but two boats departed under power. Many went 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," said Rick Franke, a spokesman for the event. "You noticed they got the biggest cheers from the crowd."

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

"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.

Greg Marsh, 59, watching the yachts from a good second-floor spot, 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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