The Annapolis Sailboat Show – The world’s largest and oldest in-the-water Sailboat Show – as their website proudly declares, set in what the locals will quickly point out is the sailing mecca of North America. Staged right in the middle of downtown Annapolis with everything this little community has to offer – there is something fun and crowded going on both inside and outside the show grounds that will meet anyone’s needs.
Many Ballardites know the story of why there are so many bars in Ballard, the Church to Bar equation, but here in Annapolis they take this to an entirely new level, never mind the churches, I think there is a bar for every mooring ball out in the harbor! Then they threw in a couple extra bars for the boats tied up on Ego Alley, the center and starting point for the floating boat show. Needless to say it’s a fun place to be for a boat show.
Yes, the show is big, both with its land booths and in the water boats. On land you’ll find a myriad of booths selling everything from nautical pillows to jewelry to nautical dog wear and nautical themed plates and clothing. You’ll find the standard sailmakers and riggers, safety gear peddlers and chart salesmen. The difference is that you will find brands and manufacturers that don’t regularly make the long trip out to our neck of the woods. The mast manufacturers are here with a booth and technical advisors to discuss your rig and rigging. The electric motor companies are here and have their engineers on hand to answer the most difficult technical question.
That is the next biggest difference I found with the land side booths – the level of knowledge on the products was not just coming from a salesman who’s taken a product knowledge course but from engineers and technical people from the manufacturer who really understand both what the product can and can’t do but how it actually does it, because they built or engineered it. No offense to all those salesmen out there (I’m one) but these engineers and techs are the guys that really know it. I spent half a day speaking with people of this type and walked away with an amazing understanding of the product they were peddling.
One of which really stood out to me and you must take the time to check it out. It’s a company from the UK called Sailmon. I assume its a compilation of the words Sailing and Monitor because that’s exactly what it is, Sailing Monitors. This stuff can do everything you’ve ever wanted your sailing displays to do and it can do it with your current senders or theirs. Got NMEA2000 – you are in (don’t? They have a bypass for that). These displays are the size of your largest tablet, fully waterproof and can be mounted at the mast, or really anywhere else on the boat you want. You control the information and how it’s displayed on your laptop or tablet (any platform) and the displays brightness will adjust down at night so you can still get your information and see that particular star in the sky at the same time. Pirate mode puts up your standard old compass rose and Mark Twain information (I really wish it could talk to you, Arrrr matey.) but you can break the information out on the screen to be one giant number or down into 32 or more information boxes.
It’s an amazing piece of machinery that I’m only touching on a small number of things it can do. You can put in your polar information and with its wireless box can have that information on any piece of equipment you have with wifi – got a new wireless watch? That’ll work. Password protected information organized and displayed however you want it and with a staggering accuracy rate that keeps your boats information current and fluid and in your face, no matter what angle to the screen you are looking at it – really, from the side you can still read the numbers. Check out Sailmon.
Now for the floating show – and yes, it’s big too, there are a lot of sailboats here and all the modern standbys are in attendance but with more models. The uniqueness of this show hits you the minute you step onto the docks; there is a basin of charter boats displayed by their parent companies. No, you can’t take them out for a sail, but you can get aboard and walk the boat that you may want to charter. Take a look at its storage space and equipment, reducing the chances of surprises when you step aboard after your long flight to the Caribbean.
Then over to one of, I’m guessing here, the oldest standbys of the floating show, J Boats. Designs that have consistently stood the test of time along with the tests of Mother Nature and race courses around the world. On hand were models we don’t get to see much of in the PNW, the J/95 daysailor/weekender with its twin rudders and shallow draft, the J/88 Oceanvolt with its emission free designation and the J/97e with its complete performance cruising package in a 31.5’ boat. Along with the J/70 and J/122e the J Boats centerpiece the entrance on Ego Alley and lead you out to the 3 basins of new boats.
All the modern standbys quickly jump out at you as you step further out the docks, the Jeanneau’s and Beneteau’s, the Bavaria’s and Dufour’s. The full complement of Hanses along with a surprising large fleet of Catalinas, surprising to me, as they are so far from what I think of their home waters, on our side of the world. Unique to these modern standbys at the Annapolis boat show is that entire fleets are represented along with new bigger and smaller models than we have ever seen in the PNW. You step onto the dealers raft and are met with a gaggle of beautiful coeds asking you how they can help you get aboard one of their boats. They sure know how to draw you in and make you feel welcome but no fear, in the background are the sales men and women who have the answers to any and all the questions you have. Surprisingly, if you’ve been to a few shows in the PNW and have taken the time to meet and talk with the local salespeople you will find many of them amongst the staff on the rafts, ready to make you feel welcome so far away from home. I was generally surprised by this and it did have the effect of making me want to stay, talk with them a few minutes and truly made me feel welcome in this mecca the locals are so proud of.
Mixed in amongst the large flotillas of modern standby’s you’ll find some very unique monohull designs, boats like the Salona, Italia, Allure, Oyster, or X Yachts and they will draw you in with their special characteristics and amazing build quality and then you come across those beautiful pieces of art, the Alerion Yachts. With their flagship, the Alerion Cruising 41 on hand and their most popular model, the Alerion Express 28 alongside I found myself standing on the dock with an ear to ear grin as I took in their beauty. Then at the other end of the raft, presenting a dichotomy in purpose, sat the new C&C 30 One Design, as robust and high performance as a 30 foot modern race boat can be.
The Annapolis boat show allows you to compare all those little sportsters you’ve been drooling over while sitting at your desk all year. You can see the difference between the capable sport boats and the inshore buoy racers. Yes they look the same in pictures but once you step aboard it’s immediately apparent which boats can handle distance racing and which you should keep the marina in sight with. Along with the C&C 30 OD there was the Farr 280, the Far East 28, the Seascapes, the B One and even the Catalina 275. Each is built for a different purpose and it was surprising to see the different build philosophies, structures and capabilities of each boat. Then you walked out to the end of the dock and found their big sister.
The HH42, an IRC machine and a type of boat you never see in one of our boats shows out west. One could call it a forty two foot TP52 but they would miss all the extra structure that makes this boat so amazing offshore. Really she is just a big C&C 30 One Design that crushes it in the IRC fleets – I went back to this boat twice….and the second time I stood on the bow, looked forward and was face to face to one of the most radical modern boats on the market today – the G4. Gunboats foiling 40’ catamaran. Yes, absolutely I jumped aboard it and walked all over it, sat with the helm in my hand and tried to imagine floating on air at 30 knots – A-mazing boat. Really a Corvette in an RV show, this thing is truly awe inspiring to behold.
If you are a multi-hull aficionado then the Annapolis boat show will make you drool. Astern of the G4 was a bigger Gunboat and then inside the basin was every type of trimaran and catamaran you could want. Big cruising Lagoons, quick nimble Dragonflys and more. As a single planker I didn’t spend time aboard in the multi-hull basin but if that is your thing, the Annapolis boat show is the place you need to be.
Central on the East Coast, the Annapolis Boat show is well worth the trip to view the myriad of sailboats along with spending the time talking with the manufacturers and experts that make the effort to attend the largest and oldest floating boat show in the world. Set it a town with some amazing bars and restaurants the Annapolis Sailboat Show easily becomes a destination vacation that will keep everyone entertained.