Fledgling boat show gains a following

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A week after Tropical Storm Ernesto blasted through Hampton Roads, dumping almost a foot of rain and forcing the cancellation of several events, the second edition of the Virginia In-Water Boat Expo ran as scheduled.

A week after Tropical Storm Ernesto blasted through Hampton Roads, dumping almost a foot of rain and forcing the cancellation of several events, the second edition of the Virginia In-Water Boat Expo ran as scheduled, Sept. 8 to 10 in Norfolk under mostly clear skies and mild temperatures.

Held hard by Mile Marker 0 of the Intracoastal Waterway at Norfolk’s Waterside Marina and the adjoining Town Point Park, this year’s show featured 160 boats in the water and another 200 displayed in the park. This year an additional 5 acres were opened up for land-based exhibits. With boats ranging from 9 to 70 feet and prices from $300 to more than $2 million there was a hull for everyone.

Centurion Boats’ towboat with NASCAR graphics was a big crowd-pleaser in this southern city. On the other end of the spectrum, the Grand Banks 47 had visitors more than willing to take their shoes off for a peek below deck.

The Hatteras 54 Convertible was a big hit with the fishermen, as was the extensive Grady-White exhibit. Mono- and multihull sailboats also made a good showing this year.

Among the non-boat exhibitors, Hurricane Hoops — piling rollers that maintain line tension during hurricane conditions — was receiving plenty of attention from the residents of the hurricane-prone mid-Atlantic.

While Day 1 viewer traffic was light, the two ensuing weekend days attracted strong patronage. The total attendance figure of more than 8,000 repeated the number for the 2005 show, even though last year’s event had the extra draw of the now-rescheduled Annual Seafood Festival.

One first-time exhibitor was well-known Hampton Roads sailing enthusiast Dave Wilbar, base manager for SailTime, Virginia Beach. His company offers a program of fractional ownership for people who want to enjoy most of the benefits of owning a sailboat without the major capital outlays and time-consuming maintenance. SailTime also offers ASA-certified sailing classes, and Dave reported more than 50 strong requests for that endeavor.

Ron Mongeau with the Yacht Center out of Kent Narrows, Md., said he likes what he sees at the event.

“The show has potential to grow and we look forward to attending every year,” he said. Mongeau also reported gathering many strong leads during the show. www.virginiaboatexpo.com