Rain doesn't dampen Newport show

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Serious boaters come out no matter the weather, say attendees at the September show

Serious boaters come out no matter the weather, say attendees at the September show

Attendees and exhibitors came out in force, rain or shine, for the 35th Annual Newport International Boat Show. The show, held Sept. 15-18 at the Newport Yachting Center, kicked off in pouring rain but ended in sunshine.

“I was so grateful to wake up to sun on Saturday,” said show director Nancy Piffard. “Everyone’s spirits were up to see it clear. It was just a better weekend than we thought.”

There were more than 650 boats in the water for the show, and smaller boats were displayed on land. “The show is definitely growing with more exhibitors each year,” said Piffard.

Bob and Ginny Martin of Norwalk, Conn., were checking out new gadgets and accessories at one of the show’s estimated 400 exhibitor booths on opening day. The rain did not faze the sailing couple.

“We’ve gone down Long Island Sound in the same thing,” said Bob Martin, who is 62.

Ted Loebenberg, who was in Newport working as a show ambassador, said that is the nature of the experience.

“It’s a boating show, not a home show,” said the Providence resident. “These are the elements, so you’ve got to be prepared. You’re going to deal with life’s inconveniences.”

The rain came down so hard the first afternoon that the large display tents were flooding. Show producers tracked the weather constantly, including keeping an eye on remnants of Hurricane Katrina.

“Our No. 1 concern was safety the whole time,” said show director Piffard. “We were right on the weather, and things weren’t looking as bad as the news can portray, and luckily it turned out for the best.”

The dates of the show — the second Thursday after Labor Day — can cause problems each year, said David Currier, of Hydra-Sports dealer Ocean House Marina in Charlestown, R.I.

“What do you expect of a show during hurricane season?” asked Currier, from Ocean House’s in-water display.

Piffard said there is not a lot of wiggle room with the dates, and moving it forward or backward slightly would still leave it in hurricane season.

“It’s the height of hurricane season,” admitted Piffard. “The history of the show is 35 years old, and the dates are sort of set in history. You certainly don’t want [the show] to take place during another show on the East Coast.”

Show producers hosted a press conference on opening day. Speakers included Rhode Island’s Gov. Donald Carcieri; Steve Tadd, head of the National Marine Manufacturers Association’s Grow Boating Initiative; and professor Isaac Ginnis, a physical oceanographer from the University of Rhode Island’s Graduate School of Oceanography. Ginnis said improved equipment and a better computer model created by researchers at the school have helped the National Hurricane Center improve the accuracy of hurricane forecasting.

Heavy rain during the show was a blessing in disguise for Dartmouth, Mass., resident Gene Monteiro, 59.

“I’m kind of glad it rained, because if it hadn’t rained I’d be out sailing, so this is my chance to get to the show,” said Monteiro, who was looking for a new GPS chart plotter.

Jim Scoggins, a base manager with fractional sailing outfit SailTime, sold six subscriptions the first afternoon of the show, and spoke with another boater interested in being an owner in SailTime’s fleet.

“So I’d say it’s been a success, even on a rainy Thursday afternoon,” said Scoggins, who is based in West Mystic, Conn. SailTime will open a Newport base in May, he added.

While it was a little slow for boat dealers on the docks the first couple of rainy days, things picked up over the weekend.

“It was a great show for us,” said Dick Tuschick of Rhumb Line Yacht Sales, dealers of Camano trawlers and PDQ power cats. Rhumb Line, which has offices in Stuart, Fla., and Newburyport, Mass., was busy all four days, he said, and had a couple sea trials with serious customers. “The really interested people weren’t deterred by the rain.”