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Sun shines on both Annapolis boat shows

“I don’t recall a time in the history of the shows when we went completely without rain for the entire two weeks,” says Jim Barthold, general manager of the two shows. “That helped a lot.

Seasoned Annapolis marine surveyor Fred Hecklinger stood on the floating dock on the port side of a 50-plus-foot trawler on the first afternoon of the United States Power Boat Show in Annapolis and wondered aloud: How, were you handling lines in the yacht’s cockpit, would you go forward should that be necessary? Indeed, the shiny white port side of the trawler was a sheer wall from waterline to the second deck, with no place for a crewman between the bow and the stern.

Hecklinger’s question was answered when he walked along the dock to which the trawler was backed. A standard walkway led along the starboard side from the cockpit forward. By eliminating the port passageway, the trawler’s builder had added a couple of feet of width to the salon, a tradeoff that left the surveyor shaking his head.

If every boat is a compromise, there were 450 of them in the water of AnnapolisHarbor during the four days of the show, Oct. 11 to 14. There were another 200 powerboats displayed on shore in the second of two weeks of nearly perfect boat show weather.

“I don’t recall a time in the history of the shows when we went completely without rain for the entire two weeks,” says Jim Barthold, general manager of the two shows. “That helped a lot. Attendance at the sailboat show was slightly up over last year, and any increase we thought was a plus.”

Visitors to the sailboat show, which ran Oct. 4 to 8, encountered blazing midday heat that turned some of the exhibition tents into saunas. “The powerboat show was also up over last year, and it enjoyed ideal weather,” Barthold notes. “Cool and breezy and clear.”

“Anecdotal evidence from the exhibitors was that they did pretty well,” Barthold says.

That was particularly true for the high end of the boating marketplace, he says. “It would be safe to say the top end of the industry continues to grow,” Barthold continues. “We had new-model introductions in every category of boats. But the high end — we’ve all heard this numerous times — the bigger boats seem to be the end of the industry that is growing the most.” That was born out in both shows by the presence of more bigger boats, he says. “Then again, the in-water format lends itself to the display of bigger boats.”

An informal count found that among 240 sailboats on display in the water, 16 yachts over 50 feet long were tied to the floating docks during the sailboat show. These included offerings as diverse as a Sun Odyssey 54 DS for $510,000 and a 76-foot Matrix Yachts catamaran with a cockpit 38 feet wide and a price tag in Capetown of $4.8 million, according to a deck hand in charge of helping prospective customers aboard.

Priced between these two was Ted Hood’s first Expedition 55, bearing his signature boat name — Robin — on its transom. Hood brought this boat to market without some of the planned features: A diesel-electric power plant (this one has a 300-hp diesel) and a revolutionary propulsion system that can be serviced out of the water, inside the boat. Neither upgrade was available when the Expedition was completed at the factory in Turkey. Hood said the retail price of the Expedition 55 is $2.2 million, although he would sell Robin for $1.7 million because he has too many boats already.

Juxtaposed with a Passport 515, a bright blue Laser Pico offered the ultimate in downsizing opportunity. According to a salesman under a nearby canopy, the Pico is the first rotomolded sailboat that is really stiff. At a little over $3,000 without the optional 12-square-foot jib, the Pico is presented as an ideal beginner’s boat thanks to its ease of handling and ability to withstand crash-and-burn sailing.

In addition to the sailboats in the water, there were 120 boats on land, according to Barthold. These included inflatable dinghies, kayaks and rowing boats.

While the high-rollers at the power boat show were enjoying fine cigars in luxury surroundings aboard huge expedition trawlers and convertibles, Gary W. Smith, a contractor from Maryland’s eastern shore, was waiting to show off a curious-looking craft parked on a tiny trailer. The CraigCat resembles an Everglades air boat. Riding on two rotomolded pontoons are two bucket seats in front of a 30-hp 4-stroke outboard.

Smith says the CraigCat has been around Florida for a decade. He saw one parked on the side of the road last spring near Baltimore, found out there was no dealer in Maryland, bought one of the boats and opened his own dealership in Cambridge, Md. He says the boat will do up to 30 knots in up to a foot-high chop. He hopes selling the boats will allow him to retire as a builder of 9,000-square-foot mansions in his booming home town.

A fully equipped CraigCat with convertible Bimini top, deluxe bucket seats, full remote with electric key start, twin 55-watt Halogen docking lights, NAV and anchor lights, AM/FM/CD Sony stereo, fishing rod holders, two storage compartments, a splash guard and a cooler will cost you over $10,000.