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Boat show bookends

As you might imagine, the best part of my job involves looking at and thinking about boats. The frustrating part of my job is I get to do that much less than you might imagine because a desk job is a desk job is a desk job. I wind up thinking about serial commas, ledes, contracts and invoices, covers, writer assignments, photo searches and lower back pain much more than I do boats, alas. And yet each month the smoldering ember that drives the whole process forward is a shared obsession with the world of watercraft: How can we create a well-balanced, beautiful, authoritative magazine that you will love, on budget and on deadline? Well, we like a challenge, and luckily, we never lack for ideas.

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Every now and then, I also get out of the office to look at and think about boats. As I write, I am about to hit the docks at the 31st Annual Palm Beach International Boat Show. It’s one of the top five shows in the country and features more than $1.2 billion worth of boats and accessories from the world’s leading marine manufacturers — from 8-foot inflatables to superyachts over 150 feet. There are brokerage yachts, tents full of the latest vessel systems, electronics and accessories, seminars and on-water demonstrations.

It’s easy to become overwhelmed, especially on a tight schedule. I tackle it much the way I handle a great museum. If I wander in without a plan, I will get sucked in and inadvertently spend my time looking at Medieval armor, early Dutch ceramics and ancient dukduk masks from Papua New Guinea — all fascinating in their own way — but what I really wanted to see was a retrospective of Abstract Expressionist work. Digressions can be very rewarding, but if I miss the main event my primary feelings will be regret and frustration.

This is why it’s important not to spend too much time looking at sunglasses or super-yachts if I want to know what’s happening in the world of center consoles and Down East builds. It’s important to have a plan that starts with the essentials and leaves time for happy accidents later. I realized a long time ago that less is more when it comes to boat shows.

In Palm Beach, I’m planning to learn more about the new Bertram 35, see the Hinckley Talaria 34 Runabout, the Vicem 65 (a girl can dream!) and an interesting new design from Finland, the Axopar 37. I also look forward to seeing what Reliant Yachts and a few others have been up to.

In the morning I fly to Portland, Maine, for the Maine Boatbuilders Show. In addition to some of the most beautiful boats in the country, there will be antique tools, charts, lumber and old-school building products (is that oakum I smell?) as well as fiberglass building supplies and technologies on display. These two shows are about as different as Palm Beach and Portland, so the contrast will be fun.

In Maine, I’m looking forward to seeing production builds from Back Cove, Hunt Yachts, the Hinckley Co. and Southport. And boats from smaller builders such as John Williams Boat Co., Artisan Boatworks, SW Boatworks, Padebco and Wilbur Yachts.

The only drawback to seeing so many pretty boats is that they tend to make me yearn for a dock and one of each, please. But daydreaming is good — it’s the next best thing to being out on the water, and it beats the heck out of editing copy and writing captions ­— or whatever it is you do to make a living — until we can all get underway again.

This article originally appeared in the May 2016 issue.