Visiting the Annapolis Sailboat Show
Visiting the Annapolis Sailboat Show

Getting There

We drove our motorcoach down to Annapolis Columbus day weekend for the 2019 United States Sailboat Show. We discussed in the past two posts the various boats we were interested in looking at while we were there. So here goes our recap of visiting the Annapolis sailboat show.

For starters, the show typically runs for about a week if you include the ancillary events like Cruisers University, etc. The actual show usually runs Thursday through Monday with Thursday being a preview day with a separate ticket. Working people’s obligations prevented us from leaving until Friday. Our school-age child had no school Friday or Monday forcing our hand in taking Friday and Monday off from work.

We hit the road a little late and by the time we had doubled back for our current registration (RV didn’t get much use this year), stopped to weigh the coach (wanted to check pressures on new tires), and fueled up it was about 11:00 am when we hit the highway. It always seems to take about 10% longer to get places when driving the motorcoach than what GPS predicts. We made it to the nearest Walmart to Annapolis at about 9:00 pm after some traffic and highway closures.

We took our time heading out Saturday morning eating a “power breakfast” of junk food bought from Walmart as a thank you for using the parking lot for the night. We made the twenty-minute drive to the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium and arrived at about 9:00 am. We were charged double the advertised rate of $10 due to being a large motorcoach and occupying two spaces. I didn’t really have a problem paying $20 for parking, but it would have been nice to know ahead of time. On the other hand, the parking lot was maybe 1/3 full, at best at the peak, so it was a little excessive to charge us for two spots.

The show provides free bus service from the stadium to the city dock area with several stops around the show. There were maybe a dozen busses in service and spares were lined up 3-4 deep to pick people up. The busses are efficient and convenient with little waiting time including return service. We walked onto a waiting bus each time we needed one.

Checking Into the Show

This was our first time visiting the annapolis sailboat show. We arrived at the show gate by 9:30 am without drama. We wanted to get there early in case there was a line. We had purchased our tickets electronically ahead of time and so needed only join already a long queue to get in. As 10:00 am approached, the show personnel began working thier way down the line scanning tickets and issuing wrist bands, a practice repeated each day of the show. At 10:00 am sharp, the crowd was allowed to enter the show grounds and all made haste to thier desired destinations.

Day one, for us, was to be spent looking at catamarans. We were targeting boats in the 40-50 foot range primarily. We had an overly optimistic plan to look at about 22 boats. I think we may have done half that, 13 if I recall correctly. We could have easily spent thirty-plus minutes per boat if the demands of our kids had not been an issue. I think we averaged about fifteen minutes per boat overall.

At about 3:00 pm our kids had been pushed to thier limits and pressing further would certainly have turned into fits and scenes. We decided to make to shore and grab a seat for an afternoon rest and reward. To our surprise, making our way to town was a bit of an adventure. Thanks to an off-shore storm and an astronomically driven high tide, several of the bridges had become awash with seawater. They were still easily passable, but not without getting your feet wet. Many of the vendors on land had already moved up onto pallets and the raised walkways earlier in the day, but now there were folks up to thier shins in water by thier displays.

Our first attempt to leave took us through the big tent. Part of the tents’ “s” path had become awash as well. We took a little detour behind one row-end to get past and found the tent exit easily six inches deep with seawater. Doubling back, we made our way down around the bottom of the city dock area walking along the concrete seawall. We were halted three-quarters of the way down by a waving show worker telling us to turn back. Our third attempt was an alley of vendors not far from the big tent and this finally led us ashore with dry feet.

To reward our two well-behaved children and the two well-behaved adults escorting them, we stopped at The Federal House on Market Space for icecream and beer. Sufficiently rested, we made our way to a waiting shuttle at the traffic circle that took us efficiently back to the stadium. We boarded the motorcoach and made a stop for some groceries before retiring at our local Walmart again for the night

The next morning, we arrived back at the stadium to find that the other motorcoach that had parked next to us yesterday seemed to have stayed the night in the stadium parking lot saving themselves the $20 for second-day parking (insider tip). Once again, the busses were quick and efficient getting us to the show by 9:30 am again. This time, the queue was significantly shorter. I estimate we were only 1/3 the line as Saturday at 9:30 am. Tickets again scanned and new wristbands adorned, we made our way back into the show at 10:00 am sharp again.

Day two for us was planned to be spent looking at monohull sailboats. In particular, we wanted to check out the center cockpit models on display. It’s is our current near-term plan to move up from Belle to a forty-five-foot class center cockpit cruiser and then move up to a catamaran when we are no longer expecting to be tied to a slip as our primary berthing.

We had also hoped to visit a fair number of rear cockpit boats for comparison. However, our plans were again a bit too optimistic. We did see all the center cockpit yachts on display, including the lux Hylas 63 with is solid wire rigging. We also visited the Southerly 48 with its rear master stateroom located under a well laid out rear cockpit. A solid and desireable boat were it not for the hefty price tag. The extremely personable staff at Tartan across the way helped us get on board the Southerly (staff was below decks with noses in laptops when we arrive) so we felt obliged to tour thier yachts as well. We have to give a shout out to these folks representing Tartan as being, by far, the most welcoming and friendly of any of the yachts we toured. I wish they had brought thier 5300 to the show, being thier center cockpit offering.

The other rear cockpit boat we wanted to see was the Wauquiez pilot saloon with its rear master stateroom and big saloon windows. Alas, they were more interested in thier schedule and convenience and were only taking visitors by appointment. The next appointment being late-afternoon, long after our kids would be done for the day and after we would need to hit the road to make our reservation before dark, we declined and moved on to more welcoming displays.

The last boat of the day was the Amel 50 that we had to hunt for. The show documentation, a mere suggestion we found, said they would be out by the Oyster. They were, in actuality, tied up in a corner by themselves behind the Hendricks tent. To me, the Amel had the finest interior. Admittedly, I did not spend much time opening doors and looking in drawers at the joinery. However, you don’t have to look far past the end of your nose to start noticing things like leatherette faced doors and built-in window shades. It’s unbelievable how few boats have built-in window shades. Especially those with windows oriented in any way toward the sky.

As we emerged from the cabin of the Amel, we found the sky had begun to fall. Our kids were long done with the escapade and we had a reservation on the beach in Assateague some two and a half hours drive from Annapolis to which we preferred to arrive in daylight. As such, at about 3:00 pm we ducked out of the rain and into the waiting shuttle bus to return to our motorcoach.

Summary and suggestions for your visit

Looking back, we had a great time visiting the Annapolis sailboat show. I wish we had more time to visit. We love our children dearly and are glad to have been able to share this experience with them. I am certain they will cherish the memories later in life despite thier complaints at the moment. I can still recall visiting boat shows with my parents some 30 years ago. That said, it would have been a lot easier and more productive without them. We were time-limited in three significant ways.

  1. The children grew bored and restless if we lingered in one area of a boat (besides the trampolines of the cats, who doesn’t want to lounge up there?) for more than a few moments.
  2. Kids have to move, so we had to keep walking and this meant moving on to the next boat sooner than we were wanting. We could easily have spent thirty minutes or more on most boats. And apart from the first two, we only spent 5-10 minutes aboard each.
  3. The kids have a cumulative daily tolerance for the repetitive nature of boat visiting. I’m sure in thier eyes most of these boats were nearly the same. In reality, they are. They also have much shorter legs and what and adult can cover in ten thousand steps is double that, or more, of what a child can do. So we found thier limit, without excessive breakdowns, was about five hours per day and I’m not sure how well a third day would have gone.

We spent almost no time at all exploring the vendor tents ashore and I wish this were not the case. There were a lot of great vendors from whom we’ve purchased goods in the past with thier products on display. We did stop at a select few that happened to be on our way somewhere else but I’m sure we could have learned a lot more had we the time to explore the vendors.

With the above two paragraphs reflecting a common theme, I’ll close with the recommendation that you spend more than two days visiting the Annapolis sailboat show. This year’s show ran Thursday through Monday. You might not need all those days, but I’d suggest at least three unless you only have a select few boats you want to see. If we did not have the time limitations discussed above, we could have seen all the boats we wanted to visit in the two days. But we still would not have had time for the vendor tents. So in retrospect, I would dedicate a whole day just for wandering the vendor tents.

Let us know what you thought of the show and if you have any tips for visiting the Annapolis sailboat show as we will certainly be visiting again soon!

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