Boat show offers thrills even for the land-locked

With attractions that include a world champion water skier, a speedboat that can make it from Baltimore to Annapolis in just over 14 minutes and photo opportunities with Capt. Jack Sparrow, you don't have to be in the market for a boat to enjoy this weekend's Baltimore Boat Show, organizers say.

You don't even have to be a big fan of the water, says show coordinator Tara Davis. "It's cool just to see over 200 boats jammed into a convention center," she said Wednesday from the show floor, as workers prepared for the opening. "It's a marvel to realize how it all gets in here."

The show, which runs through Sunday, offers even landlubbers the chance to try out their nautical skills and make like mariners, if only for an afternoon.

"We have this powerboat docking challenge, where we set you up on a time trial to see how quickly you can dock the boat," she said. True, the actual danger is minimal, given it's all done on dry land, using remote controls to guide a miniature boat. But prizes will be given away to the best dockers, and there will be a certain amount of public humiliation for those who fail.

"There are whistles and bells and buzzers that go off," Davis says. "You get a penalty if you bump into the side."

Also at the show, a hands-on educational area includes a boating simulator, where potential ship's captains can, thanks to computer wizardry, see just how well they could handle what Mother Nature can dish out.

"It's pretty realistic," Davis said. "We can set up different weather scenarios, with waves and wind, to create a very realistic simulation to being at the helm of the boat."

Other show attractions include seminars from 26-time U.S. National water-ski champion April Coble, a crab-picking contest and multiple prize drawings. Kids can try their hands at a scavenger hunt and pose for pictures alongside Capt. Jack Sparrow from "Pirates of the Caribbean" or Aang from "The Last Airbender."

And everyone, Davis notes, can be impressed by the Miss GEICO, a neon-green, four-time world champion catamaran that may be the most recognized powerboat in the world. It has raced on the Chesapeake Bay, Davis said, and is capable of making it from Baltimore to Annapolis in less time than it takes to fill a cruise ship's gas tank.

"It's a pretty quick run," Davis said.

If you go

The 2012 Progressive Insurance Baltimore Boat Show runs through Sunday at the Baltimore Convention Center, 1 W. Pratt St. Hours are 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. Tickets are $10 for adults, free for kids 15 and under. Information:

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