Bob Crain hopes he never sees another storm like Tropical Storm Isabel.
Crain has worked at the boat shows in Annapolis since he was a kid riding around in a golf cart handing out brochures. The events’ longest-serving employee recalls one of the more memorable moments as he gears up for the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show that kicks off Friday:
“It put City Dock and all our electrical apparatus underwater. I came downtown and walked the bulkhead around City Dock and it was underwater — tough time for an electrician,” said Crain, now 62, who lives on Whitehall Bay outside Annapolis.
“It was dangerous. With the help of the city electrical inspector, public works and what I call BGE’s assault team, who made sure all our underwater transformers worked, we got the show up and running in three weeks.”
Crain worked the country’s first in-water boat show in Annapolis in 1970. Nearly 50 years later, he’s one of the shows’ five ownership partners, and weather and safety are still his biggest concerns.
“We’ve seen the good and the bad,” he said. “Great weather and dangerous conditions. But it’s show business and the show must go on.”
It is a high-voltage affair.
Crain and his crews lay down well over 100,000 feet of cable for the bigger fall shows. “It used to be about 27,000 feet. And each cable has four wires in it.”
His company, Applied Lighting Services, keeps busy year round providing light and power to festivals like the Chesapeake Bay Blues Festival at Sandy Point and the holiday Lights on the Bay Festival. The work takes him to Washington and New York, too. He has also worked as technical director for Annapolis Opera Company, stage lighting for Annapolis Ballet and Summer Garden Theater.
“I am a behind-the-scenes guy. You only notice what I do if something goes wrong,” he said. “Besides, they have not been able to find anyone cheaper than I to do the job.”
Crain and the show’s other partners have a lot in store for what they call the year’s first big opportunity to gather with other sailors.
“Every boat show is different,” said show manager Sheila Jones. “This spring has many new boat models, catamarans, some new booth exhibitors and great music.”
Here’s what to know before you go:
The Spring Sailboat Show is a chance for potential boat buyers to kick the tires on new boat designs. But there are also classes and in-water demonstrations all weekend, plus a wide variety of vendors selling gear, shades, boat shoes and more.
This year’s Spring Sailboat Show has a few new twists including a VIP lounge, new boat exhibitors and the premier of new boat designs from top manufacturers, plus entertainment. Smaller than the big fall boat shows, the Spring Sailboat Show, runs 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday. The show is concentrated along Ego Alley and Susan Campbell Park with far less temporary docking than it’s older siblings.
Both new and used boats including catamarans, monohulls, day sailers, family cruisers and blue water sailboats will be on display. Ego Alley will be filled with in-water boat demonstrations, for small sailboats, kayaks, board sailing, paddle boats and more. Show-goers can watch or, in some cases, take one of the small vessels for a short spin.
What’s new this year?
Smaller craft like the new Com Pac line of trailerable boats are making their first appearance at the show. Also new are BALI and St. Francis catamarans.
And the big manufacturers are debuting new models. Take Beneteau’s new 46.1 model, a medium blue water cruising vessel that Sailing World said “raised the bar significantly in the highly competitive melting pot of midsize family cruisers, in terms of both looks and performance.”
How much does it cost?
General admission is $12, and a two-day pass is $19. Children 12 and under are free.
VIP treatment with a cozy lounge, gourmet food and adult beverages is $65, $85 with reserved parking.
Classes and workshops come with additional fees.
What’s the entertainment lineup?
At noon on Saturday show-goers can take in the 4th Annual Junior Keelboat Regatta, pitting area high school sailing teams against one another.
The Entertainment Plaza in Susan Campbell Park features drink tastings from distilleries and wineries beginning at noon each day. Live music performances include the Bates School for Performing Arts Chorus and Jazz Ensemble, artists Shawn Owen, Malfunction, Souljourner, Arundel High School’s jazz ensemble and Fast as Lightning.
What kinds of classes and workshops are being offered?
Cruisers University, a hit at the fall boat shows, offers several classes. Cruisers workshops, like the popular Cruising Women class, cost from $275 for a one-day pass to $690 for a four-day pass.
The First Sail Workshop, offered daily at 9 and 11:15 a.m. and 1:15 and 3:30 p.m., gives boaters a hands-on sailing experience, with 45 minutes of classroom tips followed by 90 minutes on the water on a Beneteau 22. First Sail Workshops are $65, including entry to the show.
Where do you park?
Show attendees are encouraged to park at Navy-Marine Corps Stadium, 550 Taylor Ave., and take the free bus to and from the show. Parking is also available at Eastport Elementary School, 405 6th St. 100% of the parking fees benefit the school.
Any tips for first-timers?
It’s a rain-or-shine event, so be prepared for any kind of weather, foul weather gear to sunblock.
Where can I find more information?
Visit annapolisboatshows.com, or call 410-268-8828.