I find it impossible to believe that the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show opens tomorrow. The month has passed so quickly.

The Chesapeake Bay Boat Show is the proper name for what most of us call the Baltimore Boat Show. Originating in the Fifth Regiment Armory 37 years ago, the show, now much larger, is comfortably settled into the Baltimore Convention Center and Festival Hall.

Without a doubt, the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show sells more boats tocounty boaters than does any other show in the area.

Due to ceiling height limitations in the Convention Center, organizers can't get many big boats into the facility. Consequently, the event is known asa "small boat" show, which is the size most people can afford.

A fair number of boats will draw a 10 percent luxury tax for that portion of the price over $100,000, but the majority of the vessels will carry four-or five-digit price tags.

Much has been written about the depressed boating market. It's a good market if you are a potentialbuyer but not so good if you have a yard full of boats and are facing a Chapter 11.

I anticipate some amazing boat show specials this year. If you are in the market for a new boat, be prepared.

Since last August, everyone has been holding back. Christmas sales were a good example. The resolution of the gulf war probably will trigger a buying binge, as we breathe a sigh of relief. Prices will go back up quickly.

If you are serious about a new boat, now is an ideal time to act. Prices are low, and so is the cost of borrowing money.

TheChesapeake Bay Boat Show is also a neat place to go even if you are not in the market for a new boat. Besides the new, gleaming hunks of fiberglass, you will find all sorts of new hardware for your boat andaccessories that make boating easier and safer.

The show opens at11 a.m. tomorrow and runs through Feb. 3. The opening weekend is a fun time to go, but don't plan on seeing much. The crowds are heavy onthe weekends, especially the opening weekend.

Monday and Tuesday are the best days to see everything because the crowds are light. Youcan collect all the information you want without being pushed about.As the week goes on, the crowd increases, and then at the weekend you are up to large numbers again.

A good plan of attack would be goto the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show this weekend. Oooh and aaah at the new toys, get an idea of prices, and check on the cost of money with some of the money-lenders at the show. Consult your credit union Monday for its rates. Then go back to the show Monday or Tuesday evening for some comparative shopping and hard negotiating. By mid-week you could be a brand-new boat owner.

Most likely, your boat will live ona trailer. Boat trailers are an important consideration. Evaluate your needs carefully. If you pull your boat only a few miles before dumping it over the side, that's one matter. If you plan to pull it to Crisfield, the Delaware Bay or the Solomons, that's another matter altogether.

The last time I bought a trailer, I circled it for several minutes before the dealer asked me what I was looking for. I told him I was looking for the engine; anything that cost that much must have an engine somewhere.

Good trailers that do not rust are expensive. You do not want a trailer that rusts.

The Chesapeake Bay Boat Show hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Saturdays, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays and 5 to 10 p.m. weekdays. You'll love it -- as usual.

Bob Sporeis a Coast Guard-licensed charter boat captain from Pasadena. His Outdoors column appears every Friday and Sunday in The Anne Arundel County Sun.

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