U.S. Sailboat Show finds tide is turning Attendance is up and so are sales

After five years of floating dead in the water, boating industry representatives at the 24th annual U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis again have wind in their sails.

Attendance at the show on the first two days seemed to be up over previous years, but more important, many of those who came were serious about buying.


Geoff McCord, a manufacturer's representative for Beneteau, a South Carolina boat builder, said the company sold five boats the first day.

"Usually, you don't see this kind of response so early," he said. "Usually, people wait until the last day."


The surge is due partly to the recent repeal of the federal luxury tax on boats, he said. But mostly, people are tired of waiting.

"They're not feeling guilty anymore for spending money on a big toy," he said.

Beneteau was one of approximately 500 marine companies represented at the show, which includes boat builders and manufacturers, and dealers in boating paraphernalia ranging from clocks to life boats to polish for hulls.

About 168 boats were in the water, including a new section for multihull craft. That's 10 percent more than last year, but not even half the more than 400 boats that used to be on display in the mid-1980s.

"Everyone is very upbeat," said Jeff Holland, spokesman for Annapolis Boat Shows, which coordinates the event.

FTC The show, which ends tomorrow, is the largest fall in-water boat show in the world, attracting 40,000 to 50,000 people a year, about 60 percent of them from the mid-Atlantic region.

Larry and Denise Brock drove from Pittsburgh to look over the new boats. The young couple have been sailing for about three years, but don't have their own boat.

"We're still dreaming," Mrs. Brock said.


While boat manufacturers and dealers were pleased, they conceded that it will take time before the industry recovers.

"The effects are still lingering," said Frank Giambattista, a sales representative for Hunter Marine.

A sign of those lingering effects hung at the Cecilton Lions Club's booth. "Can't sell your boat?" it asked. "Think about donating it."

The club wants to auction donated boats for numerous charities it runs. The owners can take a tax deduction.

Ralph Young, a Lions Club member manning the booth, said that in just two days, 16 people who have been unable to sell their boats have offered to donate them.

"We're amazed at the interest we're getting," he said. "It just shows we're still feeling the recession."