Show goes from sail to power 245 vessels to be in Annapolis today


Even as the last sailboat was slipping away from the 24th annual U.S. Sailboat Show Monday in Annapolis, the first boat of the 22nd U.S. Powerboat Show was coming in to replace it.

The 44-foot Carver was one of 245 power boats that will be floating off the City Dock when the powerboat show begins with a VIP day today, and opens to the public tomorrow.

"We essentially have 36 working hours to change the largest in-water sailboat show in the world into the largest in-water powerboat show in the world," said Jeff Holland, spokesman for Annapolis Boat Shows, which produces both.

The conversion requires the precision and speed of a relay race. Power boat exhibitors are given only a 10-minute time frame in which to place their boats in pre-assigned slips before they are locked into a matrix of floating docks.

The docks, which would span the Hudson River if laid end to end, are electrified by eight miles of marine cable.

In addition to the boats in the water, another 200 boats are brought in on trailers to be displayed on land. Three hundred exhibit booths of various boating products are housed under tents, and only one third of them are left from the sailboat show.

Producing the shows requires a staff of more than 100 people, including many who take vacations from full-time jobs to participate, Mr. Holland said.

The changeover between the two shows presents a spectacle that each year draws a cheering crowd around the City Dock.

Despite a damp, bitter wind Monday evening, a hardy crowd gathered outside the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront to watch the dismantling of the sailboat show.

Minutes after the sailboat show closed at 6 p.m., yachts on the outer edge of the show starting sailing away. Two hours and 52 minutes later, the last sailboat left its berth.

The breakdown usually takes less than two hours, but this year movement of the boats was hampered by a nasty southeasterly wind and choppy water.

"This was no record-breaker," Mr. Holland said.

On a $204,000 Jeanneau yacht, Bob Allen of Bay Yacht Agency and a small crew waited their turn to pull out of the show. Their spirits were high after a successful show that garnered several prospective buyers. "The patient lives," Mr. Allen joked about the ailing boating industry.

When an announcer closed the show and the sailboats started to pull out, Mr. Allen jumped up and down on the deck. "I'm ready, I'm ready, my engines are running," he said.

But it was another hour before the logjam of boats moved out, allowing him to carefully pull the 42-foot-yacht away from its berth and past a $5 million yacht on the side.

Mr. Allen steered the boat past other sailboats leaving the show, water taxis ferrying their passengers and a fleet of boats moored in the middle of the creek.

"We have to be careful, we didn't sell it yet," joked Jo Ann Johnson, a Bay Yacht Agency representative who was on board.

Smoothly, Mr. Allen wedged the boat into a slip across the harbor at the Chart House Restaurant, without any mishaps.

On land, however, the closing of the show didn't go as smoothly.

Two Annapolis Boat Shows staff members were slightly injured when an exhibitor's car jumped a curb and struck an information booth after the sailing show had closed.

They were treated at Anne Arundel Medical Center and released.

If attendance at last weekend's sailboat show is any indication, about 50,000 people will walk through the power boat show, which runs through Sunday. Admission is $9 for adults and $4 for children. Tickets for VIP day are $20.

About 500 exhibitors will display a variety of boats and boating equipment. Most of the power boats are fishing boats, but there also will be motor yachts, houseboats, trawlers, ski boats, family cruisers, jet skis and dinghies on display.

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