Each winter, many of the top national manufacturers and regional dealers wheel their production-line boats into the Baltimore Convention Center for the Chesapeake Bay Boat Show -- craft ranging from spit-and-polish cruisers to utility johnboats.
Among the surprises at this year's show, which opened yesterday and runs through Feb. 9, is a new, unorthodox model manufactured by Grady-White, a longtime builder of superb fishing boats.
Grady-White's new model is the F-26 Tigercat, a twin-hulled catamaran built to get anglers to the fishing grounds fast and in comfort usually not found in 26-footers.
"We have always been innovative in the offshore end of the business," said Mid-Atlantic factory representative Peter Fuhrman. "Building this boat has been a two-year project, and we feel it is a very viable option for the guy who wants to go way offshore to fish and can't afford a big Hatteras or Bertram."
The greatest innovation on the Tigercat is its catamaran design, which has been popular for a number of years in Western Australia, where the design easily handles the rough waters of the Indian Ocean.
"This boat handles five-foot seas like it's a much larger boat," said Fuhrman. "It's dry, it's fast, but it also has a different feel than traditional, single-hulled boats."
The show model is powered by twin 150-horsepower outboards, has a cockpit and cabin showers, hot water, 12-volt refrigeration, hardtop and full curtains and is rigged to fish, including built-in live bait well, fish boxes and ice boxes.
At $84,672 for the show model, the Tigercat is not inexpensive. But Fuhrman said people who buy Grady-Whites, which are toward the high end of the market, "generally want all the goodies, anyway."
In contrast to the radical Tigercat is the C-Hawk 25-foot standard cabin displayed by Florida Marina and Boat Sales Inc., of Pasadena.
Where the Tigercat is well-outfitted and high-priced, the C-Hawk is traditional, functional and a comparative bargain at $29,995.
The C-Hawk is powered by a 5.7-liter, 210-horsepower, duo-prop Volvo, but a buyer would have to outfit the boat with electronics, fishing gear and so on.
"These are strong, tough boats," said salesman John Moore. "They'll do the job on the bay. If you like fishing, crabbing or just messing around on the water, this is the boat for it."
Parker and Maycraft are two other exhibitors at the show that produce similar, traditional models.
Tiara Yachts, a company that has done well over the years in Florida, has introduced a new model, the 2900 Coronet, which should be attractive to day cruisers or overnighters.
The Coronet has less cabin space than Tiara's standard 29-footer, but uses it to expand cockpit seating for "entertaining and socializing."
The Coronet, which is being introduced at $118,000, compared with more than $150,000 for the standard 29-footer, is powered by twin engines, gasoline or diesel.
"This is a boat that makes the bay small," said Walter McCardle, of Shady Oaks Yacht Sales, "and when you're out on the Eastern Shore and it really blows up, you can get home quickly and safely."
One of the particularly nice sportfishermen at the show is the Phoenix 32 Tournament model being displayed by Hartley Marine.
This sleek model sleeps four, is powered by twin 454 engines and carries a price tag in excess of $149,000.
An exceptional boat for bay fishermen is a new 24-footer produced by Albemarle, which for years has been building fine boats.
The company has transformed an old standby, the 245 Express Fisherman, into the 242 Center Console.
"We introduced this as an outboard model a little more than a year ago," said Burch Perry, director of sales and marketing for Albemarle. "But new in it for this year is the jackshaft concept, which moves the 350 V-8 up under the console."
The 242 Center Console is show-priced at $46,184.
Jim Wood of Precision Marine Services is a little guy among the big boat dealers at the show, but his product, the Stumpknocker 18, has big potential for river and bay fishermen.
Priced at $9,675 for boat, 60-horsepower motor and trailer, the Stumpknocker 18 is a sparsely outfitted, but sturdy boat that is easily launched and retrieved and capable of handling bay trolling or river and creek bass fishing.
As is the case every year, there are hundreds of boats on display from dozens of manufacturers and in many price ranges: Jet Skis. Jet Boats. Outboard skiffs. Inboard-outboard daycruisers.
Inboard yachts. Rowboats. Sailboats. Accessories, equipment and services.
Facts and figures
What: Chesapeake Bay Boat Show
Where: Baltimore Convention Center
When: Through Feb. 9
Hours: Show opens at 5 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.
Admission: $7 for adults, $3 for children ages 6 to 12
Pub Date: 2/02/97