Boat show lures oglers, anglers

The Baltimore Sun

Marc J. Greenspan and his 10-year-old son, Sam, had a mission yesterday: find a source of paint and canvas to fix up their 26-foot motorboat. "It doesn't work very well," Sam said of the Annapolis family's weather-beaten watercraft.

Before long, however, they found themselves sitting at the helm of a brand-new 30-foot boat, a Bayliner priced at $112,995. "We're probably going to stick with our old boat for a while," said Greenspan, after the two climbed down from the Bayliner.

"But that doesn't mean we can't look," he added.

For boat lovers, whether they are in the market for a new craft or just window shopping, there's plenty to take in this week at the Baltimore Boat Show at the Baltimore Convention Center. In its 53rd year, the show is awash in nautical products such as hull paint, boat lifts, motors, fishing gear and GPS navigation systems. More than 500 boats are on display, from plastic kayaks to luxury yachts, the largest of which is a 42-foot yacht with three staterooms that rings in at $521,000.

The weeklong show, which began Saturday and will run until Sunday, is expected to draw 30,000 visitors. Todd M. Scott, a spokesman for the show, said scheduling it in the winter allows time for manufacturers to fill customers' orders before warm weather arrives. "It also gets people in the mood," he said. "It gets them out of the house in January."

In addition to ogling new boats, visitors can compete in a race to quickly and safely dock a 4-foot-long, remote-control yacht in a pool complete with a small-scale marina. They also can watch wakeboarders demonstrate skateboard-like tricks, sliding along a rail between two pools of water. (The demonstrations were canceled yesterday after one of the pools sprung a leak, but are expected to resume today.)

Randy L. Miller, who drove to the show from his home in Lancaster County, Pa., said he likes to hunt for bargains on high-price items. Since he began attending in the 1980s, he's bought two boats at the show. "It gets competitive," he said. "One year I went back and forth [between vendors] until I got a good deal."

His 20-foot fishing boat is docked in Elkton in Cecil County and still in good condition, but he plans to replace it within a couple of years. At the show, he was checking out the newer and slightly bigger models. "About every five years I look to trade up," he said.

Business at the show was brisk as of noon yesterday, according to Thomas J. Rose, store manager for Marine Max, a national boating retailer with a store in Baltimore. The company sells a variety of boats, including models from Sea Ray. The company had sold seven boats so far and hopes to sell 30 or 40 before the show ends, he said.

'"We've been coming to this show for a long time, maybe since it started," he said. "It's a big one for us."

Jamie D. Kohr and his fiancee, Amber L. Thompson, said they already own a 24-foot Sea Ray and were determined to resist the allure of a new one.

The couple from Edgemere are avid boaters and took advantage of the unseasonably warm temperatures earlier this month by boating on the Back River in eastern Baltimore County. To accompany them on their aquatic adventures, they recently got a Newfoundland puppy.

"They are very good water rescue dogs," Thompson said, adding that the dogs can be trained to pull a small boat. To water-train the dog they recently bought a 15-foot boat with an outboard engine, selling their 1995 Jeep Wrangler to raise the money.

Standing amid a maze of shiny boats, Kohr reasserted the couple's browsing-only policy. "We're not shopping today," Kohr firmly, but sounding like he was mostly trying to convince himself.

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