We are going tomorrow with comped tickets (who actually pays? I never have, and I'm not Mr. Rich Dock Jewellery Guy). Usually, I use the Boat Show for research and "focused buying" in that I have a list (I'm commissioning my boat for long-term cruising) and I like to collect spec sheets and chat with sales weasels to get a feel for the various products and services on display.
I go a second time to cover the show for my club newsletter and to do a few interviews.
In case anyone finds this sort of thing helpful, here's part of my Boat Show list:
SS deck fill caps.
Box of silicon bronze screws for floor.
Large orange fenders (Stright-MacKay?)
New double tether
Leatherman Wave Knife
Foot Pumps (2) (Whale)
Bilge Pump (forward hold)
Bilge Pump Switches (2)
Honda EU2000 generator-compare prices, specials.
Mast Steps: measure for big feet.
Water Manifold and Stopcocks/Valves/Diverters
Three-Way Diverter (MEASURE ON BOAT!)
12 Volt DC Sub Bus Bars for outlet distribution.
NEW FLARES (Stars and shells)
Silicon bronze screws for flooring remediation.
Sewing machine for sails.
Small inflatable? (for stowing)
Battery cables…0/00 gauge and connectors and terminals crimpers.
AGM batteries/sizing? Northstars?
Tank Tender gauges
Radar Pole: fab up myself or buy?
EPIRBs for ship
Radar 2 Kw models
Espar or Webasto (measure space in locker!)
ComNav CMC kiosk for Autopilot.
The actual sailboats I tend to skip, unless I look inside to see if someone's got a clever stowage solution or some kind of new way to hide an engine.