So, how did this all get started? Well, there are a number of reasons. To begin with, the timing of this gathering perfectly coincides with the annual cruisers’ migration south. Whether you live in the Northeastern part of North America and are just heading out, or you’re one of many international cruisers who have been exploring the great cruising grounds, there’s a gravitational pull that Annapolis exerts on the sailing world in early October. Big smiles and waves are evident as each new boat arrives in the harbor. Old cruising friends spend time catching up, sometimes after years of not seeing each other. For example, last year the two of us visited with sailors we’d first met in Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Maine, the Florida Keys, and the Bahamas. Quite a roving group we are!
Of course another great draw Annapolis has is that it’s a sailing industry town offering the convenience of every imaginable boat service. Many cruisers schedule their arrival so they’ll have time to locate hard-to-find parts, get advice on systems and/or get final work done on their boats before setting off to far-flung ports.
There’s always a great place for your boat in Annapolis regardless of your budget. Room to anchor here is plentiful in the numerous creeks if you get there early and just off the world-renowned US Naval Academy if you arrive later on. And for a true front-row seat, city moorings are available on a first-come, first-serve basis in the inner harbor. These are literally located right outside of the boat show. With an abundance of marinas, transient slips are usually available, although you’d be wise to book ahead at this time of year. Mega yachts, both sail and power, line the docks in a stretch known commonly as “Ego Alley” during the show, providing part of the daily harbor entertainment as everyone strains to see just who owns such a humongous craft.
Annapolis also sets itself apart from most other waterfront towns in one very special way. At the end of each street that leads to the water there is a designated free public dinghy dock. The abundance of these dead end streets makes tasks like shopping for groceries, doing laundry, going to the library, etc., very easy to accomplish.
Of course another reason some sailors come here at this time of year is the chance to build up the cruising kitty. Each year, the Annapolis Sailboat Show and Powerboat Show are held back-to-back, meaning a lot of boats and docks must be shuttled about in a short span of time. The show organizers are always looking for people to help out during this frenetically busy time. Many of the set-up and break down crew, as well as the ticket takers, are cruisers whose boats are anchored out in the harbor. And we understand that if you stay around and work both shows, you’re paid a bonus.
|"Whether it’s swapping happy hour invitations or attending pot luck suppers ashore, opportunities to meet and exchange cruising tales abound."|
One morning while listening to the VHF radio, we were alerted to an impromptu “Dinghy Raft-up.” Word quickly spread from boat to boat and at 5:00 p.m. that night, 42 dinghies were all tied together in a giant floating island. Each tiny seven or 10-foot boat was brimming with warmly bundled, smiling sailors. Delicious hot hors d’oeuvres straight from the galley were eagerly passed from boat to boat, a fitting accompaniment to this wonderful moment. The participants liberally exchanged boat cards so that we could all keep track of the many new friends we each met that evening.
With so many cruisers in town, there are a number of organized cruising groups who hold meetings, seminars and/or social functions. The Seven Seas Cruising Association, the Ocean Cruising Club, the Caribbean 1500 Rally, Women Aboard, and similar groups are some of the ones that come to mind, not to mention the boat builders who often stage parties for their owners.
Between regular boat chores, trips ashore, and catching up with old friends, it’s fascinating to watch this huge show come together. The entire downtown waterfront is dramatically transformed in just a matter of days. Mammoth tents are erected all over, followed by truckloads of display equipment being busily unloaded. A seemingly unending number of docks are towed in and joined together as sparkling new sailboats are intricately woven together with them into a flowing pattern that will accommodate thousands of boat show-goers. Soon each boat is adorned with colorful flags and flashy company logos, and as they all flap in the wind a festive atmosphere unfolds.
After the boat show opens, while shore based visitors are all dealing with finding places to park and traveling back and forth from their hotels, the cruising set enjoys a whole different world out in the harbor. For us, access to the show is easy. A quick dinghy ride ashore puts you right at the show entrance. After a fun day of taking in all the boats and the equipment, it’s a joy to know you’re just a short hop away from your boat and the refuge it provides from so much hustle and bustle.
Yes, there’s plenty to see and do in the fall in Annapolis. Apart from all the shiny new boats there are some interesting seminars and some demonstrations of the latest equipment for sailors. All of that can certainly factor into your final preparation before heading south. And of course there’s the multitude of social activities. So what’s not to like. We’ll look for you out on the harbor.Eds. Note: This year’s United States Annapolis Sailboat Show runs October 10-14. If you make it to the show this year, be sure to stop by the SailNet booth and say hello to everyone there.
Getting the Most from a Boat Show by Jon Shattuck
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