Frank's Blog - Yes, Finally
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Boat Shows - 14 February, 2016

We went to the Miami Boat Show yesterday.  I have to say that I was not impressed.  The area around the boat show was more interesting than the
show itself.

I have been to a lot of boat shows, particularly the Annapolis Sailboat show.  Suzanne's birthday is the 19th of October and the Fall boat show is
held on the Columbus Day weekend.  Suzanne believes we go to the show as her birthday present (actually, we do - if you have a wife who
believes going to the boat show is her birthday present - you go!!)  So, we have been to the last fifteen fall Annapolis Sailboat Shows.

Now, to me, this is the granddaddy show.  When I was teaching for the Mariners' School, I worked a lot of tiny boat shows in the Virginia and North
Carolina area.  I remember working a boat show in Morehead City that had about 30 booths and one in New Bern that was basically a line of tents
in a park, overlooking the water.  I've been to shows in Norfolk, Philadelphia, Richmond, Washington, DC, Deale, and a dozen other smaller shows.  
Most of these shows could be tucked inside the Annapolis show and you never would have noticed.

But this was MIAMI!!  Home of fun, sun and beautiful people.  It should have drawn millions - and maybe it did.  Just not to the sailboat show.

You see, the Miami powerboat show was going on at the same time - at a different location.  There were shuttle buses and water taxis available to
take people between the two locations.  These were free.

Now, yesterday was a picture postcard day in Miami.  The temperature was about 80F, there was a nice breeze coming in off the ocean, the water
was green-blue.  It was a perfect day for a boat ride around the Miami waterfront - AND the water taxi was FREE, if you had paid to get into the
boat show.

The line for the water taxi from the sailboat show over to the powerboat show had more people in it than were AT the sailboat show.  Literally - and
I do mean that literally.  If you discounted the vendors, there were only about 100 people in the show.  There were more than 200 people in line to
take the free water taxi - I stopped counting at 200.

To make matters even worse for the boat show, the show was being held next to a wonderful waterfront shopping venue.  There were shops, large
and small, selling everything from boots and shoes to clothes to electronics.  There were chain restaurants, food kiosks and waterfront bars that
served drinks looking out over that picture-perfect scene.  There were live bands and street performers (although, technically, they may not have
started out to be street performers - you just had to stare at them).  From the point of view of entertainment, it was cheaper to be outside the show
than inside.

Finally, there were the vendors at the show.  Maybe a lot of people go to boat shows to see the boats.  I don't know.  However, most of the people I
know who go to shows go for the vendors.  Very few of us need to buy a new boat on any given year, but I have never been to the Annapolis Show
that I have not been researching some new - usually large - purchase.  The boat show is the place where you get a chance to talk to reps from all
of the major suppliers of a product, and usually a few smaller ones.  You get a chance to get a feel for who the vendors are and whether you want
to deal with them.  You can see, touch and compare the products.

Now, this year, I was interested in a new traveler for Rockhopper.  A traveler is part of the system that controls the main sail and, when it is fully
loaded, it can be under a lot of stress.  As most of us do, when under a lot of stress, it can come apart unless it is strong enough to handle it.  So, I
wanted to talk to the manufacturers to make sure I was looking at gear that was "strong enough."

There were only four vendors at the show that had gear that I could use and three of them were out of the running immediately because their
equipment was too wide to fit the space I had available.  So, after talking to the one manufacturer who could supply what I was looking for, I went to
find the other vendors.  There were only about 40 vendors total at the sailboat show.

Now, maybe a lot of vendors decided to go to the other show and only have one booth.  Maybe they hopped that people would seek them out at
that show.  If they did, I hope they were right.  We didn't.  We looked at the few booths that actually had something interesting, talked to the people
we knew at the other booths, and went over to the marketplace to shop.  Suzanne got a new dress and the dogs each got a new shirt.  I got a
Mai-tai and we listened to a band while we cooled off and recovered from walking to from the parking lot - a distance which was greater than the
distance we walked in the show.

Please don't get me wrong.  We enjoyed the show.  We got the information we needed.  We had a good time on a perfect day, surrounded by
boaters and sailors.

It just wasn't Annapolis in the fall.  I still owe Suzanne a birthday present.