Wade Luce, Will Carlsen,
Determined boat buyers, bargain-hunters, gear heads, and tire-kickers have already begun their like-clockwork migration to boat show-hosting cities around the globe. In Europe, there are well-regarded events in Cannes, Genoa, Southampton, Amsterdam, and St. Petersburg. In the States, get aboard the carousel in the Northeast, starting in yachtsman’s darling, Newport, Rhode Island, and keep turning until you arrive in Annapolis, Fort Lauderdale, or Miami. Fort Lauderdale’s show is so big that an estimated value of the inventory lining the docks approaches $5 billion, while millions more are pumped into the local economy.
In the west, Vancouver, Seattle and Southern California host multiple shows each year, and continuing farther around the Pacific Rim, two more in Australia combine with nascent efforts in Singapore and China to bookend the annual worldwide boatshow carnival.
Throughout each year, these events amount to a stupendous display of wares in an endless competition to promote the latest nautical innovations, from thermal imaging cameras to toilets, tenders, and fenders. This is a multi-billion-dollar merry-go-round.
Recently I had the pleasure of kicking off my show season in Rockland, Maine. After back-to-back tours of Sabre Yachts’ impressive facility in Raymond and Back Cove’s plant in Rockland, I ventured to the small, quaint, and digestible Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors show where Back Cove’s new 32 was making her debut. I was told that seeing the show wouldn’t take long—and it didn’t. But in many ways it was more impressive than the monster shows that I’ll attend later this year.
Talented artists—who form part of the bedrock of Maine’s inherent coastal charm—displayed paintings, photography, even hand-embroidered caps. Another trademark was the flourish of marine antiques. The flotsam and jetsam and salvaged brass doodads on display here, and all along Maine’s coastal antique shops, would make Admiral FitzRoy blush. I was drawn to a large brass telegraph that was salvaged off a commercial ship. It was my turn to blush at the $700 price tag.
After shuffling past the tents bursting with local artisans, hand-built wooden dories, and pocket-size lobster boats, I headed to the docks. The show takes up a small footprint, but the quality is top-notch: Lyman-Morse, Hinckley, Wilbur, Sabre, American Tug. I’ll cover the Back Cove 32 in greater detail soon, but suffice to say that the 32 will make her fair share of appearances up and down a coast near you.
So if you go every year—or if you’ve never been to one, ever— make sure to head to your nearest boat show. Whether you’re an amateur or a professional tire-kicker, you never know what kind of nautical ingenuity is on display at the next booth over.
Just don’t forget your pocketbook.