Annapolis Boat Shows 2018


Another year of boat shows in Annapolis. I have been going to these two shows for decades, even before I moved to Annapolis with PassageMaker Magazine. The annual pilgrimage to see what’s new or unusual is a common thread among my many boating friends on the East Coast. The big shows in Florida, notably the Ft. Lauderdale and Miami shows attract people from around the world, but only the Annapolis Sailboat show has that gravitational pull. The powerboat show is a regional show, so we generally don’t see much new introduced at the powerboat event.

As the sailboat show is the largest in the world, most anyone involved in the industry comes to town for the week. Familiar faces people recognize from blogs, vlogs, websites, and books are all there. The Ocean Cruising Club has a big party around that time, and this year it attracted 100 people. In years past, famous sailors, such as Tristan Jones, Hal Roth, the Pardeys, Pam Wall, and so many others were almost expected to be at the sailboat show, giving a talk or hawking a new book or DVD in one of the booths. Nowadays, it is more like the sailors many follow on Instagram and Facebook and video blogs. Totem’s Behan and Jamie were there, as were the crew of Tula’s Endless Summer, and 59º North Sailing (Andy and Mia just finished a summer of Arctic sailing).

Needless to say, it sometimes feels like a big party. If you want to meet some of these sailing “celebrities,” you come to the Annapolis Sailboat Show.

But this year also felt different. It seems a different time. I attended the Media breakfast for both shows. The sailboat media event was a full tent, but I only recognized a handful of writers. The world has changed and many of those familiar faces have retired or moved on after the economic issues of a decade ago. Magazines have clearly tightened belts, and the once common media parties and press conferences throughout the shows, along with teams of roving writers and photographers, is just not business as usual these days.

Another example of this, especially given the regional status of the powerboat show, I don’t think any of the industry publications were represented, and they certainly weren’t there at the press breakfast. In fact, there were only about five of us there, and we were all wearing badges as press freelancers. This is a far cry from when our entire staff worked the show. I loved working the booth and hearing the stories of our readers. It was a highlight of the year, engaging with our community. Like I said, times have changed.


This year’s shows attracted a lot of people, the weather was nice for a change, and while there were not the number of special events showcasing new design and technology, there were some surprises. The new Beneteau sporting foils got a lot of attention, as did the Neel 51 trimaran. The influence of European design permeated the show, fat sterns with twin rudders and twin steering station were common, even on boats down to 36 feet. The Morris Yachts 52 daysailer almost stood alone as a traditional design with beautiful teak brightwork and gorgeous lines. The unpainted French aluminum sailboats of Garcia, Alubat, and Boreal were there, standing in stark contrast to the sea of white fiberglass.

There were two significant things I noticed at the powerboat show. Outboards are now found on most every powerboat these days, whether it is a single engine, or two, or three, or four, or more. It is an amazing development, and a recent Soundings Trade Only article said that outboard manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the demand. Quiet, efficient, and powerful, they eliminate many headaches of boat building. Outboards were everywhere at the show.


The other thing I noticed was the use of Color on powerboat hulls. Instead of the common white or ivory hulls we are used to, with flag blue being the color of choice for anything remotely hinting Downeast, many builders are making a splash of color. It is great to see.

This slick Keizer 42 looked all the world as the vessel of choice of James Bond. A great getaway machine, and I loved the vibrant hull color. I’m glad the salesman was across on the other dock, as a lady standing behind me, said out loud:

“Look, Honey, that’s the color of the Smurfs Boat!”

There were a few innovations to be found, like this cool feature on a new Tiara, although anything really big was probably held until making its debut at the Ft. Lauderdale Show in a few weeks.

Another boat show season is done in Annapolis, and as you read this, tents are coming down, trucks hauling boats away, and the downtown waterfront comes back to normal, in time for the final days of fall boating. After such a miserably hot and wet summer, it’s about time…