Boat Show Barometer

The best that can be said for the Annapolis Sailboat Show, Friday, was the weather was gorgeous, I was there with Janet (and her new knees!!!), and we got a good parking place. We enjoyed the day but because it was iconic and ritual more than because of the show itself.

It’s a barometer for the economy and watching the show shrink to the smallest we can remember since 1980 with some new quirks was depressing.  It didn’t help Cruising World  flipped seminars one and two, and we missed the one we wanted to hear. I doubt it was because we had decided not to renew our subscription…

Observations — Clearly, boating is optional, and whining about it is unseemly, but if this show was any indication, it could be decades before sailing achieves the scale it did in the ’80s and 90s — if it ever does as a percentage of the economy.

  • It only took 15 minutes to get a table at Pusser’s at lunch time.
  • We saw two strollers all day.
  • The higher the price tag on the product, the more likely the equipment and services vendors were to be sitting staring off into space or talking with each other. Several (financial and insurance come to mind) were flat-out vacant.
  • While the tent aisles were typically crowded, the traffic flowed because few people were stopping at booths.
  • Non-boating vendors were there in larger numbers (gutter leaf guards???)
  • Few of the ball cap sewing machines were hammering away.
  • The “Kiddie Pool,” normally a floating bumper car track, had one boat in use.
  • Most of the attendees looked to us to be well into middle age.
  • There were virtually no lines at boats.
  • And the boats…the middle was missing or constrained to one or two boats. It looked like a distribution of incomes curve for the country.

Aside from the messages one could derive from the above, there was both a look but don’t touch (attendee imposed)  and if you have to ask you can’t afford it aura. I also got a sense what is going on with housing is present with boats as well, the inventory of good used boats is large, the prices haven’t found rock bottom, the ownership costs aren’t getting any less and people are leaving the ownership market for renting, if they are staying in boating at all.

We wrapped up our attendance with a pleasant visit with Harriet off Moondance who blogs at Moondance 38

PS. We have found it’s a good idea to use a smart phone to check prices online before grabbing that “boat show special.” One of ours wasn’t. We paid $50 for an item available online for $32…duh.

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