10 Tips for Newcomers to the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis

Want To “Do” the Annapolis Sailboat Show Right? 10 Tips for Newcomers

The SpinSheet Publishing staff has been exhibiting at the U.S. Sailboat Show for 26 years. In the process, we’ve become pros at navigating the show, maximizing our time there, and helping our readers make the most of it, too. Here are our top tips for boat show visitors, especially those who are new to the show, which unfolds in 2021 October 14-18 in Annapolis:

Many like to say that the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis on the Chesapeake Bay is like Disneyland for sailors. Photos by SpinSheet 

1. Choose your days and times wisely. The early bird gets the worm as a rule at the Sailboat Show. The best time to visit is when the show opens at 10 a.m. until about noon, when the crowd size swells for a few hours. There’s sometimes a lull from 5 p.m. to close time at 6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday are the busiest days, then Friday. Thursday and Monday are the quietest days: both great for boarding boats and not having to wait in line.

2. Become a boat-show-parking pro. Don’t be the guy who thinks he has such good parking juju that he can just drive to town without a plan and figure something out. When we say this is the busiest week of the year in Annapolis, we’re not exaggerating. The best option is to park at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium ($20) and take the shuttle to the show; second best is to park at Eastport Elementary School ($30) and walk over the Eastport Bridge to the show (.9 miles). There are some other options around town, such as parking at St. Mary’s School on Duke of Gloucester Street and Annapolis Public Garages, but you’d better arrive early to snag them and expect to pay $30+ for your parking day.

3. Be kind to your feet. Wear shoes that are easy to slip off and on. Go for comfort. It is a big show, so expect to walk a lot, some of the time on uneven surfaces. Leave those high heels and fall fashion boots at home. Remove shoes when boarding boats. If it’s cold or rainy, go for rain boots.

4. Layer as if you’ll have four seasons in one day. October in Annapolis can be sunny and warm, crisp and cool, or rainy. Any weather is possible. Bring sunglasses, sunblock, a brimmed hat, a long-sleeved fleece, and a rain repellent top layer.

When Jeanneau put up its "Annapolis" sign, they may not have known that it would become a popular photo and selfie station within the Sailboat Show gates. 

5. Prepare for information overload. Bring your phone, notepad, pens, boat cards, and business cards to share and save information. Bring photos of your boat projects. Show them to the experts when you ask for advice or explain that hard-to-find boat part you’re searching for. At the show, snap pictures of favorite boats and cool products. You think you’ll remember these things, but trust us, it’s better to have a record of it.

6. Bring cash. Many vendors will accept your credit card, but cash is easiest for small purchases. Think coffee, Painkillers, homemade Nutty Buddies, a sandwich and fries from a street vendor, and small sailing gadgets that catch your eye. If you forget, or need more cash, ATMs are available right outside the show gates (expect high fees).

7. Strap lifejackets on young kids. Even if you don’t plan to go out on a boat, put lifejackets on young children. The floating docks get crowded, and with all the pretty boats and cool products vying for attendees’ attention, many people don’t watch closely where they are going. Plus, the floating docks tend to rock and roll a bit on windy, wavy days. Lifejackets on kids will give you peace of mind.

8. Bring reusable bags and water bottles. Skip plastic bags by bringing your own comfortable tote to throw over your shoulder to corral all your show goodies. You may get thirsty walking around the big show, so bring some water in your own reusable bottle to avoid purchasing plastic water bottles.

Would we, could we, should we buy this boat? It's a question many ponder at the Sailboat Show... yet others are just there to dream.

9. Start your own boat show tradition. Sailors who attend the show every year will tell you their favorite tradition: drinking a Painkiller at Pusser’s, eating a pit beef sandwich at the Fleet Reserve Club, or eating a homemade Nutty Buddy sold by the Annapolis Optimist Club on the street. But there are other great options around town, including yummy street food for lunch, great outdoor dining options, ice cream up on Main Street, or crab cakes. Ask longtime show goers what they like, but find your own groove, too, and create your own tradition… since we know you’ll come back next year!

10. Ask SpinSheet questions. The SpinSheet team will be at a new location within the show at Land Space 19A. We love to meet our readers, help them navigate the show, and even offer our favorite restaurant suggestions. Stop by anytime to meet our writers, editors, publishers, graphic designers, distribution drivers, and photographers, and of course, pick up the latest issue of SpinSheet, PropTalk, FishTalk, and PortBook.

Click to the boat show site for more! Buy boat show tickets here.