What I learned at my first Annapolis Sailboat Show
If you are planning (or even considering) attending the US Sailboat Show in Annapolis October 13-17, here are some excellent tips from a West Coast sailing vlogger whose inaugural Annapolis show was last year.
My partner Chris and I were thrilled to be invited as participants of the 2021 U.S. Sailboat Show, where we hosted meetups at both the Sailing Channels booth for our channel Sailing Avocet as well as at Lin Pardey’s booth, L&L Publications, on her behalf. It was my very first boat show, and to be honest, it was as fun as it was overwhelming! In retrospect there are a few key things I would do differently in the future and suggest to anyone attending. After some serious reflection, I have compiled this list for your consideration:
- Wear comfortable, slip-on shoes. Comfy shoes may seem like a no-brainer as you will probably be doing a lot of walking but hear me out: wear comfortable slip-on shoes. If you tour the yachts, you will likely be asked to remove your shoes. I wore my Sperrys thinking they would be the perfect boat show shoe. Although on-brand and very comfortable, I was tired of fussing with my laces by the end of the day and wished that I had chosen to wear my slip-on shoes.
- Chart your course. Boat shows are generally crowded, and there were some sensory overload moments. We did our best to navigate through the crowds to find the vendors we wanted to chat with, but this could have been avoided had we planned a proper course of action prior to arrival. A Show Guide is generally released ahead of time, so you can see what vendors will attend and where they will be located. Don’t bank on running into longtime friends or leaving a meet-up to fate. Having a dedicated meeting spot to connect with friends, sponsors, and/or followers was helpful for us. If you are a prospective yacht buyer, figure out which vessels fit your needs and budget ahead of time, so you can spend more time evaluating and touring those types of vessels.
- Take notes and business or sailboat cards. The amount of information you will learn at the show may be overwhelming. Taking notes can help keep your thoughts and findings safe for reviewing later. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. The vendors are there to talk about their businesses and boats; it is the perfect time to get clarity on your most convoluted inquiries! On business cards, write down what you talked to that person about, so you can remember later. Chris and I met a lot of wonderful people at the boat show and were sure to swap information via sail cards, which are essentially business cards for boaters sharing their contact and vessel information.
- Don’t buy right away! With all the latest technologies and gear at a discount it can be tempting to buy right away. However, if you walk away from your initial urge to buy and are still thinking about the item at the end of the day, circle back and make the decision then. Usually, you don’t have to purchase big ticket items at the show to benefit from the special boat show pricing. If you’re a serious buyer and nice to the representatives, most sellers will give you the boat show price for a purchase made shortly after the show. It certainly never hurts to ask, but don’t expect it.
- Stay hydrated—and bring snacks. Pack a reusable water bottle to avoid plastic waste and keep yourself well hydrated to avoid burnout. The kind bartenders at the show will fill it up for you if you are unable to locate a refillable water station. Bring some high-energy snacks. With all the commotion it can be hard to remember to drink water or eat, but if you make it part of your to-do list, your body will thank you.
A few more tips worth remembering: Bring cash. Wear sunscreen, or bring a rain jacket, depending on the forecast. Set a buying budget (and stick to it). Get tickets early to save money. Bring a bag to stow your newfound treasures, both free and purchased.
By Marissa Neely
About the author: Marissa Neely lives aboard her 1979 Cheoy Lee 41 Avocet with her husband Chris and cat Cleo. The 20-somethings have been sailing the California coast since 2018 while doing various boat projects in preparation to sail south to Mexico. Follow their journey on svavocet.com or Sailing Avocet on YouTube.