Paul Quattrone owns Venus Cleaners in Northeast Washington, but yesterday he forgot about winter woolens and soggy February weather for a few short hours when he joined the crowd at the Washington Convention Center for the 1986 Boat Show.

"It makes this winter go by quicker if you start dreaming of when you can get behind the wheel again," said Quattrone.

The show opened at the convention center, Ninth and H streets NW, on Saturday and will continue through Sunday. It features 600 powerboats and sailboats, from 10-foot sailboards to a 50-foot houseboat. An estimated 100,000 persons are expected to attend. Organizers said 20,000 were in attendance yesterday. Admission fees are $6 for adults and $3 for children ages 6 to 12.

From Crab Alley to Shad Row (as the aisles had been labeled), the talk was of aluminium alloy propellers and effective bilge cleaners, of gear lube and -- of interest to Washingtonians -- "trailerability."

The powerboat enthusiasts lusted after the red 29-foot Donzi, which has a 125-gallon fuel tank and is capable of zooming at Beltway speeds. Also, in the tiny cabin were two wine glasses and a full bottle of Mouton Cadet.

If the Donzi was not enough, there was a red high-performance speedboat, with Pennzoil and Champion decals and gold stars and the Miller beer logo. It had 3,000 horsepower and was capable of more than 185 mph. This boat caught the eye of Lew and Elaine Benson of Baltimore.

"They don't just want to cruise," Elaine Benson finally said. "They want to fly."

Also for sale was a copy of the boat used by Sonny Crockett (actor Don Johnson) to speed around Biscayne Bay on television's "Miami Vice." It had a turquoise and lavender hull, lots of fancy cockpit dials, and the ability to cruise at 65 mph. The price tag was $120,000.

And, for those whose taste ran to the unusual, there were Hovercraft -- boats capable of floating on a cushion of air over water, ice, mud, swamp, desert and about anything else.

"It's like 'Star Wars,' " said Gene Fichter, the salesman.

One $4,995 Hovercraft had a bumper sticker on the bow that said: "He Who Dies With the Most Toys . . . Wins."

Marcia and Joe Zivic of Fairfax County did not buy a powerboat; they bought two collapsible bicycles, for putting on board and using ashore. The salesman showed them how to fit the pieces together.

"Where do you keep the medical kit, in case it collapses when you're riding it?" giggled Marcia Zivic.

There were many who ran their fingers along teak trim, gazing up at white sails. If the sails flapped at all, it was only gently, to the currents of the building's air circulation system.

"A boat show is kind of a dream," said Tom Stafford, the show producer, gazing over the crowd. "You dream about what you'd like to have, and then you check your purse strings."