The sun shone on Maryland's capital city today and forecasters called for more all weekend, which should have made Jerry Wood happy. Wood greeted the good news with a big ho-hum.
Let it rain, let it snow, let it sleet and blow. The legions will still descend on Wood's 11th annual U.S. Sailboat Show. "You have to see them marching over the hill in the snow to understand it," said Wood. "It's like a religious fervor."
Eleven years ago Wood and a since-departed partner took a huge gamble and launched the nation's first in-the-water boat show in Annapolis. It's been a sleigh ride ever since. The show starts its second decade when it opens to the public Friday, the grandfather of some 30 in-the-water productions nationwide and the biggest one of all.
Today was trade and press day at the show, which takes the entire city dock and hundreds of feet of temporary dock space. "Where did all these people get trade passes?" wondered a man who was preparing to spend his weekend selling cruising sloops.
"You think this is bad," said a fellow in a captain's cap who was peddling his line of bronze yachting gizmos. "Wait till they let the public in. Tomorrow really will be a zoo."
Last year it actually did snow on opening day. The hordes came anyway. A few years before there was a monsoon.Les Trott, who works for the state and helps coordinate the show, espied a tradesman that year sitting atop his display table to escape calf-deep water. "I asked him how it was going, expecting him to scream," said Trott. "He said he was doing great."
Some 250 boats are on display in the water this year, including several dozen huge oceangoing vessels designed specifically to make working people drool and weep and clench their fists. Biggest of all is the Swan 57-footer, which sells for exactly $573,380. Eat your heart out.
Several hundred more boats ranging down to the tiny Windsurfer are displayed on trailers and stands and leaned up against fences. The boats don't change much year to year. There are just more and more.
But there's been great expansion over the years in the accessories tents. This weekend you can buy or inspect outboards, inboards, solar marine panels, nonstick cookery, hydraulic rod-rigging, wind indicators, sails, magazines, a bilge pill to keep your bilge smelling sweet, posters, wire rope, insurance, barometers, a deck chair from the Queen Mary, brass belt buckles, T-shirts, sextants, compasses, marine refrigerators, flare guns, deck shoes, depth finders, sail bags, sweaters, paint, siphons, pumps, ropes, foul-weather gear, rubrails and sweaters at one booth or another. It's Tysons Corner gone to sea. Bring money.
Wood isn't hyping this thing. It really has become bigger than life. Just check out the accents. The salesmen come from Wisconsin and Michigan and Florida and Maine. As far as boat shows go, Annapolis is big daddy.
Show hours are 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 10-7 Sunday and 10-6 Monday, the show's final day. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children under 12. Parking and a bus shuttle service are available at the Navy football stadium west of town, $2 per car. Parking in town is difficult.