There are few things as tempting as a boat show in winter. When sidewalks are slick with ice and the water pipes need to be thawed with a hair dryer, salesmen have little trouble selling sun-drenched dreams.

"People are tired of all the bad weather we're having. They've got cabin fever. They want to think spring," said Fred Quimby, an Easton, Md., boat dealer and one of 125 exhibitors at the opening last night of the Washington International Boat, Recreational Vehicle and Outdoor Show at the D.C. Armory.

The five-day International is the first of half a dozen boat and outdoor shows that play the Washington, Baltimore and Annapolis area each winter. They are all different and all essentially the same -- high-gloss lures to catch the multimillion-dollar recreation market.

"There is a strong entertainment aspect to this," said Peter Carroll, the white-bearded promoter of the show, which covers four acres of Armory floor and includes canoe jousting, log rolling and an invitation to go to the mat with Victor the wrestling bear. "The more tickets we sell, the more merchandise they sell."

The main attractions of this show, packaged between the personality testers, glass cleaners and encyclopedia salesmen, are boats and campers.Here is a nice 23-foot Star Craft with twin 150-horsepower Mercury engines for a modest $39,000. For $45,000 more, there is an Airstream funeral coach that has room for 17 mourners and a casket.

Exhibitors last night were anxious to see what effect the recession would hve on this year's boat sales. But if John and Peg Broberg are any indication, the industry is still afloat. The Brobergs, of Rockville, have invested in a beach-front lot at Breezy Point on the Chesapeake. They came to the boat show intent on buying both a boat and a trailer.

The International continues Thursday and Friday from 5 p.m. until 10 p.m. On Saturday the show goes from noon until 10 p.m. and Sunday from noon until 6 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children under 12.