Even the Washington Boat Show paid homage to the all-conquering Redskins yesterday when it opened its five-day run at the Convention Center.

With over half a million football fans whooping it up a few blocks away on Pennsylvania Avenue, boat show organizers offered half off the $6 admission price to anyone sporting Redskins colors, and more than a few took advantage of the opening-day discount.

They got their money's worth, too, as they wandered over 6 1/2 acres of displays, ogling 600 powerboats, sailboats, canoes, skiffs and assorted boating paraphernalia in what has grown to be the third-largest indoor boat show in the East, behind New York and Miami.

Yes, this is the successor to the tired old Washington Boat Show that used to pop up wearily every February in the Armory. But management has changed hands and similarities are few. These days exhibitors are bullish on Washington.

"This show is definitely a moneymaker or we wouldn't be here with three displays," said Tim Wagner of Backyard Boats, who was pushing his line of Catalina cruising sailboats.

Backyard, like several other exhibitors, picked Washington this weekend over Baltimore and Philadelphia, where boat shows also are in progress, because it expected better business here. Said Wagner, "This show is better presented, better thought-out."

Wagner said there's a broader mix of clientele and merchandise here than in Baltimore, where he said practically no sailboats are on display.

An interesting thing has happened in the boat-show trade in the last couple decades, since the start of in-the-water shows like the big one in Annapolis every October.

Indoor shows have become the province of smaller vessels. Huge, awe-inspiring, million-dollar yachts show better in the water and are far easier to transport to dockside sites. That leaves the smaller-boat market for the winter, in-city venues, and the result is a lot less schizophrenia in the marketplace.

"Ninety-five percent of the people who buy are looking for boats in the smaller sizes" of 35 feet and under, said Washington show organizer Tom Stafford. "And that's what we have here."

But not for long. The Boat Show in recent years has been a two-weekend event stretching over nine days. This year, because of increasing demands on the popular Convention Center, Stafford was cut back to five days and one weekend, and the show will close Sunday.

Stafford and most of his exhibitors expect that to mean no decrease in attendance. They just figure on a mob scene Saturday and Sunday, when 50,000 or more people are expected.

The consensus is that buyers and lookers who want a peaceful chance to pore over merchandise had better shoot for a visit Thursday or Friday afternoon, before the hordes descend.

Hot tip for Bay fishermen: Check out a 25-foot Parker Marine fishing boat at the Gates Marina display. Nicely priced at about $26,000, and as one admirer said, "No doubt about what this boat was built to do."

The Washington Boat Show runs through Sunday at the Convention Center, 900 9th St. N.W. Hours are noon-10 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for children 6-12.