At 10 o'clock this morning, the boom of a cannon signaled the opening of the 2010 United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis, Md. Bright sun, a gentle breeze and hundreds of boats indicated the industry is ready for business.
"We sold out," said show manager Dee Newman. "We had to expand and added a floating dock in Ego Alley [the Inner Harbor] and we had to rent the Fawcett's [Boat Supplies] building to accommodate additional exhibitors."
All in all, the show is approximately 15 percent larger than last year, with more than 600 exhibitors, according to Newman. Internet ticket sales were up 12 percent leading up to the show.
A quick walkthrough in the early hours revealed a more upbeat mood among exhibitors. The first of many press conferences at the show was at the Harken tent, where the sail hardware manufacturer announced it had added 40 pages worth of new product to its 2011 catalog.
Mike Payne of Annapolis Boat Sales said he is "very optimistic" and that the dealer is restoring inventory.
"There will be a surge of retiring people who liquidate assets to buy RVs and boats so they can live their dream," said Payne, who recently attended an RV show in Hershey, Pa.
Mike Lovell, owner of Anacortes (Wash.) Yacht Charters, said he sees better days ahead.
"It's going to be better. We're talking to people about extended trips again, which rarely happened in the last two years," Lovell said.
Douglas Brophy, the U.S. distributor for Fjord and Hanse yachts, said he hopes the momentum from the Newport, R.I., show will carry over to Annapolis.
"We had 25 brokers at our breakfast meeting today," Brophy said. "That's way more than last year and they are bringing in customers from San Diego, Texas, Toronto and Vancouver."
— Dieter Loibner