It’s fall, and in my neck of the woods (the East Coast and, specifically, the Chesapeake Bay), that brings several rites of seasonal passage. After a long, hot summer, the sailing is perfect with cool, breezy days, crystal clear nights, and quieter anchorages. Overhead, Canada geese are flying in to take the place of the ospreys, most already gone. And as they migrate, so do the snowbirds, a steady stream of sailors southbound for the approaching winter, many of whom come to rest, recharge, and reunite in one place: the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis.
I think I was about 11 years old the first time I came to the sailors’ mecca that is the boat show in Annapolis in October. At that time, my dad was still trying to convince my mom that sailboats were vastly superior to houseboats (thank you, Dad). When she toured the brand new Morgan Out Island 41, which had a washer/dryer (!!??), he nearly had her hooked. I’m not sure why my mom thought she needed a washer/dryer on a boat that likely wouldn’t be sailed much more than weekends, but I guess it was just the novelty, or maybe something about the comforts of home.
Either way, it was an eye-opener, and that’s one of the rare consistencies in a business that has always been fraught with ups and downs—that you could come to Annapolis in October and be certain you’d see something new that would spark your imagination, fuel your dreams, or even change your perspective. For my mom that year, it was the Out Island 41 (Dad did eventually make his case, and they settled on an Irwin 38). For me, over the years it’s been all over the map—from clever small boats to gorgeous, fast performance cats to racing sleds to traditional bluewater cruisers.
I have a boat problem, and for anyone with a boat problem, the sailboat show in Annapolis is pure enabler.
It’s easy to come here and wander, ogle, dream, and drink painkillers at inappropriately early hours, and not acknowledge or even realize the backstory. But like any huge production, this show is many months in the making, a logistical magic trick; if you really want to get a sense of it, stay for the load out on the last day and watch it all break up like a giant jigsaw puzzle undoing itself. For some of the builders displaying their new models here, the boats we see can represent years of effort. It all culminates in a mad rush to finish commissioning new boats, build the docks, and move everything in for the big unveil. That the show organizers, boatbuilders and dealers, and the multitude of exhibitors throughout the tents and elsewhere can make it look easy from the outside is a testament to their skill, commitment, and passion for sailing.
Of course, the show is about boats, and in the October issue of SAIL you can preview the latest models you’ll be seeing there. We review the new Dufour 41 and the new Italia Yachts 14.98, and we present the 2024 nominees for SAIL’s Top 10 Best Boats.
But the show is also about the people; for many of us, it’s the one time of the year we gather in the same place. Where else would I get to catch up with renowned sailor Lin Pardey, up from New Zealand and her new travels aboard the 40-foot steel cutter Sahula? We’re happy to welcome her back to the pages of SAIL in the October issue with her story “Sea Trials.”
And where else would I catch up with you, SAIL’s far-flung readers? See you at the show!