The first weekend in May is becoming a fixture for the WindCheck readership area. For the fourth year in a row, the CT Spring Boat Show was hosted by Safe Harbor Marinas’ Essex Island Marina in Essex, CT. And for the third year in a row, the weather was not great! But also, for the third year in a row, a couple thousand people braved the iffy weather and enjoyed a growing show where a lot of boats and services were sold and a lot of money was raised for charity. Apparently it’s true that only the truly interested come out for a boat show when the forecast is bad. While Friday’s weather proved better than forecasted and Saturday was the biggest turnout day with well over 1,000 attendees crossing the river to the Island, Sunday was just plain rain. No teasing and no breaks…just rain greeted an intrepid group of around 300.


And the show is growing. Sixty-two new and brokerage boats were in the water – up from 50 in 2018 – and there were 26 on-shore exhibitors (16 last year) including “.orgs” such as Save the Sound and Whale and Dolphin Conservation. One trend seen was a lot of “trawler-like” yachts…not tugs per se, although there were a few traditional ones on hand, but day- or coastal cruising modifications of either lobster boat hulls or sportier planing hulls designed to accommodate actual stand-up cabins. These in particular were very popular. Also well viewed were large sailboats from Beneteau, Catalina, Jeanneau and Lagoon and of course, what is becoming a hallmark of the CT Spring Boat Show, big, beautiful, cruising powerboats.

Bear Hovey, the Honorary Skipper of this year’s Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup Regatta, chats with event chair Ruth Emblin. © B. Miller-Black

The numbers of attendees does not include the sixty-odd sailors that were out on the river Sunday (the other half of their contingent sensibly having packed up and gone home on Saturday when they saw the forecast), racing in the Connecticut River One-Design Leukemia Cup Regatta in Etchells, Ideal 18s and Lasers. And of course the twenty or more volunteers putting on the races. Light, shifty, rainy and 60 degrees seemed perfectly fine compared to the typical frostbite day that they had been racing in all winter. Some fog may have even been provided for some by the big fundraising party the evening before, hosted aboard Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s Becky Thatcher at the Boat Show. This newest Leukemia Cup Regatta was a huge success, complete with a silent auction, thank you speeches by Honorary Skipper Bear Hovey and visiting champion Steve Benjamin, both cancer survivors, the party and much more significantly, well over $40,000 raised for the cause. Hats off to Commodore Ruth Ebersol of the Essex Corinthian Yacht Club for able leadership of a team that also included members of Essex Yacht Club, Pettipaug Yacht Club and the Frostbite Yacht Club in this first year effort.

The other aspect to the Essex venue is, rain or shine, it is very unique. Marked by a two-minute ferry ride to the Island, where visitors find new docks and grass as opposed to a indoor event venue or walking on pavement and aggregate, this show has a special feel. This feel is enhanced when you arrive by the obvious, yet modest, charity “angle.” It is truly amazing what small donations and a bit of strong effort by a few volunteers can do to move the needle. Again this year, over $10,000 was raised for the event’s main charity, Sails Up 4 Cancer. These funds were raised again by a voluntary $5 per head donation at the gate and again, with the support of the captain and crew of Essex Steam Train & Riverboat’s Becky Thatcher, who provided a fundraising river cruise on the Friday night of the Show. Strangely, the drizzly, chilly eve did not hamper the proceeds from the cash bar that were donated by the Team!

There were tens of sponsors that really should be mentioned, but the list is very long. Please visit the CT Spring Boat Show website (,, and for a better understanding of the magnitude of support from the local businesses and people who made all of this possible. Many thanks to you all! ■