Why do you go to a boat show? We all know that most people who attend the shows don’t leave with a new vessel, many don’t plan to buy a new boat in the next three to five years, and lots don’t currently even own a boat. So, what draws so many? Surely it’s not just the discounted boathook and free jewelry cleaning!

For me – and I currently fall into the category of “won’t be buying a boat for a few years”– the draw is simple. I love the whole scene. I like walking the docks and looking at the new and interesting design changes that emerge every year, I enjoy learning about new products that make our lives on the water easier and more enjoyable, and I love the latest technology – and the clever ways we are able to bring our electronic lives aboard (if we so desire). The Newport for New Products showcase at the Newport International Boat Show is a great way to see some of these innovations and vote for your favorite new sailboat, powerboat and boating product. Lots of highly successful boats and gear have made their debut at this show! But for me, going to a boat show is not only about the boats.

Meeting people from all walks of boating life (often while hanging out at the WindCheck booth, but also strolling the show, or even while having a bite to eat for lunch) is another highlight that often produces great conversation…and sometimes spectacular editorial material. I’m also amazed at how small the world of boating is, and whether you’ve circled the globe a dozen times or are just learning how a telltale streams, you’ll find common ground and plenty to discuss.

Boarding boats and meeting the knowledgeable brokers is an important part of visiting a show. I enjoy speaking to someone with a deep knowledge of and appreciation for a particular product, and this goes for the shoreside booths as well…whether it’s a new type of clothing or weather gear, a new gadget, or a even a cooler that will keep beverages cold for weeks, I always return from a show with something I can’t wait to use!

When the day wears on and feet and back begin to ache, it’s time to sample the local fare. This is when spending a few days enjoying the show works best. No long commute home after a day on one’s feet, but perhaps a comfy barstool for a beer and some clam chowder or a table for ten and the whole spread…sometimes both. It’s nice to catch up with broker pals or local friends after the boats are tidied, lights are off and booths wrapped up for the day.

And, here is where people might think I am a bit off my rocker. I look forward to doing it again the next day. I get into a rhythm with the show; enjoy hearing the banter, find myself craning my neck to catch a glimpse of a cool new boat going for a demo sail. Often on day two or three, I like to take a walk around town and check out the surrounding area. This is especially rewarding in Newport because of the sheer amount of boating life that permeates the town. I am in awe of the steady flow of impressive hardware that glides through on a harbor tour. This trek usually ends at the Newport Brokerage Show, sited at one of the coolest places in town, Newport Shipyard. Talk about a place you could spend hours dreaming about boating big!

A couple of times I have sailed my own boat to a show, and I know that many people do so as well. A show can be a cruising destination in and of itself, and I’ve cruised to both Newport, RI and Norwalk, CT at show time. The activity and energy surrounding a show is something to behold from the water, and anchoring or mooring outside is a rewarding experience. The great thing about getting to, staying at and returning from the show this way is that I really feel immersed in the whole experience – and if I come across a product I’m interested in but unsure is just right for my boat, I can take a few measurements or pictures to ensure proper fit and function.

Everyone has their own reasons for attending a boat show…or two…or even three per year and I obviously have many, but if you haven’t taken the time to explore the many facets of a boat show, I highly recommend doing so. Hopefully you’ll leave with the boat of your dreams or something else you’ve always wanted, some new knowledge, or even a new friend.

See you at the shows!

Chris Gill