Thursday, October 8, 2009

What is it about the Boat Show?

Annapolis MD

A certain instability descends upon the state capital of Maryland every year during Canadian Thanksgiving. It is called the Annapolis Boat Show.

For those of us who have not come here to buy anything in particular this is a noholds barred full frontal attack on the sailing community by the forces of commercial darkness.

No boat you own is sufficiently new or well appointed or mechanized. None. Not even the boat you bought from the same dealer at the boat show just last year. You must modernize, update, refit. You must spend money.

A caste system has developed to maintain order and sort the wheat from the chaff, the serious from the tire kickers, the buyers from the lookers. Too many lookers are wasting the time of honest sales staff. So the show starts with VIP day.

To prevent this unnecessary slowing of the commercial lifeblood of Annapolis Day One of the Boat Show each year is designated VIP Day. In honour of the VIPs and to avoid said "better than other people because they have the dough" crowd being offended by the odiferous boating public the Ticket Prices for VIP day are raised to $35 a head. On less well healed days it requires only $17 to admit a single head no matter how dirty or louse ridden the bearer may find himself.

Surely it is only in North America where human beings stand sheeplike in line waiting to spend their money for the privilege of being released into a rat's maze to be forced to run a gauntlet of frenzied sellers of nauticrap. When one wonders will Walmart start charging admission?

Today we dinghied from our cozy little nest at the end of Back Creek to the 6th St. dinghy dock. Annapolis accommodates anchoring boaters by designating the end of each public street which runs to the water as a "public dock". It is cool.

You must walk from the 6th St. dinghy dock to downtown but this is only 1 mile or so. 6th Street divides Annapolis, severing from the main town a peninsula which extends from 6th St. east into the Back Creek. Like the famous tracks, the wrong side of which no one wished to find themselves, 6th Street is a denominator.

The peninsula, a turgid little member resembling a stunted Italy, contains 75% of the commercial sailing enterprise in Annapolis, maybe the world. Doyle and North sail yards, Weems and Plath, Annapolis School of Seamanship, Nordhaven Yachts, Nordic Tug, American Tug dealers, half a dozen other sailboat dealers, eight or nine dinghy reps. If you cannot find it on the peninsula you can only pray it exists on the South side of Back Creek which possesses the remaining 25% of everything.

There is nothing relating to sailing that you cannot get here. All at $100 US an hour for labour plus tax. Half hour minimum if you please "and I can't be sure how long I will need so maybe you should take a slip at the Marina so I can access your boat easily. It shouldn't take too long but it might be several days".

An engine manual for my misbehaving Tohatsu outboard engine was to be in the shop by today so we stopped by to pick it up. Entering the shop the sole representative of the business, a clerk, looks up from his desk and sneers "I remember you. You are the guy who thinks he can fix his own outboard". A derisive laugh erupted from his humourless face as he looked back down at his work.

The delight of our day was a stop at the Sailrite store. Staffed by a heavy set septuagenarian and his blue haired wife this store is crammed with all the stuff you need to sew anything you could imagine. Need a new boat cover for winter? I am sure Sailrite has a set of plans for it - just give them the make, model and year.

Sunbrella cloth was $14.50 a yard and we bought a yard to make some repairs to our sailcover and to try to fix the triple play of boneheaded mistakes made by the clowns at Genco in Toronto who charged us a fortune to badly design and haphazardly execute sailcovers, dodger and bimini.

Who would have thought that a mainsail cover should have an aperture of sufficient circumference to actually encompass the mast? Not Genco. Measuring the foot of the mainsail to be 13 feet in length this cabal of urban intelligence reasoned that the mainsail cover should be only 11 feet long. "Is this a problem?" wondered Nat Jr. aloud when we questioned him on it while he was on our boat. His offered fixes never appeared.

Thank God for Sailrite. The guy in the store gave us instructions, hints, tips and then tried to sell us a sewing machine. For Christmas I want one.

After that it was off to the Black Dog Store for a gift for one of our precious new Granddogs and then to the Ram's Head for lunch.

Detouring from our leisurely afterlunch stroll back to the dinghy dock we scouted Fawcett's Marine store to re examine our choices for varnish for Meredith's brightwork. While there we were accosted by the North American VP of Sales for Hella Marine and treated to a 30 minute private dissertation on the new LED lights. We also discussed the art of display construction as this poor guy had to build all the Hella display units himself - from scratch. A good time was had by all let me assure you.

Escaping slowly from Fawcett's we returned along 6th St., crossed the bridge over Spa Creek and stopped at Fleetfeet to buy some new Ecco sandals.

At the dinghy dock low tide had set in with a vengence. Many dinghies were on the hard, well on the muck at any rate. Fortunately we always use a long painter at a dinghy dock. If everyone did so then all the dinghies could tie up and be pushed off with no crowding. Always there seems to be a bunch of selfish jerks who insist on claiming 4 feet of dock for themselves only. Very American the philosophy seems to be "I got mine, Screw You".

If everyone used a 20 foot painter then all the dinghies would happily bob about in the creek until pulled in by their owners. No jostling or pushing or struggle to get close to the dock to tie up or load or unload. However today the selfish little bastards got theirs in spades. Tied up nice and close to the dock they were a foot out of the water and no one, absolutely no one could be desperate enough to set foot in the indescribable cesspot that constitutes the bottom of Back Creek. The selfish dorks had to wait hours before they would be able to launch today.

Happily we walked across the stinking ooze of Back Creek on a carpet of landlocked dinghies, climbed in our little Walker Bay and sputtered and spit our way back to Meredith.

I really have to read that engine manual.

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