On land there’s Google Maps. On the ocean? There’s FastSeas! Read on as I interview the creator of this useful weather routing service (who happens to be my husband.)
Boat shows are ubiquitous, at least at certain times of year in certain parts of the country. This past weekend, April 20-22, there were at least 2 I know of and more I’m sure I’m totally oblivious to.
I went to the one in Annapolis, Maryland, on the east coast of the US.
Unlike the fall show, where there are hundreds of boats and thousands of vendors, with deals on everything from foul weather gear to anchors to autopilots, this one was far more intimate. Last spring I made it a point to get on every single boat at the show; this year, I wasn’t interested at all in stepping on board boats but made the rounds of talking to vendors and seeing what interesting stuff might be out there. At first glance, it was a bit of a let down.
If you like jewelry, or clothing, or overpriced hand lotion, you’d be in luck. Lots of those spots. They competed with charter companies and boat insurance and refinancing booths.
Among those, though, I found a few really interesting places selling niche products that the people had created because of a lack they found in their own cruising experience. There is Ugo, for example, that sells a waterproof wallet/purse so waterproof they fill it with cash, cards, phone, and more – and float it in a water tank from which they fish it to show off the truth in advertising.
There was Weems and Plath, the navigation tool people, who I talked to about our old compass that needs a new dome. They couldn’t do it – but they steered me right across the way to J. Gordon and company, who talked to me refurbishing antique compasses and took a guess about what kind ours is, a guess that was confirmed as correct by Jeremy when I reached him on the phone.
The spring show at Annapolis may be tiny, but the bonus with tiny is that you can spend all the time you want talking to people. You can poke on boats without a salesperson trying to show you every nook and cranny (which gets old in a house; imagine on a 40’ sailboat!). You can get boat cards, be referred across the way, hear about how someone came up with the idea they now are selling. There’s no worry on either side about the fact that you might not be buying – it’s not like there are 10 people lined up behind you, credit card in hand, making both the seller and you nervous about spending too much time just shooting the breeze.
Even if it’s fall, though, if you want a collection of people selling boat stuff all in one place at your fingertips to chat with? Go to a show.
So one reason to go to a show? You can see a lot of boats and boat products, all in one space. You can talk to other people about why they’re looking at that particular one, and what else they’ve considered.
Another reason to take you and your wallet and your feet to a boat show is in the realm of ideas. Every time I step on a boat, I get an idea about layout, or storage, or even fittings down below. When I have 400 boats at my disposal, I may only step on 50 of them, but that’s more than I get on during the course of a season. I take lots of pictures, bring home lots of brochures, and spend lots of time dreaming. My preference is to focus on one certain thing – I’m currently on a sink kick, since we will be replacing ours – and look for options and different ways to think about the problem.
But by far the best reason to go to a boat show is the people. There are the people who are selling things, of course, who are generally incredibly knowledgeable about their products and being on the water with them. There are the other people at the show, people who don’t think this boating lifestyle is weird or different or out of the ordinary. When you are surrounded by a society that tends to think in terms of the “norm” (which includes a ranch 3:2 with a white picket fence and the minivan parked out front), the energy you gain from a group of people who at the very least are investigating the possibility of life on board . . . it’s impossible to underestimate that value. And finally, there are the friends you see at the show. These might be friends you’ve met online, or friends from previous shows. They might be people you start talking to while waiting in line at the portapotties or for painkillers, and it turns out you’re simpatico and actually keep your boats 2 marinas apart.
Three reasons to go to a boat show? The people. The ideas. And the people. Sounds about right to me.
I’ll be at the Annapolis Boat Show in the fall, working at a booth we call the Hugs and Smiles booth (officially Lin Pardey's booth, L&L Pardey Publications). If you’ll be there, stop by – it’s next to the Hendricks Gin Barge and the line for hugs will be unmistakable. And if you want even more of dose of cruising information, sign up for Cruiser’s University; I'm teaching a seminar on provisioning as well as one on the myths and realities of cruising.
Hope to see you out there!
I'm a reader. I've been a reader since I was tiny, and it's not unusual for me to be found with my nose in a book, tucked away in some corner. The Kindle* is a revelation of an invention for my love of books (also it's a disaster - do you know how easy it is to buy a book on a Kindle?!!!) given that I sail on a small boat with limited bookshelf space. That electronic device holds hundreds of books in a space less than a regular paperback.
And you can borrow books from the library on your kindle. Did you know that? (Here's the link to my local public library system, which joins with libraries all over southwest Virginia.) They don't have everything, but wow is it cool to reserve a book and have it show up! Magic.
Books in general are magic, not just the ones on an e-reader. They carry us to worlds both real and created. They contain information, inspiration, and imagination.
And there are some books that have stood the test of time for us as cruisers, ones that will go on the boat on that limited amount of bookshelf. They've got salt-water stains, ancient address labels, dog ears, and post-it notes. Some are so loved that we're on to a second version; others are so important we've got a copy at home as well as on board.
There are reference books that get pulled out time and time again for boat projects.
This Old Boat (Don Casey) (as an owner of an old boat, this is as close to a bible as it gets. It's used for wood projects, refrigeration questions, fiberglass work, and canvas ideas. Plus tons more.)
Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual (Nigel Calder) (Pretty much a MUST HAVE)
Brightwork: the Art of Finishing Wood (Rebecca Wittman) (Got varnish? Get this book.)
Marine Diesel Engines (Nigel Calder) (Calder, again. The end.)
There are reference books for wildlife identification, often area-specific, as well as cruising guides (none listed here - those morph as we go along!).
Reef Fish Identification (Paul Humann) (The photographs are epic. Not for eating fish, but snorkeling and scuba identification. There's nothing quite like going for a snorkel and coming up to see what you saw . . . )
There are general cruising books, tomes on "how to cruise" - at least one of these is totally outdated but we still have it on board!
The Voyagers Handbook (Beth Leonard) (So much great information about cruising styles and budgets, plus smart practical advice on organization and more.)
Cruising Under Sail (Eric Hiscock) (Classic. Maybe outdated, but fun to have around)
The Capable Cruiser (Lin and Larry Pardey) (As a fan of the "go small go now" philosophy, this book reassures me that it's really possible.)
Cost Conscious Cruiser (Lin and Larry Pardey) (Great practical reminders of how to save money afloat. Not all ideas will appeal to all, as is standard with any book!)
Voyaging with Kids (Behan Gifford, Michael Robertson, and Sara Johnson) (Have kids and want to/are cruising? This book is a MUST HAVE on board.)
Sensible Cruising, the Thoreau Approach (Don Casey and Lew Hackler) (I love the humor, the guidance, and the practical tips.)
Voyaging on a Small Income (Annie Hill) (Inspirational message and practical information. The line drawings are worth the price of admission.)
There are the galley books - and yes, I also carry a collection of cookbooks with me!
The Boat Galley Cookbook (Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons) (Hard to beat with so much incredible information and recipes, all geared directly toward life afloat.)
Care and Feeding of the Sailing Crew (Lin Pardey) (I've had this on hand since the early 1990s; it's been updated. I love the format as well as the ideas.)
And finally, there are the inspiration books. I've read every one of these a few hundred times, it seems, and they'll STILL come aboard. Why all the Pardey books? Simple, really - their books are the reason we bought the boat we did in 1992, and the reason we're still cruising on her today. She may be small, but she is mighty - and if they could do it, so can we.
Cruising in Serrafyn (Pardey) (Have plans, will build and go sailing.)
Serrafyn's Oriental Adventure (Pardey) (24 feet of awesome, cruising in the Orient.)
Serrafyn's European Adventure (Pardey) (Still 24 feet long, still cruising, still loving life.)
As Long as It's Fun (Herb McCormick) (A biography of the Pardeys. You'll see some familiar stories presented in a new way.)
Taleisin's Tales (Pardey) (Taleisin comes to life as the 29' wooden beauty sails in the Pacific.)
An Embarrassment of Mangoes (Ann Vanderhoof) (Practical, well-written travel book with recipes by someone who, like many, was invited to the cruising dream when she had no real idea what that entailed. The recipes are delicious too!)
There are a lot of links*, and you may be able to find a few (if not all!) at your library. Maybe not on a kindle, but maybe as an inter-library loan (remember those?)
*As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
What books are your MUST-HAVEs? Now that I have a Kindle, I can take more with me!