For many different subsets of the human population, there are wide varieties of sacred destinations: the Vatican, Mecca, the Western Wall, the Taj Mahal, Disneyland and Burning Man. For sailors in the US, it’s the Annapolis Sailboat Show. In its more than 50-year history since starting in 1970, the show has been the North Star for sailors seeking the ultimate shoreside sailing buzz.
The four-day show will be held October 12-15 in beautiful downtown Annapolis. It’s easy to write “beautiful downtown … anywhere” when you’re talking about a destination, but for sailors, downtown Annapolis is truly a classic, historical East Coast destination. The show takes over the downtown area, with the boats and tents squeezed in and around the inner harbor. The brick sidewalks and buildings are alive with sailors, and with bars overflowing during and after the show. McGarvey’s, not far from the show gates, is a favorite.
We’ve made the pilgrimage for over 30 years to see boats and gear, but mostly to see people. The show attracts all the major players in the sailing business and their principals. It’s a great place to catch up with the global sailing community. You’ll see friends from California, but you’re also able to talk with business owners from Europe, Asia and the East and West coasts.
Annapolis is also the capital of Maryland and has a rich history to explore outside the show’s gates. The US Naval Academy is adjacent to the show and worth visiting. The Annapolis Yacht Club is right next door as well, and the weather in October is usually superb, though conditions may vary. (It’s been hot and humid during boat shows, and also cold and rainy, but it’s generally pleasant and always worth it.) It is also around the time of the Chesapeake Fall Series racing, as well as when a lot of Caribbean-bound cruisers are passing through.
The most convenient airport is the BWI (Baltimore Washington), a relatively easy 25 miles from downtown. The show’s popularity makes lodging tricky, but with enough searching, you’ll find something.
Of course, the main draw is the exhibitors. There are more sailboats, more multihulls, more charter companies and more gear and equipment manufacturers than you’ll find at any other sailboat show in the US. And it is all sailing! No powerboats allowed. This is your crowd.
Walking the docks, you’ll run into sailors and businesses from California. You can also take courses from Cruisers University or find time for a test sail. It’s a great place to puzzle out watermakers, batteries, communications, wind vanes or other gear and equipment decisions you are trying to assess.
It’s a great show, great time of year and great town. We look forward to the Annapolis Boat Show every year, and will hope to see you there too.