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The Roadstead Less Travelled: A visit to the Boat Show

I write for and am the editor of my boat club's monthly newsletter, though for how much longer remains to be seen as I must focus on boat repair as A Way of Life. In this capacity, I attend the a large annual boat show to gather pictures and to write up the event. Our club, with its typically aging and sometimes, sadly, dying membership, has a booth to inform and persuade new members in order to keep our docks and coffers full. No surprise there; most clubs are doing this as the boomer bulge passes the 60 to 70 year old mark and decides mucking about with boats may be not as much fun as it was back in the '70s. At least, that's the impression one gets from the older crowd.

Me, I am shopping for an engine and various, lesser items to fit out our boat. Growing experience and differing goals are taking me farther away from the purchasing ambitions of someone wanting a folding chair with the words "Skipper" emblazoned on it, or one of the larger sorts of Catalinas, for that matter. More power to those recreational sailors, but we are after different things and are on different roads, watery or not, and beyond the advances in electronics, such as the new VHF radios I saw with integral GPS and/or AIS functions, there wasn’t a lot of new stuff this year, nor reasons for me to attend. Prices seemed to be static or somewhat lower, with AIS units, handheld VHFs and LED fixtures and nav lights particularly cheaper. I ended up buying my SSB rig (show special!) plus a PYI packless shaft seal and yet another floating handheld VHF, this one with GPS. Now, I need to secure a couple of MMSI numbers.

Look, a moonlighting boat club member!

I did see, however, a “thrust-bearing-less” universal joint coupler that might be of great interest to fiberglass boat owners interested in dampening vibration and saying goodbye to misalignments. Reminiscent of the AquaDrive system, the Powertrain Marine Coupling was devised in Norway and is worth investigating if you've thought "gosh, that AquaDrive looks great, but I'd have to pull the engine and have heaps of money to glass in a thrust bearing the size of J. Lo's backside". Well, as I said, it's worth investigating.

I also had an interesting discussion with a "battery builder" about having semi-custom banks assembled for me in 2-volt modules (like the Surrettes, only more "industrial"). I'm having him aboard shortly to see if it makes sense to go this's a decision I have to make soon.

As for the sailboats, I stepped aboard a few, including the massive Hunter 50, a new offering that I’m not sure would even fit the 45 foot docks at our club in the most literal sense. The trend to apartment-sized saloons is particularly obvious here, as was the absence of handholds and positive lock-downs on the dozen or so floor panels.I’m sure it’s a fine, if not bluewater, cruiser, but I guarantee it's a fabulous floating bar.

I spoke briefly with perennial ocean racer Derek Hatfield down among the Catalinas and Tartans. He was soliciting support for his campaign in the next Velux 5 Oceans race. He explained briefly the rather intriguing concept of the “Eco Open 60” class, which, contrary to trends, proposes to have “older” 2003 or earlier Open 60s enter the race as a means to recycle the boats and keep them out of landfills. It was remarked upon that given the toll the sea has exacted on some more recent models of Open 60 and America’s Cup racers, maybe a slightly heavier-built “good old boat” will last the entire race.

I accompanied sailing buddy Cap'n Matt to the unadorned Garhauer booth (there’s never even a sign…just tables full of shiny blocks, beckets and stainless steel) and once again had the pleasure of watching a fellow sailor order an elaborate, semi-custom traveler, and then look slightly guilty when told the unexpectedly reasonable price. Time and again, raised eyebrows and furtive glances signal “this price must be a mistake”, but no, it’s just Garhauer’s way of selling solid, basic gear for the non-racing sailor.

I also attended a compact lecture and picture show by circumnavigators Hugh and Heather Bacon (, who provided a nice reality check for the dreamers (I am apparently not one, resigned as I am to "boat maintenance in exotic locales") and a reinforcement of the notion that I'm not crackers and that a circ is doable at reasonable cost and without getting dead due to stupidity. I had a nice chat as well about the usual: ground tackle, engines, and "what didn't you find useful?" A nice couple and they gave off the air of calm, confidence and competence I am finding is the common denominator of successful passagemakers. As Hugh writes entries for the esteemed, I'm not surprised.

I’d write more, but the 10 kilos of catalogues, brochures and spec sheets aren’t going to read themselves, nor is all that gear I bought self-installing…

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm new around here, seems like a cool place though. I'll be around a bit, more of a lurker than a poster though :)
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