2019 Annapolis United States Sailboat Show Review

We made arrangements with some friends that were interested in attending their first boat show to come spend the weekend on the boat and come along with us to the boat show. We figured it would be a great way to spend some time with friends and an opportunity to fan their fire of aspiring to become boat owners. (By the way, guys, that Tartan 37 is still for sale!) We purchased our tickets in advance for $18 per ticket and planned to spend the day on Saturday, 10/12/2019, at the show.

Novice Tip: If you’re planning to access the tickets on your phone for entry, make sure you pull up the tickets for the right year and the right show. Pulling up tickets from a previous show will not work for entry and will frustrate the living hell out of you until you realize what you’ve done and pull up the right tickets. Ask me how I know...

Since it was going to be our second boat show as boat owners, we wanted to make sure we did it right! Since we had owned Moxie for 6ish months by the time the show came around, we were pretty well prepared to be successful. We spent the weeks leading up to the show making a list of things we wanted to try to score at the show, with the hope of saving money thanks to the typical boat show special pricing. Our goal was to shop for all of the “big things” that we wanted to equip the boat with before we move onboard and head out on any big adventures. Being the Type A person that I am, I defaulted to writing out a handwritten list with categories, manufacturer information and specific product information.

After we put our list together, we researched, and researched, and researched some more to pin down exactly what product we wanted (and what the standard prices were online). The big idea was to stick the list in my pocket, take it to the boat show and start shopping, hoping to find the items on the list, at boat show special pricing. Spoiler alert: In a stroke of pure luck, I actually remembered the list before we headed to the show! Here’s what was on our boat show shopping list going into Saturday:

Boat show shuttle bus selfies.
Bus driver, take us to the boat show! We’re in the mood to burn up our bank account!

We got to the short shortly before 10am and got to say good morning to Riley and Elayna from Sailing La Vagabonde as they walked by, headed into the show. (Pretty cool!) Shortly after 10am, we got our wristbands and headed in, eager to get started with our scavenger hunt.

The typical Annapolis Boat Show touristy picture. Can’t help it. I just love it.

After a while of sniffing out the items on our list, we started to hit the jackpot. The first item on our list that we found was the water filter, on display at the stand of one of our favorite places – Bacon Sails & Marine Supplies. While this wasn’t the exact water filtration we had been looking at, we decided the PureWater+ by Forespar was a suitable option, and, the spigot was included! We really liked the ease of changing the filters and how compact the entire system was. We also feel pretty confident that the .5 micron filtering will be sufficient for our needs and eliminate the need for a UV light. So, when the vendor mentioned that replacement filters are reasonably priced and available at both Bacon and Defender, we were sold. We had expected to pay $260 for the water filtration system, so, when we were able to score it for $130.38 at the show, we were pretty happy!

The next stand we pulled over at was the CruiseRO stand. Lucky for us, we got a two-for-one out of the CruiseRO stand, as Rich was selling both CruiseRO watermakers and solar panels. I pulled out our list and did a quick comparison on the solar panels first, concerned that there didn’t seem to be many sitting out. Conveniently, the solar panels were exactly what we were looking for – 110W flexible panels, made with SunPower cells. We expected to pay $270 per panel (or a total of $810 for three of them), so finding them on boat show special for $235 (a total of $720 for three of them), we were pretty pleased.

Next on our list was the water maker, also from the CruiseRO stand. When we finalized our list, we had decided on the 30 gallons per hour model, thinking we would spend the extra money for the convenience factor. But, when we compared the 20 gallon per hour to the 30 gallon per hour at the show and realized how much we could save over our anticipated cost, we decided to change course and go with the 20 gallon per hour model. Really, we don’t plan to run our tanks completely dry before making more water. And, what else will we have to do?! By adjusting our course, we turned our expected expense of $5,800 into an actual expenditure of $4,650.

A few stands away, we found the Kato Marine stand, so, it was time to get some boat show pricing on the dinghy davits we’ve been drooling over. Since the Kato davits seemed to be significantly less expensive than other manufacturers during our research, we were pretty excited to inquire about their boat show pricing. In another stroke of good luck, we ended up speaking with Terrie Olver, one of the owner’s of Kato Marine. Terrie was absolutely fantastic and took her time explaining Kato’s davits and pricing to us. Based on our pre-boat show research, we planned to spend $3,004 on the davit system. Thanks to the special pricing Kato Marine offered for the show, our final, out-the-door, shipped to our house cost came in at $2,767.70.

On a bit of a high from our solid successes, we took a break to walk around and check out some boats, stop by the Women Who Sail tent and try out one of those cool air chair things (that was extremely overpriced, 1/3 of the price on Amazon and definitely not on our shopping list).

After our break, we set out to finish up our scavenger hunt. We got lucky again when we stumbled upon the Ferris Power Products / Hamilton Ferris Company stand. (I’m still kicking myself for forgetting to get a picture!) While our list had us looking for specifically a Victron Charge Controller and Xantrex Link Pro battery monitor, we found that Ferris offered both solar charge controller and battery monitor that would suit our needs just fine. And, save us some money. We had planned to spend $425 on the charge controller and ending up spending only $209. And, we had anticipated an expenditure of $319 on the battery monitor and spent only $149 on the battery monitor from Ferris.

Overall, we were extremely pleased with how well we did with shopping for the items on our list at the boat show this go-round. Based on our expected expenditures versus what we actually spent, we ended up saving almost $2,000 from shopping for deals at the boat show. (Josh thinks cheated on some of that savings, having decided to go with a less expensive water marker, but, we didn’t spend the money, so, I’m counting it as savings.) We saved a significant amount on the bulk of the items on our list and are left with a few things to pick up and a whole lot of work to do!

As the day progressed, the combination of the full moon and a nor’easter spinning just off the coast had spurred an increase in the water level both inside the show and on the surrounding streets. Show crews scrambled to construct temporary wooden walkways to allow attendees to make their way to vendors and tents. The floating docks throughout the show were taking water and show crews were beginning to limit foot traffic across the temporary bridges built between docks to keep everyone safe. We tried a few different exit points to exit the show, but found that the city streets were flooded and multiple exit points were closed due to the inches of standing water. Around 3:30, we decided it was probably time to plan our escape and head back to the boat. Once we finally got out of the show, we boarded the shuttle and navigated the flooded streets back to the truck, which was pretty crazy.

It’s probably a good thing we left when we did, as we learned later that they ended up closing the boat show 2.5 hours early due to the flooding. I’m happy that we avoided the mass exodus of traffic from the show, since Josh was saddled with carrying our three newly purchased flexible solar panels.

We were really happy with our experience at this year’s United States Sailboat Show. Initially, I felt like $18 per ticket was a bit pricey, but, considering the opportunities to save money on things we planned to purchase anyway, the $18 ticket seemed to be well worth it in the end. We were a bit sad that we weren’t able to meet up with some new friends for cocktails or attend a gathering of like-minded individuals later on Saturday evening, but, we always have next year!

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