In 2019 Susan and I attended the US Sailboat Show at Annapolis. This is the largest sailboat show in the US and a mecca for sailors across the country. Our goal then was to research equipment and get the “Boat Show Price” for several big-ticket items. We had a good time, attended a couple of seminars, and saved enough to cover a good portion of the cost of attending. All while wading through abnormally high tides.
If the 2019 show was about stuff, the 2021 show was about people, at least for us. As we wandered the show we seldom stopped at a vendor as we had successfully outfitted Second Star with all the essentials. There was nothing to shop for. This year we enjoyed just being part of the event. We anchored out in Spa Creek next to Schyler and Laure aboard Ocean Cowboy, friends from our home port in Fair Haven. Met fellow Sabre owners for lunch at the Naval Reserve Club, an interesting event, while we all knew each other from the online Sabre group we had not put names to faces. As we were very loosely organized, there might have been several Sabre groups at the lunch gathering.
A gathering as large as the US Sailboat Show has multiple layers and many subgroups of attendees. Some are dreamers who want to imagine themselves on big beautiful boats; really what sane person doesn’t like looking at sailboats? Some are doing comparison shopping, ready to buy, but not sure which one. Some, like us in 2019, shopping to outfit their boats in preparation for future sailing voyages. The vendors are there looking to sell their products but also to view the competition and to make business connections. And within this broad group are many layers. There are the big boat guys, Beneteau, Catalina, J Boats and the many catamaran builders, and the niche market builders like Amel, Allures, and Garcia. Marine suppliers are there. The vacation peddlers are there promoting charter companies and destinations. There are also a smattering of county fair hucksters selling knives and what-not to the unsuspecting.
An interesting group is the small business owners who blend their passion for sailing with earning a living. Some, like Andy Schell from 59° North offer sailing experiences and shore-based support and planning. Also wandering the show were Paul and Sheryl Shard from Distant Shores TV and John Kretschmer, author, adventurer, sailor, and educator aboard his boat Quetzal. All were present this year, I’m sure there were others.
New this year was a Sailing Channels booth with creators from several new and established YouTube sailing channels. These channels have seen a remarkable growth over the past few years, with some channels garnering more than a hundred thousand subscribers and millions of views. Their popularity might be explained by several factors. There are many armchair sailors, people dream of someday setting out on to sail the world on their own boats, for them watching the videos and supporting the sailor offers vicarious adventure. Others may find the videos simply entertaining. I follow and support several channels for these reasons and to learn and prepare for the adventure we are now on.
A highlight for this year’s show experience was attending a couple of Meet and Greets for two channels I follow, Calico Skies Sailing and Sailing SV Delos. Susan and I first met Grace and Bill from Calico Skies by chance at the 2019 boat show. Bill and I sort of knew each other from the Sabre email group as we both sail 36-foot Sabres, although of different vintages. Bill and Grace are thirty-something Wall St hedge fund refugees who decided to buy a sailboat and go sailing. When we met, they were just starting their YouTube channel and with a shared interest in Sabres I subscribed to Sailing Calico Skies.
Bill and Grace struck us as regular folk, people you would be glad to call your friends and hang out with. Grace’s honesty was refreshing, when asked what she missed most about land life, she quickly replied “flush toilets.” I agree. As it was, over the past couple of years they have been sailing in places to which we planned to sail; their videos were a good introduction to those places and cruising life. As their channel grew and spawned a Patreon page, we became early supporters. From that connection we became subscribers to and eventually Delos patrons. Which brings us to the Meet and Greets.
On a rainy Saturday afternoon Susan and I took the dinghy down Spa Creek to Third St in Eastport and walked up to Quirk and Bach Pottery, the site of the gatherings. The pottery studio was filled with Calico Skies supporters, an eclectic group of sailors, dreamers, and adventurers, not to mention beautiful pottery. This is the magic of a good YouTube sailing channel, people from all walks of life, from the corners of the country came together as a community to support Bill and Grace. Andre hailed from Ontario, Canada. Brandon came up from Florida planning to set sail one day. Sockeye a participant in the Race to Alaska travelled from the Pacific Northwest to the show and to the gathering. Peter a local who sails the schooner Libertate and had recently competed in the Chesapeake Schooner Race. And Susan and me, off on our own sailing adventure. An interesting and diverse group who shared a common interest, exploring and adventuring around the world. This a community formed around a talented couple willing to share their life with the world. People like Grace and Bill and Kazza and Brian (SV Delos) who willingly and humbly share their lives with us are a catalyst for the community to form.
Cruising connects you to the essentials of life. Living on a boat with limited resources is grounding, we become more connected to the world around us and the really important things in life. With a successful and profitable YouTube channel it would be easy to fall into the same traps as our dirt bound brethren fall. The channels I find more interesting and want to support are not the Babes, Bikinis, and Boats channels, rather those channels that touch upon the human dimension, our relationships with each other and the world in which we live. The crews of Calico Skies and Delos do just that. In person and online, Bill, Grace, Brian, and Kazza are genuine, humble, regular folk, people I’d like to sit on a beach with, watch a sunset, and sip a beer.
As I write, some two months after our time in Annapolis, both Susan and I are struck by the sense of community existing in the cruising and sailing world. In random places through random events we meet kindred spirits, a connection is made, friendships form, and we look forward to crossing paths again. Our time in Annapolis will be treasured.
After a week in Annapolis it was time move on. We had one more meeting with friends and then on to Norfolk, Virginia and the ICW.