The Allure of the Annapolis Boat Shows: Tradition Meets Innovation

If you love boats and haven’t been to the Annapolis Boat Shows, you owe it to yourself to attend. If you have been, chances are excellent that you’ll want to return. Read up on the history of the United States Sailboat Show.

August 24, 2012


The granddaddies of all boat shows, the United States Sailboat Show and the United States Powerboat Show have been drawing thousands of visitors from all 50 states and from around the world for the past four decades. What is the secret to the extraordinary popularity and longevity of these events, often collectively called the Annapolis Boat Shows?

“Visitors describe a magical aura associated with these shows,” said Paul Jacobs, general manager of United States Yacht Shows, Inc., producer of the venerable shows. “They combine innovative programs and the best new boats on the market with the beauty and charm of a historic seafaring town. It creates a truly unparalleled experience for everyone, from avid to would-be boaters.”

The Shows
Celebrated as ‘An Annapolis Tradition,’ these productions have the distinction of being the oldest and largest in-water shows of new boats in the country. Not only are they a must-attend event for boating enthusiasts, most of the industry’s top manufacturers wouldn’t dream of missing them, either.


“Most major boat manufacturers not only participate, they bring their entire lines,” said Jacobs. “In fact, many companies choose these shows as the venue in which to premiere their newest models. So far, we are aware of 27 sailboats that will be shown for the first time ever here in Annapolis this fall.”

The fall sailboat show is not only the largest in the country, it includes the biggest multi-hull section in the nation. The powerboat show, too, offers hundreds of boats, from 8 to 80 feet in length, including an extensive Trawler Port section and an entire dock devoted to center-console fishing boats of all descriptions.

At both events, the seminar presenters represent a veritable who’s who of the boating world, allowing attendees to rub elbows with true yachting legends. And beyond the boats themselves, the shows include hundreds of exhibitors displaying all manner of maritime innovations, gear and fashions.


USYS also produces The Bay Bridge Boat Show, established in 1982, the Mid-Atlantic’s
largest spring boat show for both new and premium brokerage boats, as well as the Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show, added in April of 2012, and partnered with the innovative Cruisers University (see below).

The Setting
When boat show participants are not checking out the latest models and equipment, they can immerse themselves in the city and surrounding area.

As the nation’s first official capital, Annapolis has an impressive history. It was here in 1783 that George Washington resigned his commission in Annapolis’s State House, a building that remains in use today. The capital building is a short walk from the shows and historic tours are conducted on a regular basis.


The United States Naval Academy is an integral part of the city’s rich maritime heritage, and uniformed midshipmen are a ubiquitous part of the city’s landscape. Boat show attendees often attend services at the Naval Academy Chapel, in addition to visiting the campus’s fabulous naval museum or the crypt of John Paul Jones.

All of downtown Annapolis is a virtual walking or water-based tour of history, entertainment, food and drink. From the famous Chesapeake Bay blue crabs served on paper-strewn tables to the aptly named Painkillers concocted from the Caribbean’s finest rums, finding sustenance is never a concern.

Additionally, the attractions of Washington, D.C. and Baltimore are a short distance away, and air travel to and from the area is convenient through BWI.


So, What’s New Under The Sun?
While conventional wisdom might say “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” that axiom doesn’t apply to the Annapolis boat shows. Ever the innovators, USYS remains dedicated to taking the tried-and-true to new and exciting levels.

“It’s all about creating new experiences for participants,” explained Ed Hartman, president of USYS, Inc. “When we started our shows in the early 1970’s, they were unique in that they displayed boats in their natural element: water. Almost all prior shows were held in cavernous coliseums, which lacked the magic and authenticity. It was a transformative experience to be at a boat show, floating in the water and feeling the sun and the wind. In recent years, most of the shows’ additions have focused on interactive, experiential programs,” summarized Hartman.

Some of these innovative programs include:

Take The Wheel
First introduced at the US Powerboat Show in 2009 and added to the sailboat show the following year, Take the Wheel combines a morning of practical how-to instruction in the classroom with demo rides in the afternoon. Participants have the opportunity to be at the helm of one of six major classes of boats, from weekend and racing boats through various categories of cruising yachts.

Cruisers University
Launched in 2011, Cruisers University is a series of expert-led seminars and workshops on topics pertaining to long-range cruising. Participants choose among one, three or four-day packages, and classes range from general cruising topics to master-certification courses in such disciplines as mechanics, electrical systems and navigation.

Billed as The Ultimate Aid to Navigation, Cruisers U includes such interactive activities as demonstrations of equipment and systems, sea trials on selected boats, and a large display of in-water boats outfitted for cruising.

Vacation Basin
Also new to the 2012 fall lineup, the United States Sailboat Show will include Vacation Basin, an entire section devoted to charter companies and resort destinations offering international travel opportunities.

Presented by Cruising World magazine, Vacation Basin will be located on a new configuration of docks in the heart of downtown Annapolis, an area often referred to as Ego Alley. Grand opening festivities will include several high-value, vacation-oriented door prizes.

“For us, producing a boat show is an ever-evolving process,” summarized Jacobs. “We keep our eyes, ears and mind open to the possibilities.”

U.S. Sailboat Show – October 4-8, 2012
U.S. Powerboat Show – October 11-14, 2012

For tickets and information on United States Yacht Shows, Inc., visit or call (410) 268-8828.

For more information on this year’s U.S. Sailboat show in Annapolis, click here.


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