PORTLAND, Maine — Cruising season hasn’t arrived quite yet.
But you can tell it won’t be too much longer because the Maine Boatbuilders Show is once again set to bring together boat builders and owners, parts suppliers, boat lovers, buyers and dreamers for a weekend of all things boats.
Now in its 24th year, the show runs this weekend, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m Friday and Saturday, and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, Sunday, March 20, at the Portland Yacht Services facilities on Fore Street in Portland.
Each year, an estimated 10,000 exhibitors and show-goers crowd into the Portland Yacht Services buildings to see what boat builders from Maine and from away have to offer. The main floor regularly features the boats ranging in size from dinghies to 50-footers, built of wood, fiberglass and composites, and powered by everything from oars to outboards, marine diesels or sails. The second floor focuses on the rest of the marine-related industry, the epoxies and engines, life vests and sails, that make it easier, safer or more interesting to be messing about in boats.
Phin Sprague, president of Portland Yacht Services, said he started the boat builders show as a way to have the kind of show he wanted to go to.
“I was going to shows and two things would happen,” he said Monday. “There would be 10,000 people there and nobody wanted to talk to me; and, I realized that I knew more about the stuff than the guy who was trying to sell it to me.”
He said he wanted a show that would showcase products made by “people who were making boating their life.” That formula worked, and the show grew in popularity and became known for providing access to experts in all areas of the boat-building industry. In each booth, Sprague said, you’ll find the president of the company, or members of the crew that worked on the boat you’re looking at.
“You’re talking to the experts; in each booth, the person knows more about the subject than anyone else,’’ he said. “We bring in good exhibitors, and that attracts good people [to the show]; and because we attract good people, we can attract good exhibitors. It cycles around.’’
The show often attracts potential customers who are looking for the right builder to construct their dream boat. Sprague said he was once told there were more private planes at the Portland airport during the boat show weekend than on any other weekend. Often, other customers will arrive with their architects to look at different features that might fit into the boat they’re working on.
In addition to the exhibits, the boat-builders show has included a growing schedule of lectures and seminars. Sprague said seminars have been a part of the show, but added that he hadn’t worked too hard to develop that aspect.
“I figured with all the eye candy at the show, people wouldn’t want to listen to somebody talking,” he said. “But it’s attracted an interesting group of people.”
Topics in this year’s lecture series include diesel maintenance, yacht designs, marine batteries, boat restorations and emergency locator beacons. A late addition to the schedule, announced Monday, will be Capt. Giffy Full, a well-known marine surveyor.
Admission is $15 per day. For more information call 774-1067 or check the website www.portlandyachtservices.com.