Maine Boat Show and other Maine thoughts

from a friend of seabuddy’s…

Well I have been stalling, procrastinating. It finally happened Colleen at Windcheck Magazine called me up and gave me hell. The automated responses have been sending the wrong dates LAST YEARS DATES for the MAINE BOATBUIILDERS SHOW!!!. It is wonderful being surrounded by friends who care enough to put me back on track. THE CORRECT DATES ARE March 19th 20th and 21st  published correctly  every where else but here. Thank you Colleen!

Skip this if you are offended by ruminations.

Watching the economy go south has been a horrible experience, not just the recreational boating industry, I have seen lobstermen, good friends, close to tears in their frustration as prices have dropped for the lobsters and fuel prices rise and limits are placed on the number of traps they can fish. One comment resonated  “lobstering has become a respectable second job”, The fall out has impacted the commercial builders and the whole marine industry.  I am picking on the lobster industry because I was moved, but the malaise is endemic, the concern for sources of income to support families resonates so that sensitive people can see it in everyone’s face and feel it in the wind.

Last year we didn’t know what to expect in terms of the boat show attendance and exhibitors. To our surprise and relief the attendance was strong and exhibitors that were loosing backlogs and jobs and struggling still felt that attending was important. We are grateful that we have been able to stimulate a gathering that is meaningful for many reasons to the industry and boaters who mean so much to us.

There is definitely “trouble” in the valley and the clan has chosen to gather. We will be touching bases with friends, doing business and comparing notes. Trying to make sense of all of the disruption and finding a path to success in this new reality. We need customers who are willing to engage us to work for them at a fair rate. Not handouts.

It is not with tongue in cheek that I make the observation that Maine has never been far from THE depression.  The builders are a pretty tough lot and they are used to adversity. They have long memories of horrific tricks and cruel jokes like the 10% luxury tax and as survivors of the cyclical nature of the business only a very few have been willing to make a transition into becoming “big” businesses. It is not pleasant being that quick on your feet but like our periwinkle when the business tide goes out they have the ability to with draw into their own castle, pull in the operculum and wait until the tide returns. As an industry we have enjoyed a good run since the last hiccup. There is every sign that our larger builders have found the magic ring to hold on to and there are cracks of light in the gloom of the recession.

Boat shows that are of a less complex nature have noted at least OK attendance. There are two things operating how many people come through the gate and how many customers for the exhibitors come through the gate. The gate can be terrible for the producer but if the buyers come, good for the exhibitors. Qualified customers sensing that they will have funds to support their life style on the water have been reviving their interest in discretionary spending.  Our friends who are not going to abandon boating and have been forced to defer maintenance or tone down will be back. There are exceptional opportunities right now for those who have ambitions. Our communities of boaters and builders have proven themselves to be resilient. So what else is new? I suppose I have been stating the obvious, but navigating these economic waters every once and a while it helps to take a bearing.

As a consequence of the above the 2010 Maine Boatbuilders Show is strong. We are assigning locations to exhibitors and dealing with new exhibitors and old friends that have procrastinated too. Chris Hood is bringing a sailboat his year. He was so impressed by our past ability to squeeze bigger boats into smaller spaces that what tricks we might have to raise the roof so he could step a 41-foot mast. I am still thinking.

In the past the builders responded to market preferences and we have to my taste been a bit shy on sailboats. This year close to 30% of the boat displays contain one or more sailboats.

It is true the quality of the boats continues to rise, the people who join us continue to represent the best of the boaters and our boat building tradition would be proud of the craftsmanship exhibited.

The lecture schedule is beginning to go together:

Friday  is NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF MARINE SURVEYORS (NAMS) day at the Boat Show. The NAMS meting is on our site in the morning before the show opens and NAMS surveyors attending the lectures are allowed to use the lectures  for theor continuing education  requirements. NAMS normally invites SAMS  so the place is crawling with surveyors on Friday.

For a number of years I have been respectful of the job Kurt Hasselbalch has been doing (he just acquired the Alden plan collection.)  I am so sad to report that John G Alden Naval architects is GONE! The collection is at MIT’s Hart Nautical Library.. Many of the boats exhibited here over the years came from plans safely tucked away in the Hart Library. It is interesting that the Museum is contributing to where we are today and we are being collected for the future…

It is 16 days before we start to take apart the boat yard and get ready for the Flower Show  and then the Boat Show.

This is an interesting link:

Thank you for your interest: Please do not hesitate to e-mail me. I would like to know how more specifically I can be helpful. 

Phin Sprague, Jr.
Portland Yacht Services 

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