Sailing season kicks off with disappointing Halifax Boat Show (as usual)

The best thing you can say is that it happens at the right time of the year.  Just when you’ve had about enough of winter and think that the sailing season is too far off along comes the Boat Show.  For some obscure reason this annual feature of the mid-February calendar is styled as the Halifax International Boat Show. International? it’s barely interprovincial!

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As you enter the show you discover it’s a great place to buy sheets and pillowcases, hot sauce and popcorn, leather belts. a hot tub and a few other items that have nothing to do with boating.  There are lots and lots of powerboats on display but pretty well all the sail on displays can be seen in the photo above.

It’s nice that the Yacht Shop and The Binnacle use the show as a reason for a number of sale items although it seems to be the same items on sale year after year and I had a hard time finding anything new at the show.  There were few new exhibitors and some of the old ones didn’t seem to show up this year.  What was missing was any sense that there was anything innovative or unusual new at the show. In earlier years I have been captured by demonstrations of Personal Locator Beacons and some neat new gear which resulted in sales, either at the show or once I got back home.  This year I picked up my usual discounted bottom paint, year-old flares and a new floating winch handle and not much else.

IMG_0998One new booth was for the Souris Harbour Authority which has organized the 150 Sailing Challenge Race from Charlottetown to the Magdelene Islands and then back to Souris.  Brother Al was manning the booth when I came through after running the gauntlet of Search and Rescue fund-raising volunteers next door. This group makes the Moonies looks shy and most folks seemed to be putting their heads down to avoid harassment. Unfortunately some didn’t look up again until well past the Souris display.   Al mentioned a new promotion to attract early entrants – any boat entering before 15 May would have their name in a hat for a draw for a refund of the $200 entry fee. Since there are fewer than a dozen boats meeting the early entry criteria the odds of a refund look pretty good.  Now that the notice of race has been published I’ll give some details in an upcoming blog.  Because this is a one-time-only event that’s one booth that will not be back next year.   A little further along was a crew promoting Race the Cape, a concept for sail racing that I really like with one race between destination ports over the course of a week – a sort of cruising with competition.

IMG_1006Another Island connection at the booths was Ellen McPhail of Waveskills  Sailing School  which operates out of the Charlottetown Yacht Club. Ellen was in Halifax helping her buddy Derek Hatfield in his booth for the Spirit of Canada Sailing Challenges and Derek’s participation in the upcoming Velux 5 Oceans Race. As is common with Ellen she was vibrating with so much enthusiasm that it was impossible to get a photo where she was in focus.

With the big powerboat and floating dock sellers taking up so much of the exhibition space the show looks big but for someone interested in sailing it shrinks considerably.   Certainly nice to see Michelle Stevens and the folks from Doyle Sails. I also had a good chat with Steve Barthel of Victory products who has a nice line of fairly inexpensive fittings. I am hoping that one of his stern ladders will be just the thing for the Halman 20.

So, all in all, a typical Halifax Boat Show.  A chance for a road trip, to do some errands and visit the wine store.  Would I go again next year?  Probably. It’s a chance to see some folks and shake out the cobwebs and it helps keep the sailing dreams alive.

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