We are currently living in downtown St. Louis and the Boat Show opened here yesterday, just a short walk from our condo. A friend with a booth (Northwest Tire and Auto) at the show had offered to walk me in if I came down, so I had no excuse not to go.
I shot the breeze with Mark Foppe until the show was officially open. We talked about how his tire and auto business became connected to a boat show. Not too long ago, a lot more boats were being sold, and most of those came on trailers. Mark became associated with dealers, providing hitches for vehicles, and trailer tires, and general trailer maintenance. There was also some discussion as to how the size of the show had grown smaller over the years, which is fairly understandable if not regrettable, but also how the managers at the show have changed along with how the vendors are treated.
Vendors pay a hefty fee to be able to hawk their services and goods at the show; one item I found interesting was the $700 fee for the weekend to have access to WiFi in the Edward Jones Dome.
Some loyal vendors at the show for several years have also been moved from their usual spot where customers have become used to seeing them. A canvas maker, for instance, may have had a booth right next to a boat dealer for years, and the boat dealer may have sent many customers next door to the canvas maker, and vice versa, making for a compatible relationship.When vendors are moved around at the whim of the producers of the show, they tend to get upset. When vendors quit coming, the show suffers and so do the patrons attending the show. Evidence of vendors being disconcerted is evident in that the size of this years show is reduced, and the number of "big boats" at the show has dwindled down to just a couple.
I walked through the show and talked a bit with a fella selling a product that prevents rust on boats in salt water. Having purchased a product last year to apply to the exposed electrical terminals on Swing Set, I was interested in learning about the intended use of his product, Q Maxx. I asked as to where the product is generally used on a boat, and I got the reply that one was expected to use the product "all over". I still hadn't learned at this point if the stuff was for fiberglass, metal, or both. This may be an unfair judgement of this perhaps fine product, but in the end, it was my opinion that Q Maxx is nothing more than WD-40 in a different can, with a higher price. Anybody up for spraying WD-40 "all over" their boat?
I next stopped in to the Missouri Coast Guard Auxiliary booth. I received my Basic Seamanship certificate from a friend in the auxiliary who taught my course in 1970, when I was 15 years old. The fella at the booth and my friend are both in their 80's and both worked at McDonnell-Douglas, now Boeing, and have both been in the Auxiliary for many years, yet the fella in the booth didn't know my friend, Don Alwine. Maybe age is the culprit, mine or his, but we still talked a bit about our plans for Swing Set, and my application of wind generators to a power vessel.
I moved on, stopping for a minute and looking at some Sea Doo underwater devices that propel snorkelers and SCUBA divers. I have considered one of these things before, and I think they may be a fun thing to have. The price advertised at the show seemed fair, but the nagging fact was that the amount of storage space is not increasing on Swing Set, and I'm not sure if we need yet another device to drain our battery banks, as these gizmo's are electric and need to be charged up prior to use.
No one was in the River Bill lounge, a place which will be full of friends on Thursday night, but I left a couple of Swing Set business cards around, hoping Bill Kelly would get a chuckle when he found them later.
The Progressive Insurance area was chock full of attractive girls, beckoning me over like so many sirens. I've contacted Progressive before, and they offer nothing for owners of boats over 30' in the Florida area, where we will spend a lot of time. I'm not the type to waste the time of a pretty girl, or mine, so I moved on.
I milled around a Cobalt Boat display, reminiscing about our earlier Cobalt and admiring the craftsmanship on their boats. I was invited to "climb in and look around", but I am also not the type to waste the time of a pretty boat salesman either.
I did spend some time with a salesman at the Marine Max display, however, but he is an old friend. Jeff "Sarge" Lenz works at Port Arrowhead at the Lake of the Ozarks. His parents were one of the original owners of the Duck Club Yacht Club where we keep our boat, a fact that I did not know. It had been a few years since Jeff and I had shared a beer or two, but he told me that he's been staying current with us by reading the blog and my facebook posts. He had a question or two about Holly. Jeff has been in the business of selling fun things to people for many years, from boats to trucks, to vans, to boats again. It's a rough way to make a living in this economy, or any other. Ask for him if you are looking for any kind of vessel in the Lake of the Ozarks area.
I spied the Bloch Marine display with none other than John Bloch in attendance. John and I talked about bottom paint for Swing Set later on in the spring. Interlux has a new "green" bottom paint that I'd like to try. John is attending an Interlux seminar in March, so he'll be able to find out more about the product. We also talked about applying Prop Speed to our running gear; it prohibits barnacles from growing on the props and shafts. It's expensive, but I've been reading good things about it. Even though we won't be hitting salt water until several months after we leave the Alton Pool, I may have Bloch Marine apply the Prop Speed. Better Bloch Marine than someone I don't know. Bloch Marine has three facilities on the Alton Pool. One is at Harbor Point, another at the Yacht Club of St. Louis, and the one we use at Polestar Marina.
I popped by the Captain Tim display; Tim and Martha run a pirate ship cruise on the Alton Pool, along with a river taxi service that utilizes a boat that looks just like a great white shark. In the off season, Tim has also built a shuttle on the frame of an airport bus, or something, that looks like his big pirate ship. Tim is one of the most creative persons I've ever met, and the bus and shark boat can be seen at the show. Tim will be strumming his guitar and no doubt singing some Jimmy Buffet songs in the River Bill's lounge at the show on Thursday night. I better call Jimmy.
I touched base with my friend Mark Foppe on my way out, having spent nearly two hours walking and talking. Rosie and I are going back tonight for River Bill's night at the Boat Show, where we will spend the majority of our time at the River Bill's lounge. We may have a Bud Light or two.
I'm also racking my brain as to where I can stow the Sea Doo gizmo aboard Swing Set. I tend to buy stuff I don't need at Boat Shows after a couple of beers.