Sunday, January 27, 2013

Chicago Boat Show 2013 - Call me surprised.

Since 2007 when we began our first sailing classes and before we owned a boat, we had joined the dreaming masses at the Annapolis and Chicago boat shows. This year was our fourth year at Chicago, and it offered a kind of opportunity to look back. I wondered, as I sat in the coffee area people watching, how many of the attendees around me owned boats and sailed actively, and how many were dreamers like we had been those 6 years ago. Dreaming is a good thing, a very necessary thing in today's age of relentless work and too little play, an escape and an infusion of energy and positive thinking. Maybe someday...just maybe...
Fast forward 6 years and I find myself watching and listening to the people as we wait in the lines to see the boats - the expensive-out-of-reach-for-most-of-us-boats. From this end of the 6 years you can pick out the ones at the other end of the journey pretty easily. They oooh and aaaah at the ice bin for beer in the cockpit and the flashy but not so efficient layout below. The boat owners and those looking to replace their boats are looking at the lack of handholds and awkward traveler positions and narrow, crowded side decks and possible dodger mounts and winch access. Recognizing myself 6 years ago in the oooh and aaah crowd and now in the boat owner crowd, it was good to realize just how far we'd come. Every once in awhile you need to get some encouragement in the midst of a tough refit, a pat on the back that you're not a rank beginner anymore,and I'll take it wherever I can find it, even if it means the deck of a flashy Beneteau which I can never afford.

I was, however, not beyond being caught totally flat-footed surprised. One of the main reasons we ended up with the Tartan was the fact that I have a wonderful husband who deferred to me in the area of design. At all the boat shows we attended, we toured the new Jeanneaus, the Catalinas, the Hunters and the Beneteaus, and after leaving each cabin I always felt like I had left a rather sterile hotel room. I had difficulty imagining any of them as my home in the way Kintala feels to me. Tim, being the pilot of high-end jet aircraft with fancy, new interiors, always preferred the  newer models. Well.....drumroll....I can now confess that I have found a new production boat that I could buy and live on if the checkbook could support it. The Beneteau Oceanis 41.

The boat was laid out exactly the way we would lay out a boat if we were designing it, and they had addressed a lot of my initial objections to modern production boats like the lack of opening ports in the side windows, fantastically well-designed companionway stairs and engine access, and had the one feature that we compromised on Kintala, a head at the base of the companionway, along with a feature we're building into Kintala, a useable tool, parts, and workroom.  The companionway stairs and engine access are probably the best feature of this boat. the stairs are completely encased by side walls as you go down and are much more level than the typical ladder-like stairs found on most boats (including Kintala). To access the engine, there is a hydraulic lift on the stairs that not only makes them easy to lift, but keeps them there while you're working inside. It is a truly well-designed boat with a cruiser-owner in mind, and for anyone with a bigger pocketbook than mine or the luck to win the lottery, I highly suggest you look at it.  The price as fully equipped at the show and also including a dodger and bimini but not a radar was $285K and change. There would be very little I would change about it other than to install a three burner stove instead of a 2 burner one, a radar, and two long handholds down the length of the boat which were inexplicably missing. I would also remove the front-opening fridge and install a top-loader for efficiency. This would be my choice in that price range without any doubt at all.

Enter stage left, Surprise Number Two, the new Gemini Legacy 35. The last time I boarded a Gemini catamaran was at the Annapolis Boat Show three years ago. I seriously couldn't wait to get off it (sorry to all Gemini owners who are happy with theirs). It was constructed so lightly that I would be constantly afraid of it coming apart were we to take it offshore. The nice thing about having two days at a small boat show is that you tend to go look at things that you might not otherwise since you have the time. We took the tour on the Gemini Legacy and were quite pleasantly surprised. They moved the cabin roof back quite a bit toward the table, allowing you headroom in most of the salon area, greatly opening up the salon and the galley both. The hulls are still a real tight fit, and the guest cabins very small, but the master cabin, that sits abeam the boat forward of the salon, is a wonderfully enticing space that makes you just want to curl up there and read a book. It's well lit, well ventilated, and their choice of veneers and paint colors all geared toward the light, airy feeling. The boat has a much more substantial feeling to it, and at $216K sailaway it's a pretty good deal for anyone wanting to get into a catamaran.

One negative surprise about the show this year was the real lack of meat and potatoes in the vendor aisles. There were a lot of schools, sailing clubs, insurance agents and the like, but almost none of the items we had come to research were represented: Rocna anchors, wind generators of any sort, solar panels of any sort, and hydro generators of any sort. We were able to purchase our tethers, a rope-cutting gun, and a good set of fids for tremendous boat show specials, and we did settle on a keel-cooled Frigo unit to replace our aging and very inefficient refrigerator compressor, but we left with money in our pocket when we would likely have purchased one of those items had they been there. It was an odd shift - the boat manufacturers had become more serious in their representation, the vendors less.

In my opinion, the free seminars offered at this show area the best reason to go. There are nearly 50 one-hour seminars offered each day of four days and they just keep getting better and better, with high-quality instructors and topics of highly applicable interest to nearly every level of experience. We attended an offshore energy management seminar offered by Bob Williams that I anticipated was going to be too basic for my mechanic-husband, but turned out to be a very valuable resource to us as we are setting up our electrical usage planning. We also attended the Force 10 Storm Management seminar offered by our friend John Kretschmer who, as always, is highly entertaining while delivering a real 1-2 punch of knowledge.  Regardless of what seminar you choose, I promise they deliver and will not disappoint. In between your seminar attendance, there are also a ton of on-floor demonstrations at vendors, the best one we attended being the splicing demonstration done by Donnie from the West Marine Rigging production staff in Rock Hill.

Here are some more miscellaneous pictures for those of you who didn't get to attend.

Sailing Simulator for kids that was awesome.
Compac Yachts Pilot House 23

The Blue Jacket 40 World Debut. A really well-designed boat by Bob Johnson and Tim Jacket.

New to the U.S. Delphia 41

Seward 32

The annual ice sculpture contest at Navy Pier
Incredible detail in the work

Chicago at its best

1 comment:

Lisa said...
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