In a sense the annual 1955 National Motor Boat Show, which will play to about 200,000 persons during its 10-day run beginning January 14 at Kingsbridge Armory in New York, is misnamed. A more appropriate title probably would be "The National Gadget Show." The big boats will be there, and the aluminum hulls and the kit boats. But for the dedicated boat show regular, the accessory display is the thing, a fact the New York show has demonstrated on a rising curve in recent years. Again in 1955, gadgets, gilihickies and fittings take up the major part of the space and, in the case of most visitors, will attract the largest share of attention.
The same will doubtless be true of the other boat shows across the country which will be opening for inspection more or less regularly from now until early spring. Sponsored by the National Association of Engine and Boat Manufacturers, the New York show as always is the first of the season and the biggest. The show itself is more Hollywood-colossal than ever. The Armory is huge and there is an enormous and sometimes bewildering profusion of products. At the Wilcox-Crittenden booth, for example, there is on display almost every conceivable item of ship's hardware, everything from hull fastenings to roller reefing gear, from sail slide magazines to capstans.
Aisle after aisle one sees pumps, swivel seats, folding boarding ladders, riding and running lights, depth sounders, chronometers, barometers, wind indicators, fire extinguisher systems, electrically powered megaphones, rigging knives, marine spark plugs, alcohol stoves, electric winches, chart cases, turnbuckles, blocks, chocks and what have you, plus a thousand of etceteras. A would-be sailor can buy perfectly legitimate gear for any boat in the show and spend on the gear alone almost as much as the price of the boat.
The stars, of course, are still the big boats, the most newsworthy of which is a 40-foot over-all deep keel auxiliary cruising sloop built by Luders. She is not only the biggest sailboat ever displayed indoors, she also happens to comprise the biggest molded plywood hull ever made in the United States. With her 60-foot mast and wonderfully smooth hull, she is the show's stopper.
For the totally dedicated powerboat fraternity, there is the massive yet sleek 51-foot Wheeler, and, only inches smaller, a Dutch-built Feadship. The Wheeler is the equal of any boat in the show in terms of luxurious equipment. She has flush teak decks and protecting mahogany rails on both sides, a galley which compares favorably with many apartment-house kitchens, hot and cold running water, electric refrigeration, two glass-doored showers, and on into the night. She will accommodate eight, plus two in the crew, and is powered by twin 200-hp GM diesels.
These vessels dominate the show and rightly so, but there are literally hundreds of other craft of all types to be seen, ranging in price from $50 for a kit from which one can assemble a 7-foot pram up to close to $100,000 for the biggest cabin cruisers. Expectably enough, the biggest representation in boats of cruising size is the single-engine cabin cruiser with accommodations for from two to four, ranging in size from 22 to 29 feet and in price from $4,000 to $8,000. These are the boats which are avidly visited by the majority of spectator sailors who come to feed their dreams as well as to shop. It is actual on-the-floor purchases from this group of boats which will account for a large part of the more than 12 million dollars of sales which will be made before the show closes January 23.
But more people will buy the outboard cruisers. In the past few years these have become more luxurious and more seaworthy. With newer, quieter, more powerful and dependable outboard motors, they are appealing to an ever larger group of boating enthusiasts whose motives in selecting them above inboards is not solely economic. The latest outboard cruisers offer an uncluttered hull, much more living space than on inboards of the same length, more opportunity to cruise shoal waters, and remarkable ease of overhaul.
The improvements in outboard motors this year are minor. However, more motors than ever before have all or most of the virtues which used to be available only singly on one or another make: self starter, gear shift, separate cruising fuel tanks with automatic feed, comparatively quiet operation, adaptability to remote control, etc. Johnson and Evinrude still seem to be the overall favorites; the new Mercury in the same size is faster; and Scott-Atwater features a new 30-horsepower job equipped with an automatic bailing device which works.