Jingle Sails

By Joseph K. Waltenbaugh

Twas the night before the boat show and all through the town,
Boat brokers and vendors, expectations abound.
The yachts were all moored in their slips with such care,
In anticipation of sailors who soon would be there.

Don’t you just hate it when someone takes something near and dear to you (like the poem The Night before Christmas) and uses cheap gimmickry to exploit it for a totally unrelated purpose (like a clever opening to an article that really has nothing to do with Christmas)?  Well, perhaps.  But don’t be too quick to judge.  Just like a child at Christmastime, you need to suspend judgment until you see where this is going.

As an adult, it is hard to rekindle the joy, awe, and excitement of a child anticipating the arrival of that special day with all its magic and majesty.  It may be hard, but it is not impossible.  I should know because I have been experiencing it over and over again for the past 15 years, and it is all thanks to the United States Sailboat Show held in Annapolis, Maryland every October.  Admittedly, there is no Santa Claus or elves or mistletoe or holly, but there other things—even better things—like shiny new yachts, novel marine gadgets, maritime cheer, and a plethora of sea captains (many of whom actually look like Santa).  Yes, it is boat show fever and it is the closest thing I have found as an adult to Christmas magic. 

Like a child, my anticipation starts long before the arrival of the October boat show.  I begin working on my wish list in the autumn immediately after the show ends, and I continue adding to it throughout the winter and into the following spring and summer until the next show finally arrives.  With list in hand, I then wheel and deal with the vendors to pick up all the latest boat toys, bells, and whistles I am able to carry home.  Over the course of those 15 years, I purchased three different boats, and I used the boat show to help me decide which ones to buy (even though I never directly purchased one at the show).  The excitement of bouncing from boat to boat and dreaming about the possibilities is very much akin to lying in bed as a child dreaming about Christmas morning.

Of course, no Christmas would be complete without some Christmas cheer in the form of holiday libations.  Where I live we always have “Tom and Jerrys” on Christmas Eve—hot eggnog spiked with rum and brandy and sprinkled with nutmeg.  At the boat show, we toast the season high atop the deck at Pusser’s Landing with “Painkillers” served island style—pineapple and orange juices combined with crème of coconut and dark rum, sprinkled with fresh nutmeg and garnished with an orange slice and cherry.  No milk and cookies here.  It is a holiday feast of Maryland crab, rum and beer. 

And what can compare to the thrill of opening Christmas presents and sharing your joy and good fortune with those around you?  The same holds true for boat show weekend when my sailing companions and I return to our hotel after the show.  We then scurry from room to room with the excitement of children as we show each other the nautical gadgets, gifts, and novelties we purchased at the show.  This is followed by more tropical drinks and tales of boat shows past before we retire to our rooms for a mid-autumn’s nap.  Happy and content, we slumber as children while visions of rhumb lines dance in our heads. 

Maybe you will never again be that wild-eyed child, awestruck and mesmerized by Christmas in all its wonder, but it is possible through your passion for boats and all things nautical to briefly rekindle and experience the magic and excitement you once felt as a child.

The wind how it beckons, we respond to its call,
Sail away, sail away, sail away all.


Copyright © 2012 Joseph K. Waltenbaugh  www.waltenbaugh.net