New show brings beautiful boats to waterfront

The New London waterfront will host the New London In Water Boat Show June 21 and 22. Sean D. Elliot

Editor's note: To page through the summer issue of Sound & Country online, visit The Day's new iMag, here. Our 12-page boating guide starts on page 40.

Years from now, when the New London In Water Boat Show rivals the city’s Sailfest as a magnet for crowds and commerce, people will recall how it all started back in 2014.

Now that’s a scenario worth pursuing.

“Absolutely, that’s our goal,” Greg Crocker, one of the June 21-22 boat show’s organizers, said. “We want it to become an annual event. Some day it will be as big as Sailfest — another big event for downtown New London.”

The boat show, during which dozens of boats will tie up at Waterfront Park, is the first such New London event since the one-day Long Island Sound Boaters Expo in 2010.

Barbara Neff, the city events coordinator who organized the earlier show, enlisted the help of Crocker and his brother, Sam, both of Crocker’s Boatyard, in putting together the upcoming event.

By mid-April, the three-person team had booked nearly all of the available floating-dock space near City Pier.

“We expect to have 30 to 40 boats, ranging up to 60 feet in length,” Greg Crocker said. “The majority will be power boats. We’ve got one sailboat at this point.”

Most of the boats on display — on land as well as in the water — will be new boats, though Crocker said a couple of high-quality used vessels will be presented as well.

“If someone wants to show a good, used boat, I’m all for it,” he said.

In addition to boat dealers, marinas with slip space to lease and other purveyors of boat services, electronics, gear and accessories will exhibit a variety of wares at the show. Crocker said he expects 10 to 20 booths to be set up for that purpose.

Variety, he said, is the operative word.

“‘Charts to parts’ is one way to put it,” Crocker said. “Or, if you prefer, ‘anchors to zinc’” (a metal used in protecting a boat’s underside).

Among the boat dealers and marinas that have booked space at the show are Boating on the Thames of Waterford; Boats Inc. of Niantic; Diamond Marine of East Haven; Eastern Yachts of New London; Louis Marine of Westbrook; MarineMax of Westbrook; Mystic River Marina of Mystic; Niantic Bay Boat Valet of Waterford; and Port Niantic of Niantic.

Neff was working to line up live musical entertainment during the boat show’s first day, a Saturday, when the event will run from noon to 6 p.m. It will continue from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. the next day. On Day Two, the U.S. Coast Guard Dixieland Jazz Band will play at City Pier at 3 p.m.

The band’s performance, like the boat show itself, will be free.

The organizers hope the absence of an admission charge will help boost attendance.

Crocker noted that the Connecticut Marine Trade Association’s Hartford Boat Show, a four-day event at the Connecticut Convention Center in January, charged adults a $12 fee and that other established boat shows in Newport, R.I., and Norwalk charge admission as well.

The Hartford show drew 13,000 to 14,000 people, he said, an attendance figure the New London event may achieve some day.

“We’re not there yet,” Crocker said. “I’d hope to get more than 1,000 people over the two days.”

Neff was reluctant to predict the turnout.

“It’s a first-time event and I’ve done some of those that got 2,000 people and some that got 500. I just can’t say,” she said. “It really depends on the weather. We go on, rain or shine.”

Boats are selling these days, which is a hopeful sign, Crocker said.

“I was talking to someone who was just at the Greenwich Boat Show, where some boats sold,” he said. “At these shows, a lot of people come to touch and feel, then they follow up. Sales do happen at shows, but a lot of it’s making contacts and following up. The actual sales come later.”

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