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Inside the 2023 Annapolis Boat Shows

By Sigurd Neubauer


Whether or not you’re looking to acquire a powerboat or even a sailboat, or if you’re just looking to spend a fun day with friends and family, the upcoming annual Annapolis Boat Shows may just be for you. The upcoming Powerboat Show, which runs from October 5-8 will be followed immediately by the Sailboat Show from October 12-15.

“Over 300 new powerboats and counting will fill the Annapolis harbor for the Powerboat Show. Dealers will have their booths staffed with dedicated teams of experts to provide information, answer questions, and assist attendees in exploring the features and benefits of each model,” explains General Manager Sheila Jones of the Annapolis Boat Shows. 

The Annapolis Sailboat Show is the largest in-water sailboat show in the world. “Over 100 sailboats will line the docks and hundreds of colorful flags and banners waving from the masts at City Dock is a sight not to be missed,” Jones adds. 

Between the two back-to-back shows, over 650 exhibitors will showcase boats, electronics, engines, boating clubs, sailmakers, charter companies, accessory and equipment providers, foul weather gear, boating clothing, and more. Over 200 manufacturers from 10 countries are exhibiting this year.

“Each show is expected to draw between 40,000-50,000 visitors,” Jones reveals.

The Annapolis Boat Shows, or ABS, organizes four shows a year; two in October, which are its namesake ones and two in April in Stevensville, Maryland. 

The ABS is a privately held company established in 1970. Its staff of eight full-timers is spearheaded by Jones, who has been with the company since 1995.

“I came to the ‘Show’ through Manpower, the temp agency, some 28 years ago. I was hired for a long-term part-time position.” During her first show in 1995, she typed badges but had “no clue,” she recalls with a laugh, about the Boat Show as neither she nor her husband had ever attended it.  Following the 1995 Show, Jones stayed on as a receptionist but has over the years climbed the ranks to become General Manager; a position she’s held since 2021.

Each of the boat shows draw somewhere between 40,000 to 50,000 visitors. Photo credit: ABS

The Annapolis Sailboat Show is 'The Boat Show' that every sailboat manufacturer wants to attend: Jones

“I love selling and meeting a lot of people,” Jones explains, pointing out that her job is “not a typical 9-to-five job” but resembles a show production. “It is something like a traveling carnival or circus.” She’s referring to the exhibitors and visitors who come from around the world.

Responding to how the back-to-back Shows in Annapolis have evolved since Jones first started in 1995, the General Manager doesn’t mince words: “The Shows have become more sophisticated as the exhibitors now provide more detailed designs with a fancier setup. We build a marina out of floating docks and exhibitors rent about 20 of them upon which they build high-quality tents. Our Shows are getting close to what you’ll be seeing if you visit a trade show at a convention center.”

Over the past three decades, the boats have also evolved; both sail and power, she adds.

“Now there are electric, foiling boats, and hybrids. We also have international exhibitors. The Sailboat Show is an international one.”

The Sailboat Show has a long and storied history. “We were the first in water sailboat show in 1970, and it has continued to be ‘The Sailboat Show,’” Jones proclaims with obvious enthusiasm and pride. “Every manufacturer wants to attend.” 

ABS General Manager Sheila Jones started out in 1995 with typing badges. Photo credit: Courtesy

This year, the Sailboat Show will feature some hundred boats in water while 56 of them will be catamarans. 

But for Jones, it’s all about organization. “We hire up to 130 people to be part of the operation team. They build a temporary floating marina with approximately 500 floating docks. They make it happen. We plan and organize it,” Jones explains, then quips: “It is quite of an operation; and it’s kind of fun to just come and watch.”

Adds Jones: “It might be orchestrated chaos because it works. While the Sailboat Show ends on Sunday October 15, by the following Thursday you will not even know that we’ve had our Show.”

The 2023 Powerboat Show starts on October 5th. Photo credit: ABS 

“We have several non-profit organizations participating in the shows, including Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, or CRAB, which is dedicated to get people with disabilities out on the water. We also support numerous non-profits that take care of the Chesapeake Bay,” a reference Jones is making to state and communal efforts to fight water pollution and preserve the environment. 

“We also have programs to get people on the water. One of them is for a sailboat workshop where participants can take a one-hour lesson and then get to go out and sail on the boat in which they took the class. People who have never been on a sailboat tend to take this class,” Jones explains, pointing out that this class is offered during the Sailboat Show.

“For the Powerboat Show, we provide a Boat U.S. Foundation class with the goal of trying to get people into boating as it is a great family past time.”

Jones also recommends people joining a boat club. But for those looking to acquire a boat, the General Manager says: “There is no better place to search for the perfect vessel for your next adventure than our fall shows. These cutting-edge models are the result of years of research, engineering excellence, and a commitment from our wonderful exhibitors to providing our show guests with the ultimate on-water experience.”

The French sailboat manufacturer Beneteau is one out of many international exhibitors at the ABS. Photo credit: ABS
Between the two back-to-back shows, over 650 exhibitors will showcase boats, electronics, engines, boating clubs, sailmakers, charter companies, accessory and equipment providers, foul weather gear, boating clothing, and more. Over 200 manufacturers from 10 countries are exhibiting this year

Parking and logistics

All visitors are advised to park at the Navy Marine Corp stadium from where buses run continuously to the Show. The bus ride takes between 10-15 minutes.   

Each ticket is valid for one day only. Children 7 to 15: $10; and children 6 and under are free. Tickets can be purchased here.

56 catamaran models will be at the Sailboat Show. Jones. Photo credit: ABS
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