The show at South Lake Union is going great, and runs through this Sunday evening.

Walking through the entry gate, you could almost forget that it had been so long. The familiar sights, sounds, and exhibitors of the Northwest Yacht Brokers Association’s Boats Afloat Show greeted me. The red carpet. The “Boat Show Special” displays. The (masked) boat folk happily explaining or learning about boaty goods and services.

A few more steps forward, and there they were. Boats! And lot of ’em. There total number of boats on display isn’t as eye-popping as a typical Boats Afloat Show, but this weekend’s consolidation of 120 boats is more than have been displayed in a single location in the Pacific Northwest since the beginning of the pandemic. And it was a beautiful scene. What can I say? I love a boat show. Always have.

Photo by Mark Davis, Hero Creative.

More than any metrics of the show, the vibe was great — that of a really good boat show. Kind of like old times, but perhaps with more intent. A lot of attendees — more than I remember — seemed to be at the show with a genuine interest in buying a boat this weekend. Indeed, that part comes as no surprise given the boat sales numbers over the last 18 months; but seeing it in action as someone who doesn’t work in the world of sales and brokerage… it was pretty cool. And boats are selling. Stories are already popping up of deals made on the first day of the show.

I walked the show on Friday as the weekend’s forecast drizzle was starting to show up. A little moisture certainly didn’t deter the crowd that shared the docks with me, nor did it appear to dampen their spirits. It wasn’t busy, exactly, but I have seen a slow boat show before, and this wasn’t anything close to that. It was solid. Steady. And fun!

Photo by Mark Davis, Hero Creative.

As far as inventory, the comparatively limited range of boats reflects some of the supply chain challenges that have impacted so many industries, including recreational marine. Yet (and I promise no one persuaded me to say this), I was more heartened that there are good boats available for sale than I was disheartened that the variety didn’t quite match pre-pandemic levels. Whether you like sail or power, large or small, cruise-y or more performance oriented… There’s something at the show for you.

The real purpose of the show is, of course, helping sailors and cruisers learn about the options that are out there and, thus, connecting sellers with buyers. But the heart of any show is the people. And in this way, boy oh boy. Boats Afloat was just plain awesome. If Boats Afloat is your very first boat show, you will find it a welcoming environment and you’ll meet some amazing folks. But if, like me, you get to walk the show and see a whole host of friends you care deeply about; who you haven’t seen in quite a while; and they’re all conveniently assembled in one place standing aboard (and chattering about) the vessels and activity that give us our shared passion, our common thread… well, it felt an awful lot like real life. And it was wonderful.

Welcome back, boat shows. We missed you.

The Lake Union Boats Afloat Show is still open Saturday September 18 and Sunday September 19 from 10:00am to 6:00pm at it’s traditional location — Seattle’s Chandler’s Cove.  

Background photo by Mark Davis, Hero Creative.