The one thing that has come out of the boat show weekend is that the Southampton Boat Show is close to a tipping point.
It's very close to becoming as irrelevant to sailors like me and the thousands of other skint sailors as the London Hooray Henry Champagne Bar-bedecked bash.
Looking at a lot of the feedback from the show there seems to be a criticism that the show is ignoring the majority that pay entry and come through the gates for the spectacle and is starting to pander to the minority that can commit to buying a boat at the show.
Even the smaller traders, that can usually be relied upon to furnish some boaty bargains on the day seem to be hamstrung by big rental costs for their pitches. Bargains... true bargains were thin on the ground. Even the usual cheap rope wasn't so cheap.
You can gloss over it as much as you want by having weird Guinness Book Record attempts (largest number of people making a picture of a boat??), or limited on the water opportunities (great for those that don't have a boat), but there was pretty little for those of us trying to keep a boat going on a limited budget.
One thing I did note was that very few people were taking things away from the show. Lots of empty hands not carrying carrier bags loaded with stuff away from the show. Now I know there are plenty of people with a bigger budget than me, so it's plausible that I should see some of them carrying goodies away with them. But I didn't see many if any doing that. Very unusual and possibly an indication that the items on offer at the show are overpriced maybe, or the internet provides better bargains, or shoppers are becoming more savvy.
The thing is, what do people come to the show for? It's an interesting question and one that the show organisers should really be asking.
What do I go to the show for? My motivation isn't to buy a boat, that's for sure. What I do go to the show for is to see the latest technology and boats and see if I it's relevant to me and if I can use it. Maybe not at the show, but at some point. I may pick up a bargain if I think it is a genuine bargain. I'm not going to buy something with a 10 or 20% show loading (because the vendor has to cover exorbitant stand rental) advertised as a bargain. The on-the-water attractions don't er, attract me because I have my own boat.
The organisers really need to start to re-engage with us ordinary sailors, the ones that have boats already and are out there sailing every weekend. Do us poor saps who pay to get through the door a favour.
Maybe have a boat jumble area, with reduced stand sizes and rental costs, so the vendors can sell at proper bargain prices. Let those premium priced vendors charge the prices they want for premium brands, but let us bargain bucket boaters have our little area where we buy non-branded stuff cheaply.
Which brings me to another idea I have about a new type of chandler, a Primark of the seas, for us bargain boaters. Why are the chandlers full of branded kit? I don't think I've ever seen non-branded items like cleats, or blocks. Someone in the world must manufacture them.
Something to pick up on in my next post I think.