Getting To Boat Shows - Part 1


In Boat Shows around the world, enthusiastic crowds admire the parade of boats glistening in all their splendor. Seldom is any thought spared for the ingenuity – and, sometimes drama, needed to get them to where they are. Here are a few stories at which I was either present or was well acquainted with those who were.

Most boat shows are held in the depths of winter and often involve the first example of a new model. Both these factors play their part in Murphy’s Law (aka Sod’s Law in the UK) which, for those not familiar with that law, states that if something can go wrong it will go wrong at the worst possible time in the worst possible way.


Grand Banks

My first story concerns the first Grand Banks to enter the UK . It was the fall of 1964 when the American Marine in Hong Kong dispatched the first UK-bound GB36 on a ship to England. Of course the boat was late (as was quite normal) but the ship was due to arrive in the London docks just in time for its cargo to reach the international boat show at Earls Court, close to central London.

american marine hong kong

Flying bridges were almost unknown in the UK at the time and, upon arrival, it was found that the boat was too high to fit under the arch at the entrance to the dock gates. The solution was to load the boat onto a barge and tow it around to a dock where this problem did not arise. By the time this had been done and the boat lifted onto a road transporter, it was Christmas Eve and the police denied a permit to move the boat as the route included busy Oxford Street in the heart of the city. The truck driver refused to drive the truck without the police permit.

Jack Taylor, the freshly-minted GB dealer for the UK, was a man of resource. He hopped into the cab and shared half a bottle of Scotch with the driver while they discussed the situation and Jack used his powers of persuasion. Eventually, with the half full bottle in the drivers pocket and another full bottle in reserve, they set off through the bustling streets of central London with a couple of helpers on the flying bridge wielding broomsticks to raise the low hanging Christmas decorations. They reached Earls Court with minutes to spare. The police were either busy elsewhere or assumed that a permit had been issued and no one in their right mind would attempt the journey without one.

The boat was sold at the show and was the first of many sales in the UK. Some tales are worth recounting. There was the guy who provided part of the money in a brown paper bag so that his wife would not know how much the boat cost. There was the guy on parole from prison, (He had been jailed for embezzlement and the money never recovered). There was the pop star with nose rings and purple hair and the 12 year old who came aboard asking sensible questions who returned with his parents who bought a boat. (moral: don’t judge by appearances). Our policy has always been that if you bought a ticket to attend the show then that entitled you to come aboard no matter whether or not you were a potential buyer.

A year or so after the above incident, another GB was being driven on a transporter from the docks of Le Havre in northern France to a boat show in Paris. Being mid winter the transporter slid off the icy road and crashed through a rock wall before fetching up in an apple orchard. The boat was not too badly damaged but there was insufficient time to make repairs before the show. So the boat was put into the show in its damaged condition with large photographs on easels showing the scale of the accident it had survived.

Another boat was destined for Chicago but, again being mid winter, the St Lawrence Seaway and Lake Michigan were locked in ice. The decision was made to ship the boat to New York and take it by road to Chicago. The transporter left New York but failed to show up at its destination. The driver had apparently got fed up and left the trailer in a car park somewhere between New York and Chicago. It took three weeks to locate it.



laguna boat

In my previous blog (Read: Laguna Delivery Trip) I told about the delivery trip of the first Laguna 10 meter to the same dealership in the UK. Now, in 1971, it was the turn of her larger sister ship - the first Laguna 11.5 meter. This was to the dealer in Newport Beach, California with the boat destined for the Los Angeles boat show. The problems were many and complicated. Firstly, the boat was behind schedule (naturally); a longshoreman’s strike was about to close down west coast ports and it was imperative to get the boat - finished or not - to LA before this happened. The only ship sailing from Singapore to the west coast that could arrive before the strike was heading for San Francisco – not LA. The only hope to ship the unfinished boat to San Francisco and truck it down to Newport Beach, about 40 miles south of LA, to complete it. Newport Beach because it was the location of American Marine’s HQ and because it has a lovely harbor with good facilities.

I was flown to Southern California to help with the work. We had three weeks in which to get it done. For me this was a real bonus. The weather was great, the work interesting and the people really nice. I learnt that putting masking tape across the windshield was a BAD idea. By the time the boat arrived it had been in place for about three weeks and it was almost impossible to remove without scratching the glass. I succeeded but it took many, many, hours of meticulous work.

We had carpet on the flying bridge and the boat was not operational but she was loaded onto a road transporter and made it into glittering hall of the Los Angeles Boat Show to take her place alongside the other gleaming exhibits.