LEAGUE CITY – You name it and every type, style or design of boat — not to mention a shark tank — was on display in and out of the water at the South West International Boat Show. The show, in its sixth year, was held this weekend at South Shore Harbour Marina.
Well almost everything. A tank of sharks, part of a traveling show that promotes conservation of sharks worldwide, are for show only.
One of the big draws of the show each year are the boats that aren’t just for show, but the ones you can take out for a test drive.
“That’s something you don’t get to do at most boat shows because they are in a big convention hall,” promoter Peter Bryant said. “Weather permitting, you can take a few of these vessels out for a spin.”
The four-day show draws more than 15,000 people each year.
That’s fitting since the Clear Lake area, especially along the south shore that includes League City and Clear Lake Shores, is listed as the fourth largest boating community in the nation. A ranking based on the number of boat slips available in the area.
Michael Upchurch, commander of the Galveston Bay Sail and Power Squadron, said having so many people who want to take to the water, is a great thing. His organization provides safety and skills training for boaters of any skill level.
Boating saw a decline in the region after Hurricane Ike in 2008. That’s changed.
“We’re pretty much maintaining that level we saw (before) Ike hit,” Upchurch said.
The squadron used the boat show to recruit new members.
“A lot of people don’t know about the services we offer,” Upchurch said. “In addition to safety training, we provide advance weather and navigation courses and we even conduct safety inspections of your boat that are recognized by the Coast Guard.”
Those safety inspections, which come free of charge, are so well done that most times when U.S. Coast Guard inspectors see the inspection sticker on one’s vessel, they don’t bother conducting a full boat inspection, Upchurch said.
The group isn’t just about safety and inspections. It promotes fun.
“We have a social event once a month, where we talk about the joys of boating,” Upchurch said. “What we do with the training is serious, and when you take a boat out you have to be serious about what you are doing. That doesn’t mean we don’t want you to know how to have fun.”
Glen Gordy is another who has seen the area boating scene grow. The operator of the Bay Area Sailing School at Watergate Yachting Center in League City said the he’s seen a big increase in the number of people wanting to take to the water.
His sailing school trained more then 600 people last year and has certified more than 8,000 since 1999.
“The last two years have been my busiest years yet,” he said. “Last year was the biggest year I’ve ever had.”
More people means that there are also more dogs that get to ride along. That’s what drew Lynne Peters to the show this weekend.
She was among the 200 nautical-related vendors to have a tent.
She invented a dog flotation device that connects to a dog’s collar.
It keeps the canine’s head above water should it find its way off the boat.
“Most dogs after 15 minutes in the water drown,” Peters said. “A good swimmer, maybe 20 minutes. This device keeps their heads out of the water and keeps them afloat and they can go on for much longer to be rescued.”
Peters, who lives in Houston, came up with the idea because her Jack Russell terrier “had a habit of falling into the pool,” she said.
She fashioned a floating collar that eventually became Hedz Up Pets. Each is handmade in Texas and Peters sells them at boat shows or in a handful of boutique boat stores.
In part the show was to give potential customers as well as those who could manufacturer the devices, a first hand look at how they work.
Her models for the show were a 6-year-old German Shepherd named Wyatt Earp and a Welsh Terrier named Spencer.
The South West International Boat Show wraps up at 6 p.m. today.