It was our first experience at TrawlerFest. American Tug was an Exhibitor at the Stuart, Florida, show and asked Esmeralde to be there for the event. We were apprehensive as the event approached, but we had a great time!
Days 142 – 148, March 4 – 10 2019
Our itinerary since leaving Key West on February 17 was loosely geared towards getting the boat to Stuart in time for TrawlerFest in early March. TrawlerFest is a six-day event sponsored by Passagemaker Magazine. The event includes a lengthy list of seminars presented by seasoned industry professionals designed to offer educational opportunities for those contemplating the trawler lifestyle, or for those looking to improve their experience and knowledge. It also includes shore-side exhibitors and an in-the-water boat show featuring — wait for it — trawlers!
The folks at American Tug wanted to have a boat at the show. Since they knew we were going to be in the area they asked us if we would be willing to exhibit Esmeralde. We didn’t know whether to be flattered or horrified. On the one hand it might be fun; on the other hand…hundreds of people trampling through our home = eeeek-potential.
We decided to go for it. We had never been to a TrawlerFest so we didn’t have any real idea what to expect. We would never use our boat in one of the big shows like Newport or Annapolis, but we thought TrawlerFest might be small and specialized enough to limit the riff-raff and keep things a little more manageable. We were right. Like most boat owners, we love our boat and we love showing her off. What better chance to do just that?
We headed to Sunset Bay Marina near the TrawlerFest location to spend a couple of days getting cleaned up. Laundry, wax, polish, etc. It was an excellent opportunity to do a good deep-cleaning after living aboard for five months. Since we try to keep up with maintenance as we cruise, the boat was in pretty good shape so it wasn’t too big a task. Plus there are three other American Tugs using Sunset Bay as a winter base so it was fun to catch up with Tug People.
On Wednesday, March 6, Kurt Dilworth arrived from the La Conner, WA-based American Tug factory. Much to his surprise, it was about 50 degrees here in Florida that morning, and blowing 25 knots out of the north. For the first time in months we were in long pants and jackets.
Kurt, Bruce and I cast-off lines at Sunset Bay Marina and headed down the St. Lucie River towards the ICW, then up to the Hutchinson Island Marriott Marina. We enjoyed having Kurt on board while under way, getting his feedback on our boat’s performance and getting answers to some of the questions we had been storing up during our cruise. His knowledge of the boats is breathtaking and we loved taking advantage of it. The trip was a short 9-mile ride, but very blustery. We gave Esmeralde a good salt-water soak-down along the way and were at the Marriott Marina by about 10:30.
There was confusion when we arrived at the marina. No one was on any radio channel to tell us where to go, and no one on any cell phones had any idea what we were supposed to do. We held station off the docks for about 15 minutes while we tried to get some instruction, jostling around in 25 knots of breeze, a strong current and the associated chop. Eventually we got a slip assignment and in we went. Time to get hosed off.
We spent the rest of the day doing some final clean up and getting Esmeralde all chamois-d off. It was cold and windy, but I found the temps enormously refreshing after all the record-breaking hot weather we had been having. Kurt was probably confused, having expected warm Florida sunshine. We grilled some steak on the barbie for dinner and turned in early. Ready for the on-slaught.
The Show Begins
Thursday was the first day of the in-the-water part of TrawlerFest, but seminars had started on Tuesday so lots of folks were wandering around the marina before the official start. It gave us a warm-up for what was to come. Esmeralde was ready, Kurt was on board and Bruce and I were — well, we were there and anxious!
Bruce has been very active throughout our cruise on the Facebook group Trawler Life. We had been hearing from — literally — hundreds of people who were following us and interested in Esmeralde‘s presence at the show. Too many names to remember, for sure, but we knew we would be seeing them on board.
By Wednesday afternoon soon after we had secured our lines at the Marriott, folks from these Facebook groups started showing up, both on the docks and on Facebook, where we discovered numerous photos of Esmeralde arriving at the marina were being posted. It was fun!
The weather throughout the show was beautiful: sunny, dry, refreshing winds and not too hot. Show visitors started to show up early: folks were knocking on the boat at 9:50, ten minutes before official opening while I was still wiping down counters and stainless. Bring it on!
Everything started with a BANG! Esmeralde was the first boat in the line, and with no boat in the slip alongside she was the only boat in the show that offered a full view of her handsome (!) profile. We were immediately chock-a-block full of visitors, the dock piled with shoes and people waiting to get aboard. At many points during the show we had more than 15 people on board. I never dreamed the boat could swallow up so many bodies.
We talked, we answered questions, we got cheerful “hello’s” from folks following us on Facebook. Kurt handled the main salon while Bruce and I tried to cover the cockpit, pilot house and forward cabins. We all tried to keep an eye on the flybridge, hoping everyone was agile enough for the ladder and the deck opening. It was nerve-wracking at first, but once we got accustomed to the flow everything worked fine.
The majority of our visitors were friendly, enthusiastic, complimentary and respectful. With the exception of one guest who was determined to open the refrigerator door in spite of being told it was locked for a reason (!), folks stayed out of our lockers and drawers. They took their shoes off and kept their hands off equipment. We were pleased.
For most of each day we were busy from start to finish. Fortunately there were random times when we suddenly found the boat empty and we were able to take a few minutes to re-charge, but on the whole we had a steady stream of visitors (and re-peat visitors, and three-peat visitors). It all made us feel very good about the boat, how she looked, and how much she was appreciated by the crowd. I like to think that Kurt and American Tug should be very, very proud about the response we experienced.
One of the great things about the experience for me and Bruce was having Kurt at our sides for four solid days. We really enjoyed hearing him field so many questions about our boat and the other American Tug models (365, 395, 435, 485, and the new Waypoint 36). We learned a lot of new stuff.
And our Facebook friends! They were there in droves! Every ten minutes someone would step aboard the boat with a “Hi! I feel like I know you. I’ve been following you for months on Facebook!” We recalled many of them who post frequently sharing their own trawler adventures, and who comment on our own posts.
The whole Facebook thing grew over time. We did not plan it. We aren’t looking for anything in return. We simply started to enjoy the interaction with so many like-minded folks and they, in turn, seemed to like following our little cruise. We have really enjoyed it and the people who have crossed our path.
Those who follow us on Facebook now associate us with SPAM! I am not going to explain that, but I will share a photo of one of our Facebook friends who arrived on Saturday with — count them — three cans of SPAM! for Bruce. We love our Facebook friends! Another had been fishing in the area and shared with us a couple of pounds of fresh-caught fish which we have already enjoyed, as well as some chives and basil plants to take along on our cruise. We are very grateful for all the fun and thoughtful gestures.
By the time Saturday evening arrived and the crowds evaporated, we were exhausted, relieved, and satisfied. As we sat on the bow in the warm late afternoon sun we reflected on what a fun event the show had turned out to be for us and how productive we hoped it would be for American Tug. We do think (hope) we represented the brand well and honestly, and we hope that down the road a few folks who happened to visit Esmeralde at TrawlerFest might end up with an American Tug of their own, and enjoy it as much as we do.