Tilting at Windmills
Our trip to Amsterdam for the Marine Equipment Trade Show, the world’s largest show for boating products and accessories, was only slightly less impulsive than our trip to San Diego to watch the winged shitter last week. And our comfort suffered because of it. A stanky and overstuffed Delta transatlantic flight and a half a day of roaming around to find a place to lay our heads weren’t a good start to the week, though we’re finally (mostly) recovered. An old friend invited us to stay in his beautifully restored 17th century home in a fortified town closer to Rotterdam than Amsterdam, so it’s been restful and comfortable.
Though a bit bummed we’re not in the middle of the Dam square, we do have a car and can easily get anywhere – and it would be hard to find a more beautiful spot than Brielle, with a canal on the front doorstep and a working windmill from the mid 1800s just around the corner. Yesterday I found myself balanced on the gunnals of my friend’s classic diesel launch, pumping and bailing water from the sinking craft as I nursed a Grolsch beer and puffed on a cigarette as the sun slid behind the flat countryside. It was hard not to feel like a Dutchman.
So once again, serendipity has given us a great experience, and today we had a little reconnaissance mission at the METS show. It’s run in a huge convention complex that can probably hold more than one show at a time, and you walk through an army of smokers as you approach the front door – as you’d expect with so many French and Italian industry workers. We barely hit half the show, and it took 3 hours of fast walking to get that far. The sheer volume of companies here is mind-boggling, especially compared to US shows; there is a "composites section" with not just a few top carbon specialists, but with dozens and dozens of companies making carbon-fiber components and products. Fittings, electronics, clothing, sail components and sails, engines, generators, all with ten times more of each than any show I’ve seen. I’ve seen more gorgeous carbon fittings of every possible purpose today than I’ve seen in a year – technical works of art with modern design and all sorts of looks. The booths are gorgeously turned out, and there are restaurants with every nationality’s food on offer, corresponding to nearby international exhibitor groupings. Represented are Thai, Kiwi, Russian, Greek, Chinese, Turkish, Italian, Polish, Croatian, Spanish, and more than a dozen more, and the culinary offerings are perfect to gain weight on a short working holiday.
Today we’ve got a few pics for you from our little town and the show, and an introductory video as well as a video with Magic Marine Marketing Manager Carrie Howe, a former SCOTW and one of our pals for a long time, a successful chick now off the water and still ripping it up at 20+ knots on it. Tomorrow we intend to do interviews until our batteries are all dead and our SD cards all full, because there is simply SO MUCH cool shit here that it’s gonna take a lot of work. This show is the ultimate professional boat show. It makes you realize that, in Europe, this is a real business, a legitimate industry. So check back for more and let me know here if you have any specific stuff you want to see. Thursday we will be taking requests.
And finally, a word about this part of the Netherlands. A country with canals that cross nearly every inch of it, and where the canals are filled bow-to-stern with sailboats, fishing boats, and tenders of every possible size and shape, is a great place to be for a sailor or a waterman. Where sailing clubs are heavily subsidized by the government and where a family membership with boat storage a great venue is a few hundred bucks a year is someplace comfortable for racers to be. The land itself has become dominated by wind to even a greater extant than the Holland of old, with modern wind turbines towering over everything, evidence of the endless wind here and the willingness people have to use it for a cleaner-energy world. We’ll be back tomorrow night. More in the thread.
Meredith Block Photos