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A Nautical Woodstock Comes to Essex

Maybe you’ve been to boat shows, but chances are you haven’t been to anything like the International Cruising Boat Expo (ICBE), taking place June 2-7 at Brewer Essex Island Marina. Organizers lightheartedly call it, “a Woodstock for the nautically inclined.”

Don’t take the brown acid hull cleaner.

Programmed for the die-hard marine crowd as well as armchair sea captains and the merely curious, ICBE has been created by AIM Marine Group as an alternative to its well-established TrawlerFest. Broadening the appeal of so-called “trawler yachts” beyond seasoned sailors is one objective, but ICBE is essentially promoting a lifestyle.

“Most of the trawler people are 55-and-older, and they’re looking at early retirement or they’re cashing out and looking for something adventurous to do for the rest of their lives,” says Peter Swanson, Editor-in-Chief of PassageMaker magazine, one of the show runners. “This event is great if you’re trying to figure out whether to buy an RV, or travel to Europe, or go on safari in Africa, or maybe buy a boat and cruise the waterways of the United States.”

Sounds pretty good. Swanson matter-of-factly talks about “following the 70-degree line as you go south and north on a seasonal basis,” like an aquatic snowbird with a satisfactory income. “Some people in Connecticut work their entire careers there, and they might like the idea of taking a boat and going south as part of a late life adventure,” he says.

That takes seagoing smarts, though, which is why ICBE has a strong educational lineup. The first two days offer informative seminars with names like “Hands On Boat Handling” and “Soup to Nuts Navigation,” with an avowed “propulsion-agnostic” bent that embraces engines and sails.

“There’s nothing in New England that I know of with content like a two-day engine course, or a boat buyer’s survival guide aimed at people who don’t have a boat yet, or are about to purchase a boat,” Swanson says. “I don’t see that happening at most boat shows.”

As for the setting, Brewer Essex Island Marina has an Arcadian quality, with amenities like an Olympic-sized swimming pool, dining and numerous activities. For those who don’t arrive in their own vessel, a quick ferry links the island to downtown Essex. “You are within walking distance of the Griswold Inn, which is one of the coolest restaurants and B&Bs in the United States,” Swanson says. “Or you can grab a bite to eat at the Black Seal. It’s a great location, and a great time of year to be in that part of Connecticut.”

Swanson notes that the social aspect will involve “strong drinks and music,” but the ICBE has some fairly profound aspirations. “For many people of my generation, the idea of simplifying our lives and going to live on a boat like gypsies is a dream deferred,” he says. “But with the kids in college – or better yet, having graduated – and with the economy back on track, now they’re buying a boat. The ICBE gives them the skills and confidence to go through the boat buying process, or, if they have a boat already, to head south to the Islands or do the Great Loop.”

Image Credits: ICBE

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