The stuff dreams are made of

A side effect of entering the London Boat Show is that you immediately lose all concept of money. You are horrified by the decadence of the first £700,000 yacht you see, and swiftly come to regard a £250,000 speedboat as a bit of a bargain.

I went fantasy boat shopping on Saturday, and spent a childish few hours gawping at the magnificent array of tubs on display, from sleek, glittering sail yachts through RIBS and power launches to the massive floating whorehouses with a platform for your Jet Ski and a Jacuzzi on the top deck. It may have just been my imagination, but 2012 seemed to bring a marked decline in the number of Greek businessmen in factory-distressed jeans eyeing up the yachts in this last category.

My dream boat is still the Oyster 54 that I spotted last year, with its gleaming navy blue hull and distinctive smooth profile, but at the more modest end of the scale I am also slightly romanced by the Cornish Shrimper, a boat that makes me think of grown-up Swallows and Amazons.

Over on the other side of the exhibition centre is a huge, noisy hall full of much littler stalls selling all kinds of the most niche boating tat imaginable. Need copper-based anti-foul? A satellite boat tracker? Some obscure engine component? A kettle on a gimbal? A bow thruster or a bog? You can find it here. This hall is also home to smaller dinghies, watersports stands and, my personal favourite, the portable boats.

If there’s one thing British people delight in more than any other nation (apart from maybe the Japanese), it’s things that fold up small, and boats are no exception. My favourites included the Nestaway boats, which break down into sections that fit inside one another, and the frankly amazing Smartkat, a 4.3m inflatable catamaran that packs away into two large bags, will fit in the back of a decent size car, and goes from bag to water in 20 minutes (so they claim).

The main hall also displayed a fine line in highly-varnished and completely impractical 2-4 person speedboats (like these ones by Riva) – beautiful James Bond numbers with a bed in the nose, cream leather upholstery and a champagne fridge, useless for anything except going for lunch and getting naked.

In fact, this correlation between sex and boats (which, speaking from my own experience of boaty people, may well be overstated) was a theme pushed to some degree by most of the big boat stands, many of which featured pictures of oiled-up models basking on deck in the Caribbean sun. While this is perhaps de rigeur in the case of the glitzy superyachts, the people who devised the marketing material for the Circraft, a novel creation which is essentially an upturned Frisbee with a big motor on it, deserve a special commendation for effort.

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