MIAMI BEACH – The traffic had stalled on Collins Avenue, also known as A1A. Drivers didn’t seem to mind; their eyes were glued on the mega yachts moored in the nearby canal, part of the Miami International Boat Show at the Sea Isle Marina.

Sailboats, including luxury multi-hulls, were sequestered a few miles away at Miamarina at Bayside. Smaller powerboat dealers and others in the marine industry vended in the Miami Beach Convention Center, through which more than 146,000 people traversed.

“Considered the Super Bowl of all consumer boat shows, the Miami event kicks off boating season and sets the barometer for annual industry sales,” said Cathy Johnston, vice president of Southern Shows with the NMMA. “Judging by the results of this year’s show, we expect strong sales to continue through 2006 in all categories of recreational marine products.”

Attending a boat show is a great way to familiarize yourself with products you’ve been drooling over in the magazines. It’s a place where hordes of sweaty, barefoot people in shorts and T-shirts mingle with well-heeled (in Sperry boat shoes, of course) captains of industry, each waiting in line to board a million-dollar yacht.

The Miami Convention Center in South Beach hosts the annual Miami International Boat Show featuring more than 2,000 of the world’s leading manufacturers and display powerboats and accessories in its 2.5 million square feet of exhibition space.

A boat show is a world of captains and first mates and, honestly, it’s a world mainly segregated by gender. Boat-owning married couples often joke that the husband is the captain, but the wife is the admiral (yes, and the first mate and chef). Women ogle galleys (kitchens) and heads (bathrooms) and staterooms (bedrooms) while men peek into lockers, examine diesel engines and admire anchoring systems.

Of course, living in Northcentral Pennsylvania means we have to travel to boat shows so we time vacations with one. Florida, one of our a favorite destination, has two large sailboat shows: Miami and St. Petersburg. Strictly Sail also hosts shows in Chicago and Philadelphia.

Some people aren’t interested in sailing; they prefer powerboats. There are several Trawler Fests each year: Annapolis and Mystic, Ct., to name a couple. Fancy and fast powerboats can be found at the New York boat show, as well as Atlantic, St. Louis and New Orleans.

If you’re not ready for a vacation that’s actually an excuse to look at boats, consider a day trip. Strictly Sail hosts boat shows in multiple places such as: Strictly Sail St. Petersburg in November. Strictly Sail Philadelphia in January, Strictly Sail Chicago and Miami both in February, and Strictly Sail Pacific in April.

See you there.