For boating enthusiasts and message board aficionados, winter typically represents the dark doldrums of the calendar year. The weather is cold, the boat is winterized and doing time in a solitary confinement-like storage facility, and the message boards have become the barren island of The Lord Of The Flies with the proverbial Jack running roughshod through the threads with no conch shell in sight. In short, winter is a dreadful time of year for the fun loving, sun seekers of the western boating world.
Fortunately, just about the time the anarchy on the message boards has reached critical mass and moderators are giving serious thought to swerving into a bridge abutment on their drive home, along comes Billy B's Hot Boat and Car Show held in Needles, California, on the banks of the Colorado River. What started out as a good excuse for Billy and his friends to take some time off and enjoy their boats has grown into one of the must-attend events for any performance boating enthusiast on the West Coast. With attendance growing this year by more than 70 entrants and spectators showing up in droves, it's clear that this left coast shindig is here for the long haul. Having never been to this event myself, I was ecstatic to have the opportunity to attend and photograph some of the finest boats under 25' in existence, not to mention get the chance to catch up with some old friends and meet new ones all in one shot.
What sets the Needles show apart from most other shows is that the participants, many of whom have known each other for years, make a weekend out of it by setting up camp at the nearby RV resort and chatting the nights away with bench racing, tall tales, and talk of who's boat would take home the prize for best of show. Couple this with the fact that many of the owners of these amazing machines will actually splash these works of art and proceed to make speed runs to the delight of the horsepower hungry crowds lining the banks of the river, and you have a recipe for an amazing weekend.
This years show didn't disappoint. From one end of the facility at Jack Smith Park to the other there wasn't a space not occupied by either a show stopping flat bottom or a laid out hot rod begging for a few minutes of your attention. To say that this show is sensory overload is a gross understatement. If you are a gear head this show is your Mecca.
Any time you go to a show like this one there is always that stand out boat or car that you just keep hearing come up in conversation throughout the day and the Needles show was no exception. To hear about one boat over and over again at a show where you are hard pressed to find a boat that isn't a stand out in some way, really speaks volumes about the quality and uniqueness of the boat in question. This year the boat on everyone's lips was the '61 wood-deck Schiada of Scott and Denise Smith. This rig was a true work of art. With restoration and rigging duties handled by the boys at Prime Marine and tons of period correct goodness, this boat stood head and shoulders above the crowd and with the level of craftsmanship represented at this show that is saying a lot.
This time of year in a boaters life can, so often, lead to a melancholic funk that sometimes feels like it will never end, but with shows like the Billy B's Hot Boat and Car show breaking through the dark gloom of winter there is light at the end of the tunnel. Before you know it we will be pulling the covers off, breathing life back into our aquatic chariots and setting our sights on the Desert Storm Poker Run. Until then, let's not forget that we are all part of this great community because we share a common love of fast (and not so fast) boats and an undeniable need to spend our time with good friends having good times!
See you on the water!
Tom Leigh (PinkTaco)