Inside Tent C at the Annapolis Boat Show

Mark mans his double-wide booth
Mark mans his double-wide booth

Mark Tague spent 10 years getting his double booth in in Tent “C” at the Annapolis Boat Show. He sells maps. Mark’s been selling nautical maps since 1979, starting at a nautical bookshop in Newport, Rhode Island. Now he’s based out of New Bedford, Massachusetts and is the sales director for Richardson’s Maptech.

Tent C is the top tent, according to Mark. It doesn’t flood during rain and is close to the front entrance. Mark had to work on his seniority points to get it, meaning he’s been coming to the show since the 1970s. He can’t remember exactly when. Mark does remember he started with two booths in different tents.

Selling maps in a GPS age isn’t quite as quixotic as it may sound. It looked bad for paper map companies in the 1990’s, according to Mark, when electronic navigation came in. But then an interesting thing happened, “When you use only an electronic chart, you know exactly where you are. But where is that?” You don’t know where you are compared to everyplace else.

“A bad weekend will convince anyone they need a paper chart,” said Mark happily.

Mark comes in the Tuesday before the first weekend boat show – sailboats —  starts on Thursday. He won’t leave until the Monday after the power boat show the following weekend, nearly two weeks.

He gets to the booth an hour before the start because “It takes a bit of effort to get to the place (mentally) where I can talk to people continuously.”  He’ll spend from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. talking about maps, boats, anything someone wants to stop and chat about for a while.

After that, most nights he and his co-worker entertain clients, the small business owners who sell their maps. “I will crash like a ton of brings on Tuesday,” Mark said.

Mark used to do as many as 15 shows a year. He’s now down to eight a year. However, some in the tent – like the soft-sided cooler people — do 45 shows a year.

“Boat show people are like gypsies, ” said Mark. You see them at different shows and events across the country.

Mark is happy if he sells a map-book or a CD with an electronic map, but sales are not the major reason he keeps coming to the boat show. His goal is to get Maptech in the minds of boaters so that later they go to the local dealer.

This fall, Mark will be back in place at his double-wide booth.  Many people will walk by without noticing Mark or his maps. Suddenly, a person will connect and Mark starts to engage with a smile. This is the part he enjoys.

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