After an international boat trip of his own, Ray Wilson was back selling at the Lido Boat Show on Saturday.
The representative for Heritage Yacht Sales was pushing a pair of Catalina sailboats, ones he said could cruise around the world much like he did.
When he returned from his years-long trip in 2011, the yacht-brokering scene had taken a turn for the worse thanks to the recession.
"It was like somebody blew the world up while I was gone," he said. "In '05 when I left, people were throwing money at you."
It's only in the last eight months that Wilson's seen a slow return to that form.
During this year's 200-vessel show at Lido Marina Village in Newport Harbor, Wilson and others said traffic is up, and more people are willing to make the investment in a small boat, massive yacht or whatever is in between — all of which were on display throughout the weekend.
"I'm feeling that," said Duncan McIntosh, who runs the annual four-day show.
McIntosh didn't have an estimate on how many people had paid $15 to walk through dozens of vendors and the docks almost completely surrounded by towering masts and multi-level decks, but on Saturday afternoon, with another day to go Sunday, he was running out of tickets.
"That's a novelty I don't mind," he said.
Tony Burke from Long Beach and his friend John Widener from Anaheim have been browsing the Lido Boat Show for years.
Burke said he'd just purchased a 46-foot sailboat last week but couldn't pass up coming to Newport where he kept looking.
He's trying to talk Widener into trading in his fascination with powerboats for a more leisurely sailing style; plus he needed to buy new bedding for his cabins.
Of course, the two took the opportunity to gawk at "the fantasy yachts you get to dream about," like the 118-foot Westport-made yacht named Isabella, which boasts five cabins and a built-in Jacuzzi on one deck.
"Where else do you get to see one of those?" Burke asked.
McIntosh said sales at the show have bounced back this year, with already a few deposits placed on boats this week.
That's the key to his business.
Although sales doesn't directly affect his bottom line, the only way to attract exhibitors is if his attendees are indeed willing to shell out the money.
It makes life a little more fun for the sales reps, too.
According to Wilson, it's easy to get caught up in someone else's euphoria when they make the decision to buy a boat — something he says can be life-changing.
"If you sell someone a boat, they'll be buying you a beer," he explained.