Duncan McIntosh begins his amphibious invasion of Newport Harbor's Lido Marina Village with the early morning launching of an armada of floating docks, delivered by huge flatbed trucks and lowered by crane into the bay.
As though to escape the coming siege, more than 60 large boats flee Lido Marina and begin to scatter throughout the Newport Bay waterways for the duration of the invasion, leaving their slips empty.
Once the boats are gone, pile drivers begin sinking pilings for 65 temporary, floating docks. Then the invasion begins in earnest, as nearly 300 boats and 5,000 people descend upon this quiet waterfront shopping center just on the Balboa Peninsula side of the Newport Boulevard bridge over West Coast Highway.
Since 1973, Duncan McIntosh, nearly single-handedly, has been staging these invasions--better known as the Lido in-the-Water Boat Shows. The shows attract people from all over the United States and have become so popular that McIntosh is now staging two county shows a year, each fall and spring.
The fall show is split between one for used boats that began Sept. 1 and continues through Sunday, and one for new boats that will run from Wednesday to Sept. 18.
"We've grown to the point now that we can't grow much more," says McIntosh, whose Duncan McIntosh Co. produces the shows and also publishes Sea magazine in Costa Mesa.
McIntosh added the floating docks seven years ago "to impact less on the marina," he says.
This fall only about 60 regular tenants had to leave their slips to make room for the show boats. "Most of them go out on moorings, into other slips or to private docks," McIntosh says. "The only thing that makes that possible here is that this is a commercial marina, and many of the boats here are in the show. Most of the people in here are yacht brokers and charter boats.
"And we've been doing this so long all these people have gotten used to it. If there were 60 private boat owners who suddenly had to move out of their slips to make room for us for two or three weeks, that would be a different story."
When the show is over, the regular tenants move back in, and McIntosh and crew dismantle the docks and tow them around to Newport Shipyard, where they are hauled out of the water by crane, loaded onto trucks and put into dry dock in Costa Mesa.
"It all is pretty intense," he says, "but each show is just a two- or three-week deal, and then it's over."
McIntosh staged his first show with just 50 or 60 boats back in 1973. "Back then we were just sitting around trying to come up with a way to sell more boats," he says. "Admission was free, and we didn't keep track of our attendance, so we don't know how many people we had."
During the last Lido spring show, which runs for three weeks, more than 400 boats were on display, and about 5,000 people a week paid $5 each to tour the vessels, which range from runabouts and day sailers to large sport fishers and motor yachts, costing $500,000 to $600,000.
"We get people from out of state, from back East and from the Midwest," he says. "Of course, most come from Southern California and particularly Orange County."
Although most come to look, to dream and not to buy, McIntosh says if he gets "4,000 people and only 100 buy boats" he is happy.
For most, however, an in-the-water boat show is merely a pleasant way to spend the day--and a chance to see inside a vast selection of pricey yachts.
Visitors are welcomed aboard as many vessels as they want to inspect, according to McIntosh, who promises that "it won't be a jungle out there," the way it is at many other popular boat shows, where long lines often form in front of the larger, more luxurious yachts.
Smaller, trailerable boats of fewer than 28 feet will be featured on the shore during the new-boat show, along with generators, accessories, boat gear and other items.
Show hours are 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. weekends. Admission is $5 for adults and $2 for children ages 6-12. Children under 6 will be admitted free. The purchase of a ticket to the first week's show comes with a free weekday return pass to the following week's show, featuring new sailboats and power boats. Soft-sole shoes are necessary; other shoes can mar a boat's finish and are not permitted.
Because Lido Marina Village has limited parking, McIntosh suggests parking off West Coast Highway at Tustin and Avon avenues, where shuttles will provide free transportation to and from the marina.