New Orleans, with her down-at-the-heel beauty, is the perfect place to hold a maintenance and repair show for the workboat industry. Like old boats, the buildings here have nice lines and just need some tending.

Wandering the aisles of this new offering, the WorkBoat Maintenance & Repair Conference and Expo, I got to thinking how in our throwaway society, workboats are one of the last things still being built to last, just like a circa 1800s mansion in the Garden District, and both need lots of maintenance and repair.

Unlike the massive International WorkBoat Show held each December in New Orleans, this show, also produced by WorkBoat, is more intimate, giving vendors more time to chat about their products.

The guys at the Sherwin-Williams booth said there was opportunity for one-on-one with customers who had come with specific questions. This booth also won my contest for the best giveaway with their Rubik’s Cube printed with the paint company’s logo.

Steve Rheams, of Kansas City, Mo.-based Intercontinental Manufacturing, makers of Intercon winches, said this inaugural maintenance and repair show was definitely a worthwhile event. He said the company had an ulterior motive in signing up for exhibit space. “We are looking for mechanics,” he said gesturing to a large ‘Help Wanted’ sign hanging in its booth, “and I have gotten some good leads.” Rheams has already reserved space for next year and will be working on a display showcasing Intercon’s winch repair services.

The keynote on Wednesday alone was worth the trip to the show. Capt. Nick Sloane, the salvage master on the Costa Concordia salvage project, took the audience through the amazing and complex 30-month process of refloating the 114,500-ton cruise ship that ran aground after its captain deviated from his course near the Italian coast. The size of the ship and the location of the wreck, straddling two reefs on the side of an underwater cliff in a marine preserve, were challenges that made the project one of the largest of its kind, not to mention a fascinating story. Sloane, a low-key South African, explained how 22,000 bags of cement were stacked to fill in the 120 yards between the reefs and then how the ship was parbuckled, or righted, and ultimately refloated.

Judging from the buzz in the convention center, this show was a good idea and will quickly outgrow its current venue that takes up one hall in the Morial Convention Center. It appears that I won’t be the only one coming back next year.

A collection of stories from guest authors.