BOSTON ? For potential sailboat buyers, indoor boat shows can be notoriously uninformative because low ceilings prohibit masts from being stepped into place, the boom attached, the lines and sails rigged.As a result, climbing into the cockpit or scampering on deck gives visitors a false sense of roominess and how it might feel to spend time aboard.That’s what makes the 51st annual New England Boat Show on Feb. 17-24 so exciting, because for the first time it will be held in the new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center, where the 90-foot ceiling can easily accommodate the tallest sailing rigs.”This will be a spectacle never before seen in Boston n fully-rigged sailboats, some 70 feet high, indoors,” said Joe O’Neal, managing partner of North American Expositions Co. in Charlestown, which is producing the show. “We’ll have enormous sailboats with their sails up and fully rigged, and more boats, both sail and power, than ever before, for experienced boaters and beginners.”According to O’Neal, the show will be the largest ever of its kind in Boston, with 1,000 boats and more than 500 exhibits. The new convention center encompasses 500,000 square feet of display space.”We plan to have everything from Optis and daysailers to fully-rigged 50-footers on display,” he said, noting that more than 350 companies have signed on as exhibitors whose wares range from the latest nautical inventions to marine electronics, yacht brokerage services, insurance and surveying, financing, and chartering.”This show is dramatically different. It really has the best of both worlds. The sailboats will have their masts up and sails on, but they won’t be in the water, which means you can see what the underbody looks like,” O’Neal said.Among the larger sailboats will be the new Hunter 49 and Beneteau 49, as well as cruising or racing boats in the 40-foot range by Sabre, Catalina, Island Packet, Bavaria, Tartan and C&C.”Unfortunately the contract with the convention center didn’t get signed until last October, so many dealers were already committed to the show in Miami,” said O’Neal. “We’re hoping that by next year the Maine builders n like Hinckley and Morris n will be sending some boats. It’s only going to get better.”Like most nautical shows, the powerboats will far outnumber those dependent on the wind. A large fleet of Sea Ray powerboats, up to 48 feet in length, will be on display as part of an exhibit shared by four dealers n Russo Marine in Medford, which accounts for the bulk of Sea Ray sales in Greater Boston; Hyannis Marine that claims Cape Cod and the South Shore as its sales region; Bassett Boats in Springfield where it dominates Central Massachusetts, and Port Harbor Marine in Naples, Maine, which serves northern New England.Show sponsors include the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association, the New Hampshire Marine Trades Association, GMC Truck, Offshore Magazine, and the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.Boating is big business, said O’Neal, noting that the 12,000 marine-related businesses in the commonwealth that are members of the Massachusetts Marine Trades Association collectively employ 35,000 people and generate over $2 billion in economic activity each year.The convention center features a restaurant and huge windows that flood the exhibit floor with natural light. The facility is located off I-93, exit 18 off Bypass Road. On-site parking is available. Once the lot is full, free shuttles will take visitors to the entrance and back to their vehicles about two blocks away.Admission to the seminars is included in the ticket rice. Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for children 6-12 years old. A one-year magazine subscription to Motor Boating, Yachting, or Salt Water Sportsman is included with each ticket purchase.Boat Show ScheduleSaturday, Feb. 17, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.Sunday, Feb. 18, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.Monday, Feb. 19, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.Tuesday, Feb. 20, throughFriday, Feb. 23, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.Saturday, Feb. 24, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.