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ANNAPOLIS: A CHESAPEAKE BAY BOATING PARADISE

To say that Annapolis, Maryland is the capital of Chesapeake Bay is an understatement--many boaters would argue that it’s the boating capital of the Mid-Atlantic and maybe even further afield. Host of huge regattas and lots of various competitions, several world-class boat shows and boating schools, famed Wednesday Night Sailing Races, and more, Annapolis is simply a boating paradise.

Known as “America’s Sailing Capital,” but welcoming to boaters and boats of all types, Maryland’s capital is located on the Severn River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay (America’s largest estuary). It’s just 26 miles from Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and 32 miles from the nation’s capital.

Boaters flock to Annapolis to soak up the history, feast on some tasty seafood in waterside restaurants, pursue super shopping (including several stores targeting boaters), and bask in the general boating vibe. It all starts with water and on the waterfront.

Annapolis and Anne Arundel County are known for more than 400 miles of shoreline. From the many creeks, rivers, and waterways to the Chesapeake Bay, water has been a part of the area’s history from the beginning. More recently, boatoing-minded city officials even featured a new marketing brand image that capitalizes on the area’s connection to the water: Come Sail Away.

An exploration of historic downtown Annapolis starts on the water, where sprawling City Dock sits at the foot of Main Street. From here, it’s easy to visit many historic sites on foot, including the U.S. Naval Academy, more 18th century buildings than anywhere else in the country (including the homes of all four Maryland signers of the Declaration of Independence), and the State House (capitol). A trolley tour or one of many historic walking tours can provide a perfect introduction (abundant boat cruises can also offer visiting boaters a great introduction to Annapolis from the water).

The U.S. Naval Academy is one of the city’s main attractions and is especially attractive to visiting boaters who share an affinity for the water with the 4,000-strong Brigade of Midshipmen.

Nearby, bustling Maryland Avene is a great place to shop, dine, and even spend the night. Along with eclectic shopping, visiting boaters will want to head to Galway Bay for an authentic Irish pub experience (www.galwaybayannapolis.com). Nearby, the Inn at 30 Maryland (www.30maryland.com) is a new boater-friendly B&B with a great location.

Back down on the nearby waterfront, lots of marinas join City Dock in welcoming boaters. There’s an incredible variety of facilities and services all within walking distance of the historic district. Those looking for a large hotel chain experience right on the water can stay at the Annapolis Marriott Waterfront. There’s also boater-oriented shopping nearby, including Helly Hansen and Fawcett Boat Supplies.

Across Spa Creek in Eastport, more boater services await--as does Boatyard Bar & Grill (www.boatyardbarandgrill.com), where owners Dick and Susan Franyo love welcoming visiting boaters anytime. This is also where boaters gather to watch videos after the Wednesday Night Sailing Races--with up to 150 boats enjoying friendly competition during the summer.

Boatyard Bar & Grill features popular seafood choices all over the menu, as do many other Annapolis restaurants (the Chesapeake Bay provides more than 500 million pounds of seafood each year). Blue crabs are rightfully famous at many restaurants, as are wonderful water views. The Severn Inn (www.severninn.com)offers both, with creative crab cakes and other seafood, superb views of the Severn, and docking for hungry boaters arriving by water.

Annapolis is home to several premier sail and power schools, including: Annapolis Sailing School, which also offers popular power courses; J World Sailing, which specializes in performance sailing; and Womanship, with an all-female roster of renowned instructors.

Of course, the Chesapeake Bay is completely connected with Annapolis and area boating. Stretching 200 miles down to Norfolk, Virginia, it ranges from 3.4 to 35 miles in width and is surprisingly “thin”--with an average depth of just 21 feet. The Bay and its tidal tributaries have more than 11,500 miles of shoreline, which is more than the entire west coast--that’s a bunch of boating and Annapolis is the perfect base!

For more information, simply contact the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau at www.visit-annapolis.org or call them at 888-302-2852.

This is an abridged version of this article. To view the entire article, please visit the Destinations sectin of americanboating.org.