"You're moving? Where will you be based? Where's that?" When you are shopping for a sailboat, it's difficult to avoid a trip to Annapolis, MD. It's considered the sailboat capital of the US. Describing it as a suburb south of Baltimore doesn't do it justice. "On the Chesapeake Bay" and home of the Naval Academy is a better description. (It's also referred to as a "drinking town with a sailing problem." Don't look at me. I think that's their official slogan.)
If you had asked us 5 years ago, if we would ever move to the east coast, we would have said, "NO WAY!" We originally intended our adventure to begin in Seattle. When we decided to switch from shopping on yachtworld.com to ACTUALLY going to see boats, we were advised to visit Annapolis, because "every possible kind of sailboat is there. It will help you narrow down your list." After making the necessary pilgrimage, we fell in love with the people, the town, the astounding number of marinas and lets be honest, the number of bars & restaurants. Trying to explain it to our friends & family from Missouri by saying that "it's a sailing town" isn't helping. So here you go! Forbes listed it as one of America's prettiest towns:
One of my favorite memories was our first visit. We arrived on an early morning flight and ended up downtown with a few hours to kill before an 11:00 am meeting. We quickly found coffee and went for a walk. We ended up on the drawbridge, watching the sailboats pass through (yes, we are from Missouri. This is FASCINATING!) When we walked across to the other side, there were little kids getting into tiny sailboats (dinghies) for lessons. There were several instructors (in a separate boats!) with approximately 5 dinghies per instructor with 2 kids in each dinghy (approximately 5 years old?) We were awestruck and we returned the next morning with more coffee and watched it all over again. Another favorite memory was the evening we stumbled into a restaurant on Wednesday night and snagged a table on the patio above the city marina. To our surprise, it was race night and we watched them lift at least 25 the boats out of the water with military-like precision, lower each one onto a trailer and push them back. Yes, we're newbies. We're still awestruck by the travel lifts!
(Odin on the lift during our pre-purchase survey. See our surveyor underneath?)
After at least five visits, some less than 24 hours, we are started to get the hang of the town. We've been declared as "residents in training." Every conversation begins with "Where did you eat last night?" and ends with "where are you going to eat?" My kinda town. (We are still being chastised for not remembering the name of the restaurant across from Burt Jabins marina, inside the gate community, overlooking the marina where we had one of our most memorable lunches. Boat shopping would have ceased for the day if Husband hadn't stopped me from ordering the second coffee-with-pumpkin-Kahlua. "I want another one! No you go ahead. I'll wait here. It's cold outside!"). Our second favorite restaurant is Cantlers on Mill Creek (I had to look that up on a map because, apparently the "crab restaurant on the next creek over" doesn't narrow it down).
Another charming feature of Annapolis is: we are perpetually lost. This can be fun if you don't have anywhere to be! A common feature of many east coast towns is that they are old and the roads were laid out before the automobile was invented! The streets aren't straight and definitely not laid out on a grid or named in any kind of common sense way. Husband was sure, on our last trip he could make it to from the hotel to the marina without the GPS. Fail. "I wouldn't do it without the GPS, but I KNOW it's a left out of the hotel..." Every road eventually dead ends on the water and ANOTHER marina. And then you get on the water. SO MANY inlets, bays, rivers, harbors and "creeks." I laughed the first time we motored out of the "creek" in a sailboat with a 6 ft keel. Creeks in Missouri are something you step over! And don't navigate by the bridge (the way we did in Tampa Bay). There's more than one bridge and not all of them open! The worst case scenario was, while on the boat, the broker points to a bridge and says, "we'll meet tonight at the bar at the base of that bridge." Well, there are two bridges and bars everywhere! Did I mention we are perpetually lost in Annapolis? It's OK. It's "fun" lost and keeps the natives entertained. I suspect they are doing it on purpose and they seem surprised I've cracked their code so soon (see below)
To make it more interesting, directions are given with reference to restaurants, bars and liquor stores. "Across from Boatyard Bar & Grill." "Between Carrols' Creek Cafe & the Charthouse." "The boat we're going to see is over near Cantler's Crabhouse." One broker trip took us to at least 4 different marinas in one day (and yes, the natives get lost also! But don't tell. I think that's a secret). By the end of the day, I was getting the hang of it. If you are at an intersection where there is a liquor store (or "mart" with ice) then you were very close to a marina. Always make a right--I'm not sure why (all lefts on the way back to the liquor store). "Is there a liquor store because there is a marina or is there a marina because there's a liquor store?" Does it matter? Apparently not.
Marinas. So many marinas! On our 4th(?!) trip, we walked into a marina and I said, "We've been here before!" It was next door to the very first boat we ever looked at--a Beneteau First at Burt Jabins. Wow. How far we've come!