I have written about Annapolis before. It is my favorite place to be, though perhaps not so much in the winter. I don’t like being anyplace in the winter except here in South Florida. But for the rest of the year, Annapolis wins.
We lived in Washington, D.C. throughout the 1970s. In 1976 I single-handedly persuaded our young family to get into sailing. When I was a child, I had the good fortune to attend a camp on the Corsica River, a tributary off the Chesapeake Bay on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. There, at the age of 10 I learned to swim, paddle a canoe straight…and sail. I loved sailing immediately. So did Christopher Cross who included the hit song Sailing on an album he released in 1979.
Sailing takes me away to where I’ve always heard it could be
Just a dream and the wind to carry me
And soon I will be free
After I took the family on the 1-hour road trip from D.C. to Annapolis, I didn’t have to do much persuading after that…we should be sailing! Nobody disagreed. Our children, then both still under ten years old, didn’t have much say in the decision, although they didn’t seem to object.
The next step in the process was to go the annual United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis harbor. This mind-boggling and budget-breaking event of the luxurious life of yachting is enough to have any boating enthusiast giddy and drooling. They say the last place you should buy a boat is at a boat show. So that’s what we did. It was more exciting than buying a new car.
Fantasy, it gets the best of me
When I’m sailing
All caught up in the reverie, every word is a symphony
Won’t you believe me?
Now, of course, we started small. We bought what is called a “day sailer” which is a small sailboat (16 feet in this case) that is meant for short voyages (in and out for a few hours). Given the never-really-realized dangers of boating, as most boaters are prone to do, this new endeavor was kind of risky since our kids were very young and not experienced swimmers beyond a pool. But as soon as the weather permitted, we were in our little boat just about every weekend. Given the looks on her face, I think Rosemarie was more timid than our kids most of the time. She, of course, realized we could all drown…and exactly how much did I know about sailing that I allegedly learned over 20 years ago?
Fast-forward one year and the family has, in its own mind, become seasoned sailors. So what to do now? Why that’s easy. All boaters know what to do next…you buy a bigger boat! So now we’re up to 27 feet. With this sailboat we can go places and not have to worry about being back the same day. On this one we can all sleep, eat and go potty. This is sailing! There is certain euphoria sailors know about…it’s when you motor out of the busy, boat-jammed port and into open water. Now you can shut the motor off and raise the sail….as the boat begins to pick up headway, slicing silently through the water, this is the moment your sensations tingle.
It’s not far to never-never land, no reason to pretend
And if the wind is right you can find the joy of innocence again
Our storybook lifestyle was short-lived. I had job changes and subsequently we left D.C. and moved back home to Philadelphia. We sold the boat, reluctantly, but were happy we had at least a couple good years sailing the great Chesapeake Bay. We often wonder if we had never left the area, how big would our boat be now?!
Back then, each year, Rosemarie and I would take a vacation day on the Thursday that the Annapolis Sailboat Show opened. We’d drive to Annapolis, park at the Naval Academy stadium and take a shuttle bus to the harbor where the spectacular display of a boardable sailboats awaited. That’s what started this posting today…the Annapolis Boat Shows. There are actually two shows. They occur on back-to-back weekends every October. The sailboat show is first, the powerboat (stink-potters) follow the weekend after. They are not the largest of boat shows, but the setting—Annapolis in the fall—is what makes them special. And every year when I get copies the the boat show guides included with my monthly issue of Chesapeake Bay Magazine, I take a moment of nostalgia, drop a tear or two, and wish that Rosemarie and I could hop in the car take along an imaginary checkbook and wander the docks once more.
Well, it’s not far down to paradise, at least it’s not for me
And if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility
Oh, the canvas can do miracles, just you wait and see
[song excerpts from “Sailing” by Christopher Cross, “Christopher Cross” album, 1979]