You may not recognize it during the boat shows, but this is Annapolis at its busy best--and it's your oyster. We're here to show you how to crack open the shell...
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Well, we got you here. Guess you'll want to know where to stay now! Ask and ye shall receive. Here's a rundown of all of the on-the-water information you'll need to know from anchorages and marinas to water taxi and mooring information, organized by Annapolis's two main boating arteries, Back and Spa creeks.
But first, a few helpful hints. Annapolis has always prided itself on giving boaters easy access to town, so any street that dead ends at the water will have a public dinghy landing for boats under 12 feet. If for any reason you're worried whether leaving your boat at a landing is indeed kosher, give the harbormaster a call at 410-263-7973. Second, you can anchor most anywhere in Back Creek or Spa Creek, as long as your boat is not in any channel, and remains at least 100 feet from piers and marinas and 75 feet from other boats and moorings. Now, where to drop that hook. . . .
In the immediate Annapolis area, you can hardly swing a boathook without hitting a boat in a slip. But if you can find a free (as in empty) slip or place to drop the hook, Back Creek is a great spot to stay. Dinghy dockage is free at the Fourth Street and Sixth Street dinghy landings in Eastport, so whether you're anchored out or in a slip on the eastern side of the creek, you can easily dinghy to Eastport and walk to the show. Or, if the weather is nice, dinghy (or catch a water taxi) around Horn Point to the show (where dinghy dockage is also free at the foot of Prince George Street, next to the Sailing Hall of Fame).
If you're looking for a spot to anchor, space is tight during the show, with all the snowbirds and showgoers in town, but there's plenty of room. The first decent anchorage is just upstream of Mears Marina on the northern side of the creek. There are a few boats that are parked here semi-permanently, so it can be tough to find room to swing, but you can usually head a little farther up the cove for a cozy spot. The next anchorage lies in the shadow of the water tower, between Port Annapolis and Bert Jabin's marinas. There's likely to be a little more room here, and you can easily dinghy into either marina to use their facilities (for a small fee, of course). Past Jabins, which is the last non-private marina on the creek, the shores become more suburban, and there are several more decent wide spots in the road where you can drop the hook in relative quiet. In addition, the city has a few mooring balls installed here.
If you'd rather drop the bucks for a slip than drop the anchor, Back Creek has six large marinas within less than a mile of the creek's mouth, so even during the boat show you can probably get a slip. Here are your choices. . . . Unless otherwise noted, these marinas have electric, showers, laundry and a pump-out.
The first stop on the north side of the creek is Horn Point Harbor Marina, which has a few transient slips, and a great view of the Bay. Just past Horn Point and the Annapolis Maritime Museum is Eastport Yacht Center, a full-service yard with transient space available. Mears Marina is the last transient-friendly marina on north side of creek. A resort marina, Mears has tennis courts, a pool and dock bar. Moving to the south side of the creek, just across from Mears, you'll find Annapolis Landing Marina. Here you'll find the creek's only fuel dock, Ken's Back Porch restaurant and a pool. Next up on the south side is Port Annapolis Marina, which has a pool, marine store, Portside cafe, a pavilion area, and also offers full-service repairs and boatyard facilities. And finally, Bert Jabin Yacht Yard, which occupies nearly the rest of the south side of Back Creek. This is a full-service, working boatyard, but transients are welcome and it is the closest marina to the West Marine, Fawcett and Giant supermarket-all about a mile up the road.
If you prefer to be a little closer to the show action, a stay on Spa Creek is the way to go. And although the slips on City Dock are overtaken by the show itself, there are still plenty of good anchorages, slips and moorings.
The two largest anchorages are at the mouth of Spa Creek. The first, at the tip of Horn Point peninsula, is not well protected and is very deep (depths to nearly 60 feet), but if the weather is calm and you have the ground tackle to accommodate for the depth, the views are fantastic. Just across the creek in front of the Naval Academy is another popular anchorage, though it too is very unprotected, and should there be a southerly storm, dragging anchor could land you on the rocky seawall.
Once inside Spa Creek, you'll encounter the large mooring field maintained by the city. There are 40 mooring balls here (though some are decommissioned during the show), plus more above the Spa Creek bridge. Moorings are on a first-come-first-serve basis, and boats are charged $30 for any amount of time up to one day, or $25 in St. Mary's Cove on the western side of the drawbridge. There is also a 45-foot length maximum for moored boats, 35 in St. Mary's Cove. If you are lucky enough to snag a mooring ball during your stay, hail the harbormaster on channel 09 or 17, or call 410-263-7973 to arrange for a visit from him to collect your fee, which includes use of the city's bathhouse and other facilities.
If you want to stay close to the fray at a dock, there are two marinas outside of the bridge that accept transients. Annapolis City Marina, which you'll find by its bright red fuel dock building, has some supplies and light grocery items (beer!), as well as the decadent Carrol's Creek restaurant. The Yacht Basin is next to the Marriott, also has a fuel dock, and can accommodate boats to 240 feet-and often does.
Considering the sheer number of boats in town during the show, it's likely that you'll have to head upstream of the Spa Creek drawbridge (which opens on demand starting October 1; on the hour and half-hour May-Oct.; hail on Channel 13) to find a home for your stay. Just inside the bridge, as we mentioned earlier, there is another city mooring field, and dinghy landings aplenty nearby.
Across from the mooring field there are two marinas that accept transient boaters, Petrini Shipyard, and Sarles Boatyard and Marina. Both are working yards, but have docking facilities and may have a few spots for visiting boaters.
Anchoring in Spa Creek is prohibited until you pass green "3", but after that, the creek has several excellent anchorages. Acton Cove, which lies on the north side of the creek is big enough for quite a few boats, and is surrounded by free dinghy landings at the ends of Market and Conduit streets and by the small park in the northeast corner of the cove. Beyond Acton there aren't many coves to duck into, but as long as you're out of the way of any private piers, you have plenty of room to drop the hook mid-creek if you like.
See? Staying in town for the boat show doesn't seem so scary any more, does it? If, however, you're still chicken, all of this information is still plenty applicable for the rest of October and beyond. We won't tell anyone that you skipped the show.
ANNAPOLIS HARBORMASTER: Hail on Channel 09 or 17, or call 410-263-7973; www.annapolis.gov/government/departments/harbormaster.aspx.
Pump-out Boat Hail harbormaster on Channel 17. Cost: $5 for up to 50 gallons, $1 added for each additional 10 gallons.
Spa Creek Bridge Hail on Channel 13. Generally speaking, opens on hour and half-hour in season (May 1-Oct. 31) and on off-season weekends.
Water Taxi Hail on Channel 68, or call 410-263-0033; www.watermarkcruises.com. Departs City Dock for Back Creek on the hour as long as there is a demand, and departs Back Creek for City Dock 20 minutes past the hour. Other locations on demand. Charges are $2-$6 per person.
Ecruiser Electric Shuttle
Free electric shuttle (gratuities encouraged) can be flagged down for a ride, or call for a pick-up to area restaurants from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Graul's Market (410-269-5103 ) about a mile from city dock.
Giant supermarket (410-267-0228) Bay Forest Shopping Center, about a mile from the marinas on the south side of 'Back Creek.
West Marine (410-268-0129) and Fawcett Boat Supply (410-267-8681) are both on Bay Ridge Road, a little over a mile from the marinas on the south side of Back Creek.