It’s next to impossible to get a slip closer to the Bay than at Tolchester Marina. And just as hard to find a better place to watch a sunset.

by Jody Argo Schroath

Slipholders at Tolchester Marina have wisely managed to get for themselves the best of both worlds: a lightning-quick trip out onto the Bay and a well protected anchorage. As a bonus, they also get a covered slip (where appropriate), a famous sandy beach, room to roam, a charming restaurant and a lively beach bar. Sounds great, doesn’t it? But here’s the odd thing: A lot of boaters are unfamiliar with this paragon of convenience.

And until this summer, I could count myself among them. I mean I knew Tolchester Marina was there—it’s hard not to since the main (Tolchester) channel up the Bay north of the Bay Bridge swings east to pass within a few hundred yards of its entrance—but I was always headed somewhere else. Either I was bound somewhere farther up the Bay, or, on the return trip, I was anxious to reach home port in Annapolis, just a couple of hours to the south. Finally, and happily, I made the turn off the channel just beyond markers “20” and “21” late this August and wound around the breakwater to enter the marina. There is at least 6 feet of water at mean low tide in the entrance channel and plenty inside, according to owner Cathy Bramble. Past the fuel dock I found a mix of covered and open slips, all well protected from whatever might be going on a few hundred yards away on the open Bay. There are 263 slips altogether, Bramble told me later, the largest 60 feet long by 18 feet wide.

Tolchester Marina was built in 1971 by Bramble’s husband and his father on land that had been part of Tolchester Beach, once the Chesapeake Bay’s most popular summer resort. From 1877 to 1962, ferries laden with thousands of weekenders—as many as 20,000 on a single weekend—would embark at Baltimore during the summer months for Tolchester Beach, where they found a large hotel on a bluff overlooking the Bay, as well as a dance hall, roller coaster and all the resort-type diversions and activities you could imagine, including a miniature steam train and goat carts. All of that, of course, is long gone and, except for a nifty little museum in Rock Hall called Tolchester Beach Revisited (, largely forgotten. A good part of it nowadays, including much of the beach, is home to Tolchester Marina.

Here, boaters from half a dozen neighboring states keep their boats, picnic on the grounds, enjoy the pool and tiki bar and generally revel in a spot that time has otherwise passed by. In addition to all that—as well as the usual marina necessities, like restrooms, showers, and 30 and 50 amp power, fuel, pumpout—the marina provides just about any kind of service work, though it has long specialized in repowering, according to Bramble. It also has plenty of room for winter storage. And there is a restaurant, which is open on weekends during the boating season.

“And,” Bramble added, “we have the most beautiful sunsets on the Bay.” That evening, as I stood on the bluff overlooking the beach and stared at the fiery horizon across the Bay, I had to agree. As with the resort that preceded it, the marina’s location alone makes it a place worth seeking out.

Tolchestert Marina
Chestertown, Md.
Fuel: Gas and Diesel
Depth: 6ft MLW
Pump-out: Yes
Power: 30/50 amp
Service: Yes
Laundry: Yes

[November 2013 issue]