Issue: From the Chesapeake Bay Magazine Archives
Destination: Annapolis, MD

Annapolis’s creeks are dotted with two dozen public dinghy landings. Here’s your guide to the good, the bad and the Fido friendly.

by Jodi Argo Schroath

Ho hum,” I hear you say, “a dinghy landing is a dinghy landing. Why all the big adverbs?” Because, Grasshopper, good old Annapolis is the Nirvana of dinghy landings. Somewhere in the past, cloaked in the fog-banks of time, the City Parents were visited by Dave, Archangel of Cruisers, who explained that if they wanted their city to be an American-boating-capital-quality destination, they would need to provide sufficient places for those boaters to land their dinghies in order to eat the famous crabcakes, drink many Dark & Stormys, walk their Westies and attend the annual sailboat and powerboat shows. And so it was that the City Parents heeded Dave’s words and declared that all streets that end at the water would henceforth be designated public dinghy landings. And so it remains today, with the result that along the shores of Spa and Back creeks, the city’s two main waterways, a distance of about two miles, there are 24 separate and distinct places to park a dinghy, all of them free for the taking.

But with so many choices, how is a cruiser to decide where to come ashore? We were pretty sure you’d ask that, so we’ve put together this Absolutely, Positively, Pretty Nearly Definitive Guide to Annapolis Dinghy Landings. Here you’ll find photos of each and every one of those 24 landings, plus a locator map (below) to help you find them. Using that information, you can then make some decisions. For example, if you study the photos, you may notice that at both the Conduit Street landing (6) on Spa Creek and at the Sixth Street landing (23) on Back Creek you will need to climb up a ladder if the tide is out at all in order to reach street level. But you’ll also notice that at some of the landings—at Amos Garrett Waterfront Park ( 12) on Spa Creek and at Fourth Street (22) on Back Creek, for example—the docks are easier to negotiate, making the transfer to shore less of an athletic event, low tide or not. While that may not make a difference to you, it will make a difference if you want to bring ashore Boson and Spigot, your four-legged friends with maddeningly small bladders, to commune with the local flora and fauna. At Conduit and Sixth you’ll have to boost their collective furry poundage up to ground level. This means that while both are lovely landings and convenient to downtown (in the case of Conduit) or Eastport Shopping Center (in the case of Sixth Street), you’ll want to land elsewhere to walk the dogs. In fact, both the alternatives I just mentioned are also dandy landings in their own right. Tiny Amos Garrett Waterfront Park (named for the first mayor of Annapolis, (1708-1720) is a mere three-tenths of a mile walk to all the restaurants around Westin Place on West Street and a liquor store; and Fourth Street on Back Creek is a stone’s throw from Eastport’s justly popular Davis Pub, where Bosun and Spigot can lie under an outside table fielding fries and crabcake crumbs. The Sixth Street landing on Back Creek is a little closer if you’re off to the boat show, but the Fourth Street landing is closer if you want to stop by the Weems and Plath tent sale along the way (where you can also pick up a free tram for the trip across the bridge). Either is a better choice than Back Creek’s Third Street landing (21), where your dinghy will pose a hazard to crowded J World traffic, or Second Street (20), where there’s no good place to tie up, though it is right next to Annapolis Maritime Museum and Wild Catch Seafood. If you are anchored in Back Creek, consider taking Boson and Spigot to Ellen O. Moyer Park (24), which has trails, an overlook, doggy bags, a remarkable abundance of trash cans and a nice floating pier. It’s also a mile hike by sidewalk from there to Giant Supermarket, Fawcett and West Marine, as well as restaurants and one of the area’s best beer and wine stores.

On the Spa Creek side, if I were anchored below the bridge for the boat shows, I’d probably jostle for a place at the landing sandwiched between the Naval Academy and the National Sailing Hall of Fame docks (1). You’ll find two photos of that landing here, the first (on page 48) taken during the sailboat show a couple of years ago (very crowded), and the second on a quiet August Monday afternoon (very uncrowded). The best downtown dinghy landing, the one on Ego Alley (2), is closed off during the boat shows, of course, but is otherwise a great choice for being in the thick of things. Also below the bridge, the five dinghy landings on the Eastport side of Spa Creek offer access to that community’s many restaurants, kayak rentals and shops. On the downside, however, they are some of the city’s toughest tie-ups. At Fifth Street landing (15), for example, the cleats are in bad shape and there are no posts to tie off on. The best choice of the lot is the landing at Second Street (18), between the Charthouse Restaurant and Annapolis Boatyard, where there is plenty of room to tie up. At First Street (19), instead of a traditional landing, you’ll find a little beach the size of a card table, with just enough room for two dinghies. It’s very peaceful and a perfect spot to watch Spa Creek traffic.

If I were anchored above the bridge for the boat shows, I’d choose one of landings between Shipwright Street (3) and Conduit Street (6). Here you can tie up your dinghy and walk through some of the city’s oldest and most charming neighborhoods to reach downtown. All of these are nice, with good tie-ups, though Market Street (5), as I mentioned earlier, is the easiest for loading and unloading. While Shipwright St. landing (3), just off St. Mary’s Cove, is the closest walk to City Dock, a brokerage show will be set up in the cove during the powerboat show, so the landing may be closed to dinghies.

Finally, we come to the string of landings that set Annapolis apart from pretenders to the American-boating-capital throne. These are the jewels in the dinghy landing crown (to belabor the monarchy metaphor). Like other constitutional monarchies, their purpose is mainly decorative. They don’t need to exist; they simply do. And we’re all the better for it. From Acton Cove Park (7) to Truxton Park landing (13), you’ll fi nd seven landings that are all worth a visit in their own right. Each gives a glimpse into an Annapolis neighborhood that can’t be had any other way. Southgate Avenue landing (8) is easy to negotiate and a good place to bring the dogs, while Cheston Avenue (10) and Taney Avenue (9) landings are more of a climb. Layfayette Waterfront Park (11) has a nice pier that makes for easy docking and the small treasure of a set of old stone steps that lead up to nowhere.

There they are, Annapolis’s 24 dinghy landings. You won’t find anything like them anywhere else on the Chesapeake Bay . . . or beyond, for that matter. Thank you, Archangel Dave.

[October 2013 issue]