A trip to the St. Michaels Marina for the annual Christmas festival was a gift in itself.
Sometimes the good weather just won’t quit. We’d just experienced a long, warm fall that had made me put off the odious task of winterizing my boat. Thanksgiving weekend had found me out on the water, and now I was headed to the St. Michaels Marina for the Christmas in St. Michaels weekend (December 9 to 11 this year; 410-745-0745). The marina was still open for business, owner Frank Morgan told me. And I would have my pick of slips. Now that’s a switch!
St. Michaels Marina is usually chocka-block with boats. There are only five places to tie up in St. Michaels. The Harbour Inn offers slips with all the amenities, Higgins Yacht Yard has a few transient spots with limited amenities, the Crab Claw has space for diners, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum can accommodate members (for frequent visitors, the boating membership is a pretty good deal) and then there’s St. Michaels Marina, formerly known as Town Dock. Perhaps it’s the charm of the location, or the charm of the staff, but St. Michaels Marina always garners a place at the top of the Best of the Bay list in CBM’s annual survey.
To begin with, there’s a swimming pool tucked into the waterfront corner of the marina lot. There’s a well equipped ship’s store at the gas dock-not to mention the fact that prices for the gas and diesel are consistently among the lowest on the Bay. Wi-Fi is on the dock and included with your slip rate, along with 40-channel cable TV. The St. Michaels Crab and Steak House, a popular local eatery and bar, is on the premises. Town Dock Restaurant, a “casual gourmet” restaurant, is right next door, and Foxy’s Marina Bar (outdoors) is right next to that. The shops and side streets of St. Michaels are a short walk away. There’s precious little parking, but most patrons arrive by boat, so that’s hardly a problem. Rental bikes are available.
The marina has had problems with shoaling, but recent dredging has given them a minimum of 6 feet (toward town), increasing to a solid 11 feet at the fuel dock. Since so many boaters jockey to lie along the T-heads (for a view of the harbor, they say), there is an extra 25' per foot charge for “premium docking.”
Reservations are a given for in-season weekends, though mid-week visits can be a little more spur-of-the-moment. The marina shuts off the water after the Christmas in St. Michaels weekend and turns it back on in April. In-season rates kick-in May 15.
It’s hard to explain it, but my wintertime visit was like going to see an old friend after the party’s over. It was a much more intimate sojourn. And far more quiet. While the town was abuzz with a crowd of festival patrons, the marina was far enough from the madding crowd to offer me real privacy-something I wouldn’t have had in the finest of hotels. I had the shower rooms virtually to myself. And Monday morning, before I left to sail home, I had the town of St. Michaels all to myself as well. That was one thing I never expected-and something few in-season boaters ever get to see. I relished every moment.