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Annapolis, Maryland, by Land or by Sea

By Bud Cole

“One if by land, two if by sea.” These words are an important part of our American history. They refer to the lanterns placed in Boston’s Old North Church steeple in 1775. The number of lanterns glowing in the steeple indicated whether the British were traveling by land or by sea. If you live in the Middle Atlantic States you do not need to travel all the way to Boston to have land and sea adventures and a great taste of history. I recently spent time in another historic city where the terms by land or by sea came to mind. Visitors have the option of entering Annapolis, Maryland by land or by sea. Although there were no lanterns signaling our method of travel, we entered Annapolis by sea.

Eight adventurous sailors left Rock Hall, a quaint little bay town on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, early on a Friday morning in order to secure prime moorage in Annapolis’s harbor for the weekend. Our two trusty sloops, the “Wind Gypsy,” a 38 foot Morgan and the “Forever,” a 34 foot Catalina, were expertly navigated by Captains Charles and Donald Solomon. Their knowledgeable crews were made up of spouses and cousins.

We had a strong tail wind that shortened our trip time and eliminated the need to take down the sails and motor to port. Minutes after sailing under the Chesapeake Bay Bridge we spotted the unmistakable silhouette of the Annapolis State House on the distant horizon. It wasn’t long before we began following the channel markers into the Annapolis harbor.

Our plan to leave Rock Hall early in the morning worked perfectly as we had our choice of mooring buoys provided in the harbor for overnight stays. The mooring buoys are situated so the sailing and motoring yachts have ample room to turn in the wind thus preventing the vessels from touching. Visitors entering the harbor can also tie up at the city dock facility.

Annapolis is often referred to as “America’s Sailing Capital.” It is easy to see how it earned this nickname when you enter the harbor. Sailing yachts and motoring yachts of all sizes filled the waterfront. Water taxis transport the vessel occupants back and forth to the wharf although many yacht owners use their own dinghy—a small rowboat sized boat used to transport yacht occupants to shore.

Annapolis is the location of the United States Naval Academy so sailing is definitely an integral part of the city. The first leg of our journey by sea was complete.

The city dock area was recently renovated. Among the upgrades is a new 960-foot bulkhead that wraps around Susan C. Campbell Park to the U.S. Naval Academy’s Gate Zero. Other changes include: new piers along Ego Alley to accommodate larger boats; a replaced boardwalk; and a redesigned, leveled, and repaved Susan C. Campbell Park, complete with a raised stage for U.S. Naval Academy concerts. It is at the top of our list of the most picturesque dock areas along the Chesapeake and Atlantic Coast.

We left our dinghy to wander along the history laden brick walkways and streets of Annapolis. The city has a rich architectural past; in fact it is able to boast that it has more surviving 18th Century buildings than any other city in America.

Annapolis is the capital of Maryland and the county seat of Anne Arundel County. The town is named for Princess Anne, the wife of Lord Baltimore. Her name plus the addition of the Greek word for city equals Annapolis, or Anne’s city.

Did you know Annapolis is a royal chartered city, so designated under Queen Anne of Great Britain in 1708? Few American cities can claim that royal distinction. It was also known as the ‘Athens of America’ due to its wealth of cultural activities, gracious hospitality and bustling seat of government.

Yes, Annapolis is a city of history and one of the main reasons why visitors come to the city. George Washington resigned as General of the Army in Annapolis State House on December 23, 1783. By declining a suggestion that he be appointed King, he firmly established the grand American experiment, representative democratic government, which we still enjoy today. How different this wonderful country of ours would be if his ego had allowed him to become king.

This port city served as the temporary capital of the United States following the Treaty of Paris in 1784. The Treaty of Paris ended the Revolutionary War. Congress met in Annapolis for approximately nine months after the treaty was signed in the State House on January 14, 1784. The Maryland State House is the oldest continually used legislative building in the U.S. The domed landmark overlooks the old city. The State House was closed for renovations, but it reopened on January 14 when the 2009 Legislative session opened.

A new exhibit opened last spring at the Maryland House of Delegates’ office building at 6 Bladen Street in Annapolis. Titled “Four Centuries of History in the Maryland State House,” the exhibit showcases the role of the state capitol in Maryland history from the 17th century to the present. It features a selection of original artifacts from the State House, including furnishings from the Old Senate Chamber; portions of the USS Maryland silver service; and a facsimile of George Washington’s copy of the resignation speech he delivered at the State House., or 410-974-3400.

Last year marked the anniversary of the signing of the Royal Charter that gave Annapolis its city status 300 years ago. Special events went on throughout the year and although, “Annapolis Alive,” as last year’s 300th anniversary celebration was called ended at the end of 2008 there are multitudes of other events and sites to keep you occupied for whatever period of time you can spend in this cozy town where citizens work and visitors play within a collection of 18th century streets and buildings.

You might want to start bringing the past three centuries of the city alive by visiting History Quest, a complete welcome and orientation center, located at 99 Main Street in the downtown harbor area. A knowledgeable, helpful staff will assist you in choosing the top historical tours, venues and events. There are also multimedia presentations and captivating exhibits within the History Quest building. Go to for more information.

The state had four men who signed the Declaration of Independence and all four had homes in Annapolis—Charles Carroll, Samuel Chase, Thomas Stone, and William Paca. Three of these history filled homes are open to the public.

Be sure to take the docent-guided tour of the William Paca House and Gardens at 186 Prince George Street. You will step back in time as you learn about William Paca’s influence to Annapolis and America. He and his family lived in this beautifully restored house. Take the time to stroll leisurely through the adjacent gardens and you will become lost in the time period. Call 410-267-8146.

One cannot visit Annapolis without taking a tour through the United States Naval Academy. The academy was founded by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft and officially opened on October 10, 1845. It has been part of Annapolis for more than half of the city’s incorporated history. Today the Naval Academy occupies 338 acres, has a faculty and staff of about 1200 and trains about 4,400 midshipmen. Don’t miss this opportunity to see where our future naval officers live and prepare for careers in the United States Navy.

If you come by sea—and remember, all of the first European visitors arrived by sea—you will want to visit the Annapolis Maritime Museum. There visitors learn how the early settlers used their small hand-built boats to harvest crabs, fish and oysters from the bay. Annapolis was an important port where a great assortment of items were unloaded from European ships.

Many of these ships brought slaves to the city. Kunta Kinte, the slave made famous by Alex Haley’s book “Roots,” arrived by ship in 1767. There is a statue dedicated to Haley located in the harbor area; the figure is reading a book to young children who are lying on the ground listening to his words. The three children represent different ethnic backgrounds.

Come to Annapolis and walk along the streets and alleys that the founders of our nation once walked. Put your ear against a building and you just might hear their voices echoing the passion and vision that built the foundation of a new nation. Whether you come by land or sea you won’t be disappointed when you visit the Sailing Capital of the U.S., Annapolis Maryland.

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