Road Trip

Stretch Your Sea Legs in Annapolis

Sunday, April 27, 2008

WHERE: Annapolis.

WHY: Sailors' delight, pirate pets and town criers belting it out.

HOW FAR: About 2.5 miles.

Landlubbers, take cover: The Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival is coming ashore. The event, which was started in 2001 to honor Annapolis's seafaring past, will commandeer downtown's City Dock this coming weekend, drawing an expected 25,000 folks to the renovated waterfront area. To add to the party atmosphere, the festival will coincide with CharterFest, an event that is part of a year-long celebration marking the 300th anniversary of the year Queen Anne granted the city a royal charter.

Annapolis's history started on terra firma, when a group of Puritans left Anglican Virginia in the mid-1600s to create an outpost for religious freedom along the Chesapeake Bay. In 1694, the city was anointed the capital of Maryland, adding politics to its growing port and boatbuilding business. The waterfront's commercial activity peaked in the mid-1800s, when the U.S. Naval Academy arrived and scores of oyster boats offloaded on the City Dock for processing in nearby shucking houses.

Nowadays, Annapolis sees more leisure boats than commercial vessels, but it's still as seaworthy as ever, especially during the maritime festival. Activities include a parade of pets dressed as pirates (Fido with a peg leg? A cat with a patch and gold hoop?), a crab-cake-eating contest, a regatta and a demo by the National Sailing Hall of Fame. And while it's not an "Ahoy!" shouting match, more than 20 very vocal participants will face off in the National Town Crier Competition. Word is, they have a lot to crow about.

-- Ben Chapman

Maryland Maritime Heritage Festival, Friday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; May 4,

10 a.m.-5 p.m. Around the City Dock, 1 Dock St., Annapolis. Free, except for some Friday events. 410-266-3960.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company