Escape Keys: Havre de Grace

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

GETTING THERE: Havre de Grace is about 1 1/2 hours from the Capital Beltway. Take Interstate 95 to Exit 89 and follow Route 155 east to Havre de Grace. Turn right at Juniata Street, left at Otsego Street, right onto Union Avenue, then left onto Bourbon Street, which leads to the Tidewater Marina.

BOAT CHARTERS: Even with all the information available online, it was difficult to directly compare the offerings of various charter operations because each has a different selection of vessels. Bareboats, those without captain or crew, are chartered out only to people who know how to sail.

BaySail on the Chesapeake (Tidewater Marina, 100 Bourbon St., Suite D, Havre de Grace, 410-939-2869, offers six boats for charter, from $660 plus tax for a two-day weekend on a Hunter 29.5 to $1,360 plus tax on a Hunter 410, the boat we chartered.

In Annapolis, Admiral of the Bay (222 Severn Ave., 410-263-5196 or 866-263-7666, is a broker with 17 sailboats available for bareboat charter ($1,072-$1,964 for a two-day sail) or with a captain (an extra $250 per day). Annapolis Bay Charters (Port Annapolis Marina, 7076 Bembe Beach Rd., Suite 105, 800-991-1776,, offers 16 sailing ships bareboat ($1,168-$2,020 for a two-day sail) or with a captain (about $245 per eight-hour day).

TIPS ABOUT CHARTERING: First decide where you want to go, remembering that the bay is large and sailing is slow. That will help determine which marina you want. We weighed the very busy lower Chesapeake and its interesting towns against the less-populated waters of the upper bay and its more limited facilities, and chose the latter.

We opted for a Hunter 410 because it had three cabins and two heads and the dining-area banquettes convert to a fourth bed. The galley had an astonishing array of kitchen utensils.

We paid $260 per day, plus tip, for a captain because we stayed out on the water overnight. (If you come back to the dock each night, it's $190 per day.) We also chose the "evening boarding" option; for an extra $90 we slept aboard the night before our charter began, allowing us that soothing sleep and eliminating a motel bill.

There are extras with boats: fees for refueling and for pumping out the holding tanks. (Our charges came to about $100.) We provided our own bed linens; it just seemed silly to pay $90 to rent three sets of sheets.

WHERE TO EAT: Tidewater Grille (300 Franklin St., Havre de Grace, 410-939-3313) features serviceable food with lackluster service, but the deck is right on the shallows of the lower Susquehanna River. Dinner entrees $14.75-$27. Open daily for lunch and dinner.

MacGregor's (331 St. John St., Havre de Grace, 410-939-3003 or 800-300-6319), up the hill from the Tidewater, is in a former bank building. A wide range of menu items includes interesting sandwiches on focaccia, burgers, salads and fancier fare. Dinner entrees $14.99-$24.99. The place can be quite, um, lively, with live music on weekends. Open daily for brunch, lunch and dinner.

Bomboy's Home Made Ice Cream (322 Market St., Havre de Grace, 410-939-2924 or 877-266-2697), open Tuesday through Friday 1-9 p.m., Saturdays and Sundays noon-9 p.m.; starting Sept. 28, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays 1-8 p.m., probably through Christmas. (Call first to make sure.)

-- N.McK.

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