The weekend throngs are out in force this spring, jamming the city dock to admire the yachts.

When they get to Mustang, last of the Chesapeake Bay's five-log sailing brogans and an antique among shiny new jewels, they snap photos and wonder, as visitors have for 20 years, what her story is.

For once, no one is around to tell them.

Capt. Gerry Morton, Annapolis institution, purveyor of Chesapeake lore, skipper, rebuilder and proud owner of the 76-year-old vessel, is laid up five blocks away, fighting emphysema in a hospital room.

Two weeks ago, the 80-year-old captain was stricken while working on the boat. If something was going to happen to him, it figured to happen there. He spends four or five hours a day aboard when the weather's fit, puttering around.

"People come by and say, 'It must be a lot of work, keeping a boat like that up,' " said Morton. "I tell them, 'Sure, if you thought your honeymoon was work.' "

To the skipper, maintaining his old yacht is a labor of love conducted daily before an admiring crowd. "What else would I be doing?" he asked from his hospital bed. "If I have a piece of sandpaper in my hand and I'm working on the wheel, if I put a coat of varnish on a belaying pin, the next day I've got something concrete there. I've done something."

Over the years visitors have discovered that a dock piling nearest the cockpit of Mustang, where they are in earshot of the earnest explanations Morton doles out, is a fine place to pass time.

"One piling is shorter than the others. They all seem to end up on that one," said Morton. "I think a lot of them just want somebody to talk to, so they ask me about the boat."

Soon they're perched on the piling, hearing the oft-told saga of Mustang.

She was built in 1907 of five hand-shaped loblolly pines. The biggest formed the keel log, six inches thick and 34 inches wide. On each side of the keel was attached a garboard log and to the garboards were tacked two wing logs. These five logs, intact after 76 years, form the hull up to the waterline. Planking above on the two-masted 60-footer "is any kind of scrap wood," said Morton.

The narrow, double-ended brogan has rich bay lineage. She's a successor of the Indian dugout canoe and the early Chesapeake log sailing canoe, and predecessor to the Chesapeake Bay bugeye ketch, which was built of finished lumber instead of logs.

Morton found his yacht languishing in a yard in Galesville 25 years ago and bought her for the challenge of rebuilding her. After 30 years in service he was retired from the Navy as a "mustang," an enlisted man who rose to officer status. The brogan was the Kate D. He renamed her.

They were a match. She too had been 30 years in service, coasting the Chesapeake with freight before the days of tandem trucks and superhighways, and she too had been elevated, from workboat to yacht.

"I looked up and down the bay for a character boat to rebuild," said Morton. "Then I found her practically in my back yard."

Bit by bit he chipped away, getting her seaworthy within a few years, then chartering to keep the costs in check. Finally in 1980 she was complete. He applied to the Interior Department to have Mustang placed on the National Register as a historic vessel. She was accepted.

Mustang has been a fixture at the City Dock since 1962, as has Morton, and his tales.

Late one night he dropped down to the dock and found a visitor who knew more about his boat than he did. "The fellow said, 'That's not the Mustang, that's the Kate D,' " said Morton.

The old-timer said he'd helped shape the logs for the hull after they were hauled out of the woods in Saxis, Va.

"He took off his boot and his wool sock," said Morton, "and showed me where the tip of his big toe was gone. He'd cut it off working on her."

Such snippets of history roll off Morton's tongue, tightened by time and 1,000 tellings.

These days he's separated from his regular audience, surrounded instead by machines to help him breathe.

But he's on the mend.

"I'll be out of here soon," said Morton, "and I'll see you down at the dock. We'll go for a sail."