Photos by John Bildahl
If you've never been to the Chesapeake, you'll probably want to start at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. If you've lived on the Bay all your life and haven't been there, you should go because you'll still find your knowledge and understanding of the Chesapeake enriched.
At what has become a well-known institution, you'll see not only history but also culture, heritage and the very fabric of the Chesapeake's development. There are, of course, old vessels, from working sail to yachting to commercial passenger. You'll find the bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, a National Historic Landmark. There's an old but restored marine railway with authentic reconstruction usually under way. The museum recently launched the lovingly restored skipjack Rosie Parks, known as one of the faster skipjacks around. She joins several others that home-port there.
In compelling contrast, this is also the home port of Elf, a restored classic yacht built in 1888. The museum recently acquired the wheelhouse of the tug Huntington. She was built in 1933 at Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co. and assisted about 30,000 vessels in 58 years.
But this isn't just a place to see historic boats. The 1879 Hooper's Straight screwpile lighthouse was moved there and is open for your visit. Many other displays - inside and outdoors - depict the life of the Bay, both natural and as influenced by civilization. If you join, you can dock at the museum overnight. There's also an anchorage area with water taxis available, not to mention several nearby marinas.
This museum is appropriately located at St. Michaels on the beautiful Eastern Shore of Maryland. Founded in the mid-1600s, this town has been a seaport and a commercial seafood center, and now is a highlight of fine living, dining, touring and exploration of living history. It lies about 20 nautical miles across Chesapeake Bay from Annapolis in protected waters up the Miles River. www.cbmm.org
This article originally appeared in the June 2011 issue.