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Our guide to your best summer ever

Summer is about cruising, beach boating, fishing, tubing and just plain having fun.

The days are longer, the air is sweet, and the boat is back in the water. Summer is the perfect time to collect the family, weigh anchor and set off on a relaxing cruise. Explore a new harbor, wet a line, jump over the side for a swim, stop at a waterfront restaurant for crab cakes or lobster, or stuff your face at a seafood festival. Whatever you do, try something different this summer.

Read the other story in this package:   How we'll spend our summers

Here’s a look at 33 events we think are sure to get you on your way to fun on the water — from fleet blessings and chowder cook-offs to crab races and a Hemingway look-alike contest.

1. Vintage vessels of all shapes and sizes will be on display at the Chesapeake BayMaritimeMuseum in St. Michael’s, Md., June 16 to 18 for the annual Antique & Classic Boat Festival. Organizers call this the Mid-Atlantic’s largest gathering of classic mahogany speedboats, and there will be more than 100 pristine Chris-Crafts, Hackers, Gar Woods and others on display. Visitors can enjoy boat rides, safety demonstrations, food, live music, and activities for children, and more than 40 boating-related vendors will be on hand. Boats will be judged on workmanship, authenticity and maintenance. ,

2. Regardless of where in the world sailors are this summer — Casco Bay, the Mediterranean, Puget Sound, the Sea of Cortez — they can join an international celebration of all things sailing: the Summer Sailstice. The celebration takes place June 17 and 18, the weekend closest to the solstice. Organizers say sailors from 48 states and 12 countries participated in the celebration last year, and many use the Sailstice as an incentive to organize their own events, knowing that fellow sailors around the world are doing the same. Registered participants will be eligible to win prizes, including a weeklong charter in the BVI, a Hunter Xcite sailboat, $200 West Marine gift certificates and more. (415) 412-6961.

3. More than 175 speedboats and cruisers will sprint up the Hudson River June 17 in the New York City Poker Run. Festivities kick off with a “Patriotic Powerboat Parade” up the river from Liberty Landing Marina in Jersey City, N.J., to the GeorgeWashingtonBridge. Competitors from around the country and Canada then speed to the Tappan ZeeBridge and as far north as the Haverstraw Marina, picking up playing cards along the way. The race wraps up back at Liberty Landing, and the team with the best hand takes the $5,000 purse for this so-called “King of all Poker Runs.” Spectators gather at Liberty Landing to watch the action in the shadow of the Big Apple’s financial district. (203) 532-1312.

4. The Blessing of the Fleet is one of the highlights of the annual St. Peter’s Fiesta in Gloucester, Mass., June 21 to 25. (St. Peter is patron saint of fishing). Clergy, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, archbishop of Boston, will gather near the town’s iconic fisherman statue to bless fishing boats and crews as they parade by. After the 100-plus boats are blessed, skippers traditionally blast their signal horns. In addition to the religious ceremonies, there will be music, food, soccer games, seine boat races and “greasy pole” walks. The event is sponsored by Gloucester’s Italian-American fishing community.

5. Boston recognizes its Colonial and maritime heritage with its annual Harborfest celebration June 28 to July 4. Festivities include more than 200 events around BostonHarbor and downtown: Revolutionary War re-enactments, parades around the USS Constitution, a chowder festival (see item No. 8), concerts, and a fireworks display July 4. Organizers expect more than 2.5 million people for the weeklong celebration. (617) 227-1528.

6. Anglers have a chance to win $1 million at the HMY-Viking MegaDock Billfishing Tournament out of the Charleston (S.C.) City Marina June 28 to July 1. The tournament, the last of five events in the South Carolina Governor’s Cup Billfishing Series, is a marlin and sailfish competition with additional categories for dolphin, tuna and wahoo. Organizers say it is the only competition offering the Bank of America MegaMillion Jackpot for the largest catch that breaks a South Carolina state record for blue marlin, tuna, wahoo or yellowfin tuna. Proceeds benefit a number of charities. (843) 278-4914.

7. Tall ships from around the world will sail into North Carolina’s CrystalCoast (Beaufort and MoreheadCity) for Pepsi America’s Sail 2006 June 30 to July 5. The festival is hosted by the Friends of the North CarolinaMaritimeMuseum, and will draw the 122-foot schooner Virginia, the 105-foot gaff-rigged schooner Alliance, Brazil’s 249-foot square-rigged clipper Cisne Branco,and other tall ships. Visitors can board the ships and interact with crews. Special events include a tall ships parade, 15-minute regatta and a Fourth of July concert and fireworks. (800) 637-8158.

8. New England restaurants will serve up more than 2,000 gallons of clam chowder during the July 2 Chowderfest at Boston City Hall Plaza — part of the Boston Harborfest celebration. Some 12,000 “chowderheads” are expected to sample recipes and vote for “Boston’s Best Clam Chowder.” (617) 227-1528.

9. The annual Kent County Watermen’s Day celebrates the hard-working people who harvest the bounty of Chesapeake Bay. The July 2 festival on the Upper Eastern Shore in Rock Hall, Md., includes a decorated boat parade, workboat docking competition and a crab-pot pulling contest. Among the highlights is the anchor toss, in which competitors (both men and women) fling iron grappling hooks to see who can throw one farthest. Some reach 70 to 80 feet. (410) 778-0416

10. Mermaids will sing backup vocals for Elvis impersonators playing guitar during the annual Underwater Music Festival July 8 at Florida’s Looee Key Marine Sanctuary. The prerecorded music — played through underwater speakers — and quirky performances draw as many as 600 divers and snorkelers each year, according to organizers. The playlist includes humpback whale songs, the Beatles’ “Octopus’s Garden” and Jimmy Buffet’s “Fins.” Divers and snorkelers also can view an underwater gallery featuring the work of local artists. Looee Key, located about six miles off Big Pine Key, is part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and is accessible only by boat. The annual event is sponsored by the Lower Florida Keys Chamber of Commerce. (800) 872-3722.

11. The annual Sailfest celebration in New London, Conn., takes place July 7 to 9 on the city waterfront and in downtown areas. The festival includes tall ships, live music, a hot-wings eating competition, a motorcycle swap meet, a car show and a big fireworks display sponsored by the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation. More than 300,000 visitors are expected. (860) 444-1879.

12. Of the more than 45 classic boats to be displayed at the annual Mahogany Memories boat show July 8 in Essex, Conn., one standout is sure to be Aphrodite III, the recently restored 74-foot commuter yacht built for New York financier John “Jock” Hay Whitney in 1937. (See Page 32 for more about the yacht and restoration.) Among the vintage boats tying up at the Connecticut RiverMuseum docks will be a collection of seven restored Shepherds. Onshore attractions include workshops, refreshments and a tent housing more vintage boats, models, maritime books, posters and souvenirs. Hosting will be the Southern New England Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. (860) 354-9097.

13. The annual Deep River Ancient Muster is a guaranteed good time for fans of fife and drum music. The muster takes place July 14 and 15 at Devitt’s Field in Deep River, Conn., a small Connecticut River Valley town about 10 miles upriver from Long Island Sound. Organizers say the muster is the largest and oldest gathering of fifers and drummers in the world. More than 65 corps will parade and then perform both individually and together in what’s called a “Circle of Friendship.” There is no admission charge. (860) 388-7575.

14. The BellSouth Greater Jacksonville (Fla.) Kingfish Tournament includes a food and music festival, concerts, boat sales and fireworks display. The July 17 to 22 tournament at SistersCreekPark is expected to draw as many as 1,000 boats, competing for more than $500,000 in prize money. Organizers call it the largest kingfish tournament in the country, and say it attracts between 20,000 and 30,000 spectators annually. (904) 251-3011.

15. Stocky, white-bearded Ernest Hemingway look-alikes will make their way to Key West, Fla., July 18 to 23 for the annual Hemingway Days celebration, honoring the legacy of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who lived and wrote in Key West for nearly a decade. In addition to three days of marlin fishing and a tongue-in-cheek “Running of the Bulls,” those who resemble Hemingway will compete for the coveted title of “Papa” in the Sloppy Joe’s Hemingway Look-Alike Contest. Lorian Hemingway, the author’s granddaughter and a Pulitzer Prize-nominated writer herself, will hand out the top prize in a short story-writing contest and will read from her latest work. (800) 872-3722.

16. Classic boats (power as well as sail) from all along the Eastern Seaboard will gather at Mystic (Conn.) Seaport July 22 and 23 for the annual Antique & Classic Boat Rendezvous. Many crews don period attire, and the classic commuter yacht Aphrodite is scheduled to make an appearance. Visitors can chat with crewmembers, and awards will be presented in a number of categories. The weekend highlight is a three-mile parade down the MysticRiver, led by the seaport’s 57-foot coastal steamer, Sabino. (888) 973-2767.

17. Recreational and commercial vessels alike will gather in Galilee, R.I., to be blessed by clergy and judged by state and local officials during the town’s annual Blessing of the Fleet. Participating vessels, many adorned with festive decorations, will parade on Narragansett Bay July 29, starting at noon. (On July 28 more than 2,500 runners will compete in a 10-mile race.) There will be a seafood festival at Veteran’s Memorial Park, with live entertainment and children’s rides on both days. (401) 783-7121. (click on the Lions Club button)

18. A fleet of 30 classic and modern boats will sail the cruising grounds of Down East Maine during the InternationalYachtRestorationSchool’s annual Classic Yacht Cruise. Festivities start July 29 in SouthwestHarbor with a party sponsored by the Hinckley Company. The cruise sets off July 30 and finishes around Aug. 6 in BoothbayHarbor. Stopovers include Castine, Camden and Brooklin, and a number of races also are planned. Those interested in tagging along without a boat can reserve a spot on Arabella, the 160-foot three-masted staysail schooner that serves as the mother ship for the cruise. IYRS is based in Newport, R.I. (401) 848-5777.

19. St. Michaels, Md., will celebrate all things crab during the ChesapeakeMaritimeMuseum’s annual Crab Days festival July 29 and 30. Crabbing demonstrations will include trotlining, chicken necking, pulling crab pots and crab picking. There also will be demonstrations by craftspeople, boat rides and a crab toss for the kids. And, of course, there are crabs for consumption, including steamed crabs, crab cakes and crab soup. (410) 745-2916.

20. Step aboard the Charles W. Morgan July 31 for Mystic (Conn.) Seaport’s Melville Marathon, an annual reading of Herman Melville’s classic “Moby Dick.” The reading begins at noon, and visitors and museum staff gather in the fo’c’sle of the 133-foot whaling ship for all 135 chapters of the novel over 24 hours. Costumed role players singing sea chanteys add to the atmosphere. (888) 973-2767.

21. For the first time, PassageMaker magazine will bring its West Marine Trawler Fest to Mystic, Conn. Trawler enthusiasts from all over the Northeast will gather Aug. 3 to 5 at Mystic Seaport for this consumer event that combines boat show elements with seminars covering trawler-related topics. Seminars will include a seagoing stability presentation and a panel on fuel systems. There will be new boats, hands-on demonstrations, roundtable discussions and opportunities to meet and speak with fellow trawler owners. (888) 487-2953.

22. Tahoe City, Calif., is the place to be Aug. 4 and 5 for the annual Lake Tahoe Concours d’Elegance boat show at the Sierra Boat Co. More than 120 antique woodenboats will be divided into categories for judging. The featured class this year is “Boats of the Fabulous Forties.” In addition to the boat show, there will be lakeside picnics, cruises, a marine swap meet and a fashion show. The show is held in conjunction with the Wooden Boat Week series of events. (530) 581-4700.

23. From Aug. 4 to 6, the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y., will host what its members call the oldest continuous antique boat show in the world. Now in its 42nd year, the Antique Boat Show & Auction draws more than 10,000 spectators and more than 100 exhibitors. The featured boatbuilder this year is Dodge Boats. Antique Boat America — an online marketplace for sellers and buyers of antique, classic and used boats — will conduct on-site auctions of project and collector vessels. There also will be a “Grand Parade of Boats.” (315) 686-4104.

24. The 2006 White Marlin Open — called the world’s largest marlin fishing tournament — takes place Aug. 7 to 11 in Ocean City, Md., with anglers of all skill levels participating. Organizers say $2.7 million in prize money was awarded last year, with nearly $1.6 million going to the top winner. This year $3 million is up for grabs. Base entry fee is $950 after June 1. Polygraph tests are required for money winners.

25. The Rockland, Maine, waterfront is home to the annual Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors Show Aug. 11 to 13, hosted by Maine Boats, Homes & Harbors magazine. It celebrates the boats and lifestyle of coastal Maine and showcases runabouts, power yachts, daysailers and cruising sailboats in the water and on land. The show also features local art, jewelry and furniture exhibitors. A perennial highlight is the World Championship Boatyard Dog Trials. As part of the competition, dogs and their handlers maneuver through a timed obstacle course that in past years has included negotiating a tippy dock, jumping in and out of dinghies and retrieving objects from the water. (207) 236-8622.

26. More than 150 antique speedsters will be on display Aug. 18 to 20 for the Antique Raceboat Regatta at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y. Visitors will be able to check out yesteryear’s outboards and hydroplanes, as well as Gold Cup Challenge raceboats from the early 20th century. Activities include informal raceboat “flybys” and speaker forums featuring veteran drivers, mechanics and owners. (315) 686-4104.

27. Vintage yacht enthusiasts will converge at Hawthorne Cove Marina in Salem, Mass., Aug. 19 and 20 for the annual Antique and Classic Boat Festival. Some 40 canoes, sailboats, powerboats and steam- and hand-powered vessels will be on display, and this year’s theme boats are the commuters. The 1928 Ragtime, the rebuilt 1937 Aphrodite III and Billy Joel’s replica commuter, Vendetta, will be featured. There also will be a craft market, old-time music and a blessing of the fleet. Admission is free, but a $5 donation is recommended. (617) 666-8530.

28. Classic and contemporary woodenboats of all types will be on display at the Newport Yachting Center when the annual WoodenBoat Show returns to Newport, R.I., Aug. 25 to 27. Most of the boats represent centuries of evolution and traditional application, according to organizers, while others employ modern technologies, adhesives and coatings. Visitors also can spend a half-day sailing aboard the 12 Meters Gleam and Northern Light, taking the helm of one of these classic America’s Cup yachts on Narragansett Bay. The 177-foot three-masted Portuguese barkentine Gazela Primeiro also will be docked at the yachting center. (800) 273-7447.

29. The annual Lake George (N.Y.) Rendezvous takes place Aug. 26 at the village docks. Restored vintage boats will be on display, both in the water and on land, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m., with contemporary reproduction and custom boats also on hand. Although the show typically isn’t judged, organizers say Exhibitor’s Choice and People’s Choice awards will be handed out. The show is sponsored by the Adirondack Chapter of the Antique and Classic Boat Society. (518) 885-0146.

30. The crabs are warming up and getting ready … to race. The annual National Hard Crab Derby and Fair is scheduled Sept. 1 to 3 at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, Md., and the featured event is a race between crabs plucked fresh from the Chesapeake. The fair includes a beauty pageant, crab-picking contest, arm wrestling and a fireworks display. (800) 782-3913.

31. Traditional sailing vessels will pack the inner harbor at Gloucester, Mass., Sept. 1 to 4 for the annual Gloucester Schooner Festival. The celebration features the Mayor’s Race for 100-foot schooners, as well as races for other classes. Visitors can go for a sail, tour the docks, enjoy fried fish and participate in other activities. Highlights include a lighted boat parade down the Annisquam River and a fireworks display. (978) 283-1601.

32. The Blessing of the Fleet in New Bedford, Mass., coincides with the annual Working Waterfront Festival. The Sept. 23 and 24 event celebrates the region’s commercial fishing culture, and this year’s theme is the “Future of the Industry.” Topics to be explored include young people in commercial fishing, the impact of changing regulations, and innovations in gear and technology. The festival also features boat tours, contests, live music and cooking demonstrations. (508) 993-8894.

33. Although it’s a little late in the boating season, the Chowder Cook-Off Classic in Beach Haven, N.J., isn’t to be missed. Scheduled for Oct. 1 at the Taylor Avenue ball field, the event includes unlimited chowder tasting (New England and Manhattan) and live music, and participants are asked to vote for the chowder to be named “King of the Clams.” Admission is free. (800) 292-6372.