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Small boats enjoy a big day on the Bay

The small-boat faithful gathered at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival — three days in October of workshops, races and showing off the best of old and new in power, sail and man-powered vessels.

“It couldn’t have been better weather,” says event coordinator John Ford. “And for the full slate of races, workshops and other events held, we had about 315 registered participants, which is a good number.”

The highlight of the festival came Oct. 4, when thousands of people descended on the museum to inspect the fleet and watch the small boats race on the Miles River off the colonial port of St. Michaels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

“Typically, we get about 100 to 140 boats for the festival,” says Ford. “This year seemed about average.”

The museum staff ties up the festival boats at a series of docks along its hundreds of feet of waterfront property and, for the price of admission, the public can wander among the boats and exhibits.

The people’s choice award at this year’s festival went to Esperanza, a 15-foot Cuban fishing skiff owned by the Florida Maritime Museum of Bradenton, Fla.

“Esperanza is a 1950s sailing skiff that came to Florida with 16 Cuban refugees aboard,” Ford says. “The museum [in Bradenton] restored it and it is simply beautiful.”

Many of the boats at the show are hand-built from kits or museum classes, or they are restorations of original designs used for work or pleasure in the Chesapeake region. This year, boats came from as far away as Florida, Maine and Texas.

Several of the faithful know the best way to really enjoy the melonseeds, skiffs, mini schooners and yawls is to come early and by boat. By anchoring out, one can watch the small craft up close and personal as they flit in and out of the inner and outer anchorages at St. Michael’s.

For information on the 27th Annual Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival next fall, contact the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum at (410) 745-2916 or visit

This article originally appeared in the December 2008 issue.