'Sockless' sailors recapture Annapolis

April 17, 1994|By Liz Atwood | Liz Atwood,Sun Staff Writer

The dark suits, wing-tipped shoes and briefcases favored by legislators and lobbyists are gone now, and Annapolis awaits the return of the crowd in khakis and boat shoes and no socks.

"It's a way of marking the seasons in Annapolis," said Peggy Wall of the Annapolis and Anne Arundel Conference and Visitors Bureau. The transformation from state capital to sailing capital is evident throughout the town.

Sailboat racing has resumed on the Chesapeake Bay; slips are filling up at the Annapolis City Dock; local maritime businesses are preparing for the spring boat show this week; and the crowds on Main Street have taken on a decidedly more casual air. "When the legislature is in town, you've got to be on your toes," said Mayor Alfred A. Hopkins. "When they leave and the boating people come, you can be relaxed."

Tom Negri, manager of Loews Annapolis Hotel, notices his clientele changes with the seasons. During the winter months, he rents suites to lawmakers for 90 days. During boating season, his guests are usually in town for only a couple of nights.

"The fax machines are used a lot less," he said.

K? Peg McLain, manager for the Cheese Connection in the Market

House can recognize the boaters immediately.

"They're tanned and sockless," she said. "That's a dead giveaway."

Chick Levitt, owner of Chick & Ruth's deli on Main Street, also notices differences in his customers when the boating season begins.

Legislators in suits drop in for the Gov. Schaefer kosher hot dog or the Gov. Mandel chopped liver sandwich for lunch, carrying their work with them, he said.

The boaters tend to come to the 24-hour deli early for breakfast and late for dinner, saving their best daylight hours for the wind and waves.

"When the boaters are here, it's more jolly," Mr. Levitt said. They also tend to tip better, he added. "Boating people are on vacation and they're a little freer."

For many of the city's retailers, who suffered through a slow winter, the return of the boaters is a more welcome harbinger of spring than the return of robins.

Rob Emmett of Hood Sailmakers said his business was down during the winter but now his four sailmakers have a six-week backlog of work. "This year is even busier than usual," Mr. Emmett said.

While boaters tended to settle for repairs to their old sails last year, they seem willing to buy new ones this year, he said.

Annapolis is home to about 200 maritime businesses, including yacht brokers and dealers, boatyards, sailmakers and sailing publications. These businesses employ 1,400 people, according to a survey the city conducted last year.

The fourth annual boat show that opens Thursday is designed to spotlight these local businesses. Organizers are predicting the four-day event will draw 12,000 people.

Peggy Chandler, executive director of the Greater Annapolis Chamber of Commerce, said there are no statistics to show which has a greater economic impact: Annapolis' role as a state capital or its position as a sailing capital. "We enjoy them both," said Mike Riordan, owner of Riordan's Saloon on Market Space.

"We're doing 10 things at once this time of year," said Scott Tinkler, the service manager for Port Annapolis Marina. Workers at his yard on Back Creek are scurrying to get boats in the water. Crews are blue from the paint they are rolling on the hulls; riggers are busy hoisting new cables; and electricians are hooking up the gadgets boaters received as Christmas gifts.

"This is the time of year that everyone wants to pick up a paint brush," said Dave Gohsman, general manager at Port Annapolis Marina.

The snow and ice have melted and tulips are about to bloom on the marina grounds. But the workers are so busy logging 12-hour days that they hardly have time to notice.

Since the middle of March, Mike Whitehead, owner of Yacht Engine Services, has been swamped assessing, repairing and tuning engines.

2& "In a word, it's hectic," he said.

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