Kathy and John Deutsch moved to Annapolis from Allentown, Pa., in September for one reason: They wanted to spend time with boats.
The couple had taken sailing classes and fallen in love with the Chesapeake Bay, the sailing culture and the laid-back town.
"It is that sense of adventure ... and thrill of being out on the water," said Kathy Deutsch, 58, the proud owner of a 41-foot sailboat.
The Deutschs came to the right place. Boating and maritime culture dominate Annapolis and are major parts of life in Anne Arundel County.
As of last year, there were nearly 44,500 boats registered in Anne Arundel County, representing more than 20 percent of the boats in the state.
The most popular craft is the motorboat. Almost 90 percent of registered boats in Anne Arundel are powerboats.
The Chesapeake, with its many inlets and coves, lends itself to motorboating, said Paul Mikulski, the owner of Chesapeake Boating Center, which sells and rents powerboats and sailboats. "There are a lot of destinations - Chestertown, St. Michaels, Oxford, Solomons, Baltimore, to name a few," he said.
Mikulski's company uses a clever business model to rent boats. It is essentially a time share - a person can become a member of the center for a year, and, through the company's Web site, sign out boats.
Members pay a flat fee and do not need to deal with maintenance or storage.
Despite the powerboat dominance in the county, Anne Arundel's largest city calls itself the "Sailing Capital of the World." (Newport, R.I., and the British Virgin Islands also claim that distinction.)
Annapolis sailors say the openness of the boating culture sets the area apart from other nautical centers.
"In Annapolis, I don't want to say sailing is a poor man's game, but it is an everyman's game," said Rick Franke, 62, a longtime Annapolis resident and manager of Annapolis Sailing School. "Anybody who is interested and motivated can get involved in sailing."
The best option for the beginner (or even the timid intermediate) is to take a course. There is no shortage of options.
J World Sailing School teaches weeklong and weekend classes for sailors at all levels, as does Chesapeake Sailing School. Womanship offers sailing and cruising courses geared toward women.
Those interested in sailboat racing can easily find a fleet. Severn Sailing Association runs a Tuesday night dingy racing series. Annapolis Yacht Club does big-boat racing on Wednesdays, J World picks up the ball on Thursday nights with mid-sized racing and, on Fridays, Eastport Yacht Club runs a "beer can race" with big boats.
Participating in the races doesn't necessarily require a yacht club membership or even ownership of a boat. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the big boat captains are often hunting for warm bodies to serve as crew, said Ian Burman, a sailing program instructor at Severn Sailing Association.
And many Anne Arundel boaters prefer self-powered craft - there are a number of kayakers and canoeists exploring the bay and nearby rivers.
The Chesapeake Paddlers Association organizes Wednesday night kayak trips. They glide around the harbor starting at 5 p.m. and come back in time for a barbeque. "Our motto is `We paddle to eat,'" said Brian Blankinship.
The group also sponsors free kayaking lessons and organizes more than 100 day and weekend trips in the region.
Most members own their kayaks, but Spring River Corp. rents kayaks.
Finally, those seeking immediate maritime gratification can hop on an Annapolis Water Taxi. "People get on the taxis and say, `Hey, can we just ride along with you?'" said staff member Amy Hair. "It's up to the captain, but if we're not too busy, it is a great way to see Annapolis from the water for cheap."