If you're like many boatowners, you've developed a weekend routine. You head out on the waterways to pursue your own interests, whether fishing or anchoring in a favorite cove or stopping at a waterfront eatery because the family likes the hamburgers. In many ways, boating is like a marriage. To keep the zip in the doo dah, you can't allow yourself to get into a rut. Too many skippers follow the same routine, and pretty soon their boats sit neglected because the owners grew bored. Think of your boat as a magic carpet for getting to unusual places, and the fun will begin. Whether you want to listen to a jazz concert, cheer your favorite football team, explore a museum, dawdle at an art show, or take the youngsters to a pirate festival, your boat can take you there. You don't have to fight traffic, you don't need a hotel, and you've broken free of the dreaded rut. Here's a sampling of shoreside delights accessible by boat and, with a little research, you'll find even more in your own waters.
Classic Boat Shows
Have an appreciation for impeccably maintained brightwork? Walk the docks at one of literally hundreds of classic and antique boat shows on every waterway, and admire the old chris-crafts, gar Woods, and more. the antique and classic Boat Society (www.acbs.org) has a long calendar of events in all areas. among the best are at clayton, new York, in the thousand islands (late July) and Keels & Wheels in Seabrook, texas (held in May with both antique cars and boats). the annual WoodenBoat gathering at Mystic Seaport in Mystic, connecticut, called the most dynamic wooden boat show, includes a concours d'Elegance and skills demonstrations (www.thewoodenboatshow.com). in a similar vein is the Wooden Boat Festival in Port townsend, Washington, across Puget Sound from Seattle. With more than 200 vessels, plus exhibits, lectures, and displays, it's a western mecca for fanciers of woodies.
If you thought tailgating at a football or baseball game was fun, try "transoming." Several stadiums encourage access by boat, providing docks and facilities so you can enjoy all the comforts. In Knoxville, Tennessee, at Volunteer Landing next to Neyland Stadium (the largest on-campus stadium in the country with 107,000 seats), you'd better wear orange to root for the University of Tennessee Volunteers, but you can occasionally see NFL exhibition games there as well. In San Francisco, at McCovey Cove next to AT&T Stadium, there is a tradition of Giants baseball, with boats anchoring and avid fans praying for a regular "over the wall" homerun so they can snag the ball as a trophy. In Seattle, at the University of Washington Husky Stadium on Lake Washington, boaters get season permits for dock space but, if you anchor off the stadium, the rowing team provides water-taxi service to raise money. Other stadium opportunities include walking from the transient docks and moorings of Chicago's Burnham Harbor to Soldier Field for the Chicago Bears football games, or spending the night at Metropolitan Park Marina in the shadow of Alltel Stadium in Jacksonville, Florida, to watch the Jaguars-reserve dock space early! Check your own area for water access to stadiums.
A Day at the Museum
You'll find maritime museums on almost every waterway and, because they know you love boats, many of them make it easy to visit by water. At Mystic Seaport, in Connecticut, you can reserve slips so you have on-site access to the museum facilities. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Maryland, offers overnight dockage so you can take your time seeing the exhibits, and the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland, provides daytime dockage. A short water taxi hop from downtown Newport, Rhode Island, is the Museum of Yachting, with wonderful exhibits of models and America's Cup memorabilia.
The Coconut Grove Arts Festival, held in Coconut Grove, Florida, is one of the largest and most prestigious outdoor fine arts gatherings and, best of all, it's practically on top of the Dinner Key Marina on Biscayne Bay, with transient slips and full facilities. Farther north, the Las Olas Art Fair fills one street in Ft. Lauderdale and there are plenty of marinas in the area. in Rhode island, the newport arts Festival comes to the newport Yachting center in late August, but be sure to make your slip reservations early!
Hot Jazz and Cool Concerts
Imagine settling comfortably into your cockpit, listening to the cool sounds of Diana Krall or the pop-rock of Loggins & Messina in concert. You can do just that in Portsmouth, Virginia, where the nTelos Pavillion (www.pavillionconcerts.com), located next to the Ocean Marine Yacht center, offers transient slips during concerts that have featured these artists. On San Diego Bay, California, boats gather near Humphrey's open-air stage to hear world-class performers, and the Long Beach, California, municipal band serenades boaters on the hook in the Marine Stadium every Thursday evening during the summer. In Newport, Rhode Island, the Sunset Music Series at the Newport Yachting Center has had the likes of Peter Frampton, Kenny Rogers, and Boz Scaggs singing within feet of the marina. and you can't say the word jazz without mentioning the Newport Jazz Festival, where hundreds of boats crowd the waters around Fort Adams State Park, their crews tapping to the beat. Catalina Island off Southern California hosts three weekends of jazz at the famed Casino Ballroom every October, filling Avalon Harbor with aficionados (www.jazztrax.com).
Want to see the Blue angels scream past your boat at eye level? Join in the fun at the KeyBank Air Show during the Seattle Seafair, and you'll see everything from aerobatics to military fly-bys. In San Diego, the Red Bull Air Races are staged over the bay, but easily visible from the Embarcadero Marina and Park. The twoday Ft. Lauderdale Air Show is returning in 2010 and, in the past, more than 12,000 boats have congregated offshore for the best view of military and stunt pilots, plus classic and warbird fly-bys. Other airshows are listed on www.aeropix.com, including Thunder Over Louisville on the Ohio River.
There is a growing fleet of ex-Navy warships in cities nationwide, and many of these are convenient for boating access. at Patriot's Point, in South carolina's Charleston Harbor (www.patriotspoint.org), the 872-foot aircraft carrier USS Yorktown is joined by a destroyer, a submarine, and a Coast Guard cutter, with the Charleston Harbor Marina just steps away. San Diego Harbor has the carrier Midway, with acres of marinas on nearby harbor and Shelter Islands. Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts, has an impressive fleet from World War II: a battleship, a cruiser, a destroyer, a submarine, and two PT Boats, plus a Russian Cold War missile corvette and more. The museum offers affordable slips and moorings, with access to five national historic landmarks (www.battleshipcove.org).
Glamour and Glitz
In this economic climate you may shy away from gambling but, then again, perhaps you'll do better at the tables than in the market. Trump Casino in Atlantic City is linked to the marina in Farley State Park, which has 640 slips that can accommodate vessels up to 300 feet in length, as well as a restaurant. On Paradise Island, off Nassau in the Bahamas, Atlantis's marina makes it easy for casino visitors aboard superyachts and, on the Mississippi River, the Isle Casino in Bettendorf, Iowa, offers slips from April through October. Several casinos in the Biloxi, Mississippi area, such as the President Casino, have their own marinas, but check to make sure that any hurricane damage has been repaired.
The Norwalk, Connecticut, Seaport Association's Oyster Festival is more than just yummy bivalves: There is a barbecue competition ($20,000 in prizes), an arts and crafts show, vintage boats, and children's games. Wellfleet, Massachusetts, has a similar Oyster Fest, with food vendors, a shucking contest, craft fair, cooking demos, and a 5K road run. St. Michaels, Maryland, hosts an annual food and wine festival that is one of the premier events in the mid-Atlantic area, and slips are plentiful. Remember, don't sample and drive.
Unless you own a one-of-a-kind yacht, you're likely to find an owner's club and rendezvous where you can gather with owners of similar boats. Check with your boatbuilder or local dealers to find a rendezvous in your area. Besides meeting other owners, there are often technicaltalks, parties, barbecues, kid fun, and golf or fishing tourneys.
Start Your Engines
If you love speed, then get your boat shoes out! In St. Petersburg, Florida, the annual Honda Grand Prix for Indy Cars wraps around the waterfront - the organizers provide dockage and the "Acura Yacht Club" provides upfront action and access to the track. In Seattle, private boats are the best way to watch the unlimited hydroplane races during the Chevrolet Cup each summer, and the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, California, is another Indy Car race that runs past the downtown marina. Superboat offshore racing events are staged in Florida, New York, North Carolina, and Indiana, and safe areas are set aside for spectator boats to enjoy the blazing action (www.superboat.com).
One of a Kinds
Always had a hankering for outer space? A boat is the best vantage point for watching a shuttle launch at the Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral: At night, it's an incredible sight (www.nasa.gov). A tour of the Palm Beach Maritime Museum on Peanut Island, off Palm Beach, Florida-with free dock space-will let you peek into the Kennedy Bunker, where JFK might have run the country after a nuclear attack (www.pbmm.org). Take an architectural tour of Chicago, highlighting more than 40 significant landmarks along the Chicago River. The tours depart from Navy Pier, with transient moorings in nearby DuSable Harbor.
Finally, here's an idea for fun without leaving the marina: Hire a great chef from a local restaurant to come aboard and give cooking lessons at a party for you and your friends. Pick a cuisine-Italian, French, Chinese-and, with the epicurean enthusiasm sweeping the country, you'll be on the cutting edge. The French love the phrase Vive la difference! and so do I. Doing something fresh can revitalize your enthusiasm for boating, inspiring you to get off the dock and make new memories you'll cherish. All it takes is a little imagination and a willingness to break out of the rut.