Cruising Maryland

Oxford, Maryland is an underrated cruising ground.

Oxford, Maryland boating
The boating life is the beating heart of Oxford, Maryland.Mark Sandlin

The first time I visited Oxford, Maryland, in 2004, I wrote that the place was like “a fly trapped in amber with a fistful of sawdust.” Walking through the town’s streets felt like strolling through some of the coolest pages in the history of boatbuilding. The population was only about 650 souls, and seasoned shipyard characters seemed to be around every corner. Some had hands callused from years of working in wood, or thick glasses from decades spent staring at lines plans. Big brands such as Hinckley had a presence, alongside places like the Cutts & Case Shipyard, which dates to 1965.

When I was there, Eddie Cutts Sr. was still in charge; we talked for a spell about how he'd spent two years restoring Foto, the 33-foot cedar chase boat that Morris and Stanley Rosenfeld used to photograph America's Cup yachts in the Golden Age of Yachting. Today, the yard is run by Ronnie Cutts and Eddie Cutts Jr., keeping the family legacy—and the ­boatbuilding legacy—alive as Oxford gentrifies into a more tourism-friendly place.

Rick Gordon welcomes customers with a smile at Dockside Boat Rentals
Rick Gordon welcomes customers with a smile at Dockside Boat Rentals, just up the street from Oxford’s ferry landing. Bicycles, ­paddleboards, kayaks and more are available for rent or purchase.Mark Sandlin

“Instead of a true, honest-to-God working waterfront, now you have flowerbed competitions in the middle of town, festivals here, festivals there,” Cutts Jr. says. “It’s a fun little town with ice cream and good restaurants and all that kind of stuff. The boatbuilding and the ­marinas are all thriving and doing well.”

To visiting cruisers, he says, the place feels upgraded from 15 years ago.

“Everybody here is fierce about the place not changing too much,” he says. “I don’t think there will ever be a McDonald’s in the middle of Oxford. It’s a cool little town. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”