Chesapeake Bay is home to legendary beautiful waters, diverse flora and fauna, and Paddlefest, an annual paddle-sports event organized by the team at Ultimate Watersports. Held on the Gunpowder River, which flows into the bay, the festival shows off the industry's latest toys, allowing attendees to try out brand-new kayaks and paddleboards on the sparkling fresh water. For the rest of the season, Ultimate Watersports brings its know-how to the shores with kayak tours, paddleboard lessons, and sailing trips that have remained a bay fixture for more than 26 years. Waterfront enthusiasts seek out the company's reliably well-maintained and up-to-date watercraft to do everything from gain a windsurfing certification to practice heckling standup paddleboard comics. Additionally, seasonal kids' camps help youngsters to stay active while gaining an appreciation for watersports and the splendor of the outdoors.
Even as a flight attendant and marketing salesperson, Belinda Magruder never forgot her younger years as a crewmember aboard international sailing charters. The freedom of clinging to the wind as the boat raced across open waters continued to call to her, and one day she got an opportunity to go back. After a chance ad for a marketing position led Belinda to work for Getaway Sailing, she eventually took over the company. Since then, Belinda has filled Getaway Sailing's school with American Sailing Association–certified instructors, many of whom were raised on the bay and grew up manning the rigging of their families' ships. Some of the school's captains hold merchant mariner's licenses and boast year-round experience in running freighters via tugboat or beating Poseidon in weekend poker games.
A fleet of 17 boats at lengths of up to 35 feet conveys passengers through classes covering navigation and cruising, as well as certification courses and team-building trips. With the water gently patting hulls, boats cut through the sunshine and across the Inner Harbor or to the Francis Scott Key Bridge on day charters, or take longer trips to farther-flung stretches of aquamarine around Rockhall, Oxford, and St. Michaels. Evening races let larger boats jockey competitively with snails snapping a staccato rhythm against the darkening sky, and harbor sails put small groups out with a skipper, leaving them free to bar-hop or heckle passing schools of fish. Getaway Sailing's instructors immerse their students in the insular sailing world and have drawn members from as far as Hershey, including patrons who have volunteered to help staff the school's booth at boating trade shows.
On the tree-lined shores of Sue Creek, the adventurous can ride stand-up paddleboards to explore the creek's calm waters. From the Baltimore Boating Center, the seafaring staff pairs its clients on boards suited to their skill levels. Paddlers launch from a newly constructed floating pier, meaning no one will have to mount their boards from a low-flying helicopter.
Under the steady hand of Coast Guard-licensed captain Larry Vazzano, the Wharf Rat slices through the blue waters of Chesapeake Bay. The intimate vessel's sails harness the breeze, turning this way and that above the heads of passengers to find the best angle to the wind. Its decks bustle with activity of guests helping prepare sails or taking the helm as well as relaxed onlookers enjoying the unique view. Meanwhile, viewed from the cockpit dining table, the sun reaches its zenith and glitters off the peaks of waves, or dips slowly behind the forested shoreline, dyeing the whole world in orange, red, and purple.
Captain Larry loves this experience––the Atlantic Sailing Experience, as he calls it––so much that he's shared it with over 600 guests. In addition to his nautical know-how, he shows off his prowess at the grill for brunch and dinner, churning out tasty barbecue and vegetable sides from his own garden. Of course, he doesn't just sail and eat. He also charters his ship for exciting sailboat races and the occasional voyage to the end of the Earth.
Staff Size: 2?4 people
Average Duration of Services: 3?4 hours
Pro Tip: Come ready for adventure and fun. Make sure you bring clothes that you don't mind getting wet.
Handicap Accessible: Yes
Parking: Parking lot
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: River Tours
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
With a name that means "where the paths cross," it's no surprise that Calleva is dedicated to bringing people of all ages and from all walks of life together to appreciate the outdoors. The certified MAEOE environmental center helps its guests dive into the heart of the wilderness right outside D.C. and raise awareness about its delicate ecosystems. In doing so, it encourages others to cooperate and take risks while stepping out of their comfort zones, like baby birds leaving the nest to start their own nest-building business.
To facilitate these efforts, a team of ACA-certified guides helms seasonal outdoor-adventure and educational programs. In warm weather, activities might include kayaking and canoeing down winding stretches of the Potomac River or paddling to a private island filled with ropes-challenge courses and other obstacles. Fishing and ecological-study programs present even more varied ways to explore the water. Other adventures include the year-round, such as backpacking; the cold weather, such as caving; and the whimsical, such as the annual haunted forest where ghosts and ghouls mingle under a zip-line course.