Summertime Boating Fun

Waterfront festivals, rendezvous and more await boaters all around the country this summer.

Newport Jazz Festival
People on the boats at anchor can listen to music from the Newport Jazz Festival in Rhode Island. Courtesy Discover Newport

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Summertime belongs to boaters. Whether it’s on America’s coasts or all along the inland lakes and rivers, boaters spend more days out on the water during the summer months than at any other time of year. And pretty much everywhere a hook can be dropped or a line can be tied off, there’s a festival, a rendezvous or another type of event for boaters to enjoy.

One of the most perennially popular summer experiences for boaters is the Newport Jazz Festival, held each August in Rhode Island. Boaters can avoid the crowds by anchoring out and listening to the music as it wafts across the water. The best seats in the house are on deck in the sunshine and fresh air. This year’s lineup of artists (as with most years) includes a who’s who of musicians, with Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall and Jon Batiste all scheduled to perform.

Boston Harbor fireworks
Boston Harbor is just one of many locations where boaters can enjoy July Fourth festivities from the water. [liz]/

Another must-do event for boaters is the Fourth of July holiday. There’s nothing quite like witnessing the glow of fireworks from a boat, whether it’s in Boston Harbor, New York Harbor, San Francisco Bay or somewhere else. While everyone ashore is looking up at the show in the sky, boaters can experience the broader view that also includes the city lights and all the reflections dancing across the water—again, often while avoiding a lot of the crowds. And boaters have no need to scramble for a place in line at a barbecue joint on July Fourth. Boats with onboard grills are already set up with everything required for a grand-scale waterfront cookout of burgers, hot dogs, fish and whatever else the folks on board want for the holiday feast.

Yet another rite of passage each summer is the rendezvous, which comes in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Boaters can organize a rendezvous at a marina, in a harbor, on a sandbar—anywhere there’s a spot for lots of boats to gather. These events showcase the camaraderie that exists among like-minded boaters, whether they’re owners of the same brand of boat or the same style of boat, or are people with similar cruising aspirations.

Aquapalooza is a chance for boaters to raft up at an event with live music and giveaways. Courtesy MarineMax

MarineMax locations host rendezvous known as Aquapalooza at various spots around the country each year, with live music, giveaways of keepsake items such as T-shirts, and other kinds of fun. This year’s Aquapalooza event in Boston is scheduled for July 15. It will take place in Perry Cove off Peddocks Island, which is part of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area.

Marine museums are another great location for boaters to gather in the summertime, with festivals and exhibitions that are specific to the maritime community. In August, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels hosts Watermen’s Appreciation Day, which is a celebration of the heritage of people who have worked on boats in the region for generations. The event includes a “watermen’s rodeo” boat-docking contest, along with live music, steamed local crabs and other family-friendly fun.

Cooked crab and corn
Watermen’s Appreciation Day at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum includes contests and local delicacies. Courtesy George Sass/CBMM

Attendance at this festival can be combined with a look at the museum’s exhibits and floating fleet, which includes classic power and sail vessels such as a 1912 Delaware River tug, a 1909 crab dredger and an 1889 bugeye that is registered as a National Historic Landmark. Members of the museum can dock at its marina, including overnight stays with a reservation that’s made in advance.

Up the East Coast a ways is the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, another of the nation’s best keepers of nautical heritage. In August, this museum hosts the Antique Marine Engine Expo, which is celebrating its 30th year this summer. This expo typically includes more than 300 exhibits, with many of the engines still able to operate just as well as they did on the day they were first purchased. Anyone who enjoys getting their hands dirty in a boat’s engine room can find all kinds of marine machinery here, including steamers, inboards, outboards and more. This expo is a good reminder of just how much easier today’s boaters have it down below, compared with boats of the past.

Antique Marine Engine Expo
Mystic Seaport Museum’s Antique Marine Engine Expo usually has more than 300 exhibits. Courtesy George Sass/CBMM

As interesting as all these getaway ideas are, they’re just a handful of the many waterfront festivals and events that boaters can attend with family and friends this summer. Untie the lines and go. So many memories await.

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