Annapolis Sock Burning

Boaters Practice Rite Of Spring

On the first day of spring, when Earth’s axis squares up with the Sun, people gather each year at the Annapolis Maritime Museum for a bonfire to roast oysters, toast the arrival of Spring, play some music, and BURN THEIR SOCKS?? Yes, this town in the upper Chesapeake Bay is far enough North to have to shoulder the ice and snow of winters–especially the one that thankfully has just passed–but far enough South that the vernal equinox marks the beginning of the boating season, and the time when bare feet and ankles appear in Topsiders and Tevas.

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by John Bildahl

We were on hand for the 2015 event.

This vital ritual began in the 1980s in one of the many boatyards in Annapolis’s “Maritime Republic of Eastport”, a peninsula of working neighborhoods bounded by Spa and Back Creeks. Like spring vacation, it quickly blossomed into a necessary form of renewal, to the point that this year’s Maritime Museum event–the largest of several–attracted 750 people, plus multiple local restaurants vying to produce the best oyster stew, a contest for the fastest shucker, and long sets from Them Eastport Oyster Boys, a local band with deep roots in the Maritime Republic’s quirky sense of humor.


Fortunately, Spring has come, Eastport’s boatyards are running at flank speed to finish preparing and launch their clients’ boats, and the next Sock Burning will have to wait till March 19, 2016, but there is plenty more going on in the Maritime Republic over the next nine months, till New Year’s Day’s traditional Ice Bowl race ends the 2015 boating season. To keep up with it all, visit

Scroll through the gallery below for more images from the sock burning.

Annapolis Sock Burning Fire
The fire was made hot so boater’ socks could sear… by John Bildahl
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And to the band, Them Eastport Oyster Boys, did everybody hear… by John Bildahl
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Speeches are made and people drink beer… by John Bildahl
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In the Maritime Republic of Eastport this is done every year! by John Bildahl