In Annapolis, the best seat for fireworks is in the harbor

Since she was a kid, Caitlin Barry has been watching the Fourth of July fireworks from the same place: the middle of Annapolis harbor.

"We do it every year," said the 26-year-old Annapolitan. "My brothers and I come back from wherever we are and go out on the water with my parents."


After making room for out-of-town guests at the Annapolis Yacht Club marina, dockmaster Jay Kehoe will take his 25-foot Luhrs powerboat out with his family and watch the Monday night display from what he considers the best vantage point in the city.

"We will go out to the middle of the harbor and try not to get run over," he said. "It is a great place to watch from, but it can be a little bit crazy."


There might be as many as 50,000 people watching the fireworks from land — at City Dock and from the nosebleed seats at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium. But almost everyone agrees, the estimated 500 boats in the harbor and on the Severn River will have the best view.

"The rules of the road are quite clear," said Annapolis harbormaster Flip Walters. He and his team will be on the water, too, making sure boats stay beyond the safety zone around the fireworks barge.

"We typically have four fender-benders in a month," said Walters, who expects to have at least that many this weekend. "It is inevitable when you have three or four times as many boats in the same place."

Debbie Gosselin, president of Watermark Cruises, will have nine boats in the water, with more than 500 paying guests.

"I wish we had more space," she said. "I added an extra boat and it sold out in one day. It is a great way to see the fireworks and it is a really festive time."

Watermark will send out everything from the Harbor Queen, with its 225-person capacity, to the little water taxis that carry less than a dozen people.

"It is family and friends and a huge mix in ages — people who have been doing it for years," Gosselin said. "But every once in a while we will get a wedding. They want the fireworks as a backdrop."

Chris Weir, vice president of First Citizens Bank in Annapolis, agrees that watching the fireworks afloat would make for a wonderful evening. But he will be watching from a secure spot on Navy property, from which the fireworks barge will be launched. Though he has volunteered in the past, this is his first year in charge of the show.

"There is going to be a lot of commotion," Weir promised. He and his committee canvassed Annapolis businesses to raise money for the show, which will cost about $30,000.

"We didn't have the Blue Angels this year and the town had a noticeable down feeling," he said of the Navy aerobatics show that is usually part of Commencement Week at the U.S. Naval Academy. "There was no way we were going to go without a great fireworks show."

Chips and salsa, cold drinks and lots of family and friends are on the menu for Barry. "We usually raft up with four or five other boats," she said. "And there will be 20 or 30 of us together. We generally go out a couple of hours early so we can see everybody."

Kehoe, his wife, Amy, daughter Merrick and a couple of her friends will feast on fried chicken while watching from his boat "because you always eat fried chicken on a boat," and some cheese and crackers. But no adult beverages, because you have to be sharp when so many rookie boaters are out.


"This is the one day when you have to practice safe boating at its best," he said.

Indeed, the Annapolis and Eastport yacht clubs will be throwing land-based parties for members and guests, as will the Fleet Reserve Club on "Ego Alley" downtown. Many of their veteran sailors are sitting out this dance.

"A couple of our members were going out and they decided they'd just watch from the club," said Eastport's JoAnn Lavender. "Nobody wants to get run over by the big boats."

If you go

Parade: The Annapolis Independence Day parade starts at 6:30 p.m. and includes about 40 floats, cars, bands and other marching groups. The parade will begin on Amos Garrett Boulevard near Park Place and proceed down West Street and Main Street to the Market House.

Band Concert: The U.S. Naval Academy Band will perform at 8 p.m. at Susan Campbell Park at City Dock. (In the event of inclement weather, the concert will be canceled.

Fireworks: The fireworks display will begin about 9:15 p.m. and will be launched from a barge in Annapolis Harbor. If weather is an issue, the fireworks may start as early as 9 p.m. or as late as 9:30. If weather washes out the evening, the fireworks will be held Tuesday.

Parking and transportation: Parking is available at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium for $5, and a shuttle will operate between the stadium and Lawyers Mall in front of the State House until midnight. The shuttle will cost $1.50. The new Circulator will operate from the city's parking garages on a modified route and will cost 50 cents. During the parade and fireworks, there will be road closures and parking restrictions. Visit the City of Annapolis website for details.

Naval Academy: The Naval Academy will not be available for public viewing of the fireworks. However, the grounds will be open to pedestrians with a valid ID until 8:35 p.m.

Boaters: The draw span of the Spa Creek Bridge will be closed to boat traffic from 8:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Boaters must observe a 1,000-foot safety zone around the fireworks barge.

Recommended on Baltimore Sun