On one of the last Sundays of summer, my wife and I treated ourselves to lunch in Annapolis at one of the chic restaurants lining Ego Alley. In case you don’t recognize that name, Ego Alley is a narrow dead-end watery defile off of Spa Creek which the local boating crowd like to use as their favorite see-and-be-seen parade route down into the heart of “Naptown.” It does make for great theater and the perfect setting for all types of people and boat watching. And while the name ‘Ego Alley’ may sound just a touch snide, I must admit that on that particular delightfully sunny-but-cool afternoon, it was indeed a wonderful place to sit and have lunch, watching the water taxis come and go while an endless queue of elegant boats with their suitably attired captains and crew motored back and forth on their way to nowhere in particular.
After our lunch, my wife and I went for a stroll along the Annapolis waterfront. There were lots of people out and about enjoying the weather, ogling the boats, taking selfies and snapshots with their cell phones. I watched a gaggle of midshipmen all in their summer whites, covers off, sitting on a wall, eating ice cream. I saw children playing in and around the enchanting Alex Haley memorial statuary down at the foot of City Dock. There were shops and restaurants galore, but I have to say, the star of the show was a beautiful behemoth of a yacht that was tied up along the wharf taking up seven slips. I wondered how the captain of that vessel would ever be able to turn around and extract himself from his prime parking spot on Ego Alley.
I readily admit that I’m not a boater, but I count myself fortunate because I have several good friends who are both dedicated boaters and generous skippers. I’m always happy to go cruising with them, in part because I enjoy their company as much as I love being on the water, and also because I’m endlessly fascinated by everything that goes into cruising: the critical marine skills and knowledge, the high-tech gadgets and paraphernalia, fluency in the special nomenclature of lines and knots, the weather acumen, and, perhaps most importantly, the conscientious provisioning that anticipates the every need of all the hands on board. My skippers and their first mates are pros at provisioning!
And I have to acknowledge another truth about boating: it’s not for fools like me who have holes in their pockets. Operating a boat is expensive: there are repairs and maintenance, fuel, dockage fees, insurance, provisions and more provisions. I’m guessing that the costs of owning and operating a boat might have been why a former captain once told me, “the two best days I had on my boat were the day I bought it and the day I sold it.” That’s all the more reason to say, “God bless my FWB,” my ‘friends with boats.’
Maybe you think that the name “Ego Alley” implies a certain “if you’ve got it, flaunt it” perspective on boating, but I’m giving my boating friends and all you other skippers out there a pass on that. This I believe: boaters love the water, and if they choose to share that love with other boaters or mere spectators by cruising up and down Ego Alley, then so be it. I’m happy to salute you from shore!
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. His new novel “This Salted Soil,” a new children’s book, “The Ballad of Poochie McVay,” and two collections of essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”), are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is Musingjamie.net.