If sailing is your sport, make America’s Sailing Capital your destination this summer. Located in the heart of the Chesapeake Bay at 38 degrees, 58 minutes, 35 seconds north and 76 degrees, 28 minutes, and 46 seconds west, Annapolis, Maryland is a sailor’s delight. Perhaps that’s why National Geographic Adventure Magazine recently named it one of the top waterfront destinations in the country.

A bustling port town during the 18th-century, Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy, site of the November 2007 Middle East Peace Talks. A photo ID gets you inside the gate for a stroll of The Yard and a glimpse of the 4,000 strong Brigade of Midshipmen. If you prefer, guided tours depart daily from the Academy’s Armel-Leftwich Visitors Center.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has dubbed Annapolis one of a Dozen Distinctive Destinations in America. Founded as Anne Arundel Town in 1649, Annapolis became the capital of Maryland in 1695 and was the nation’s first peacetime capital in 1783. Today, Annapolis boasts more 18th-century buildings than anywhere else in the nation. The Maryland State House is the oldest in continuous legislative use in the country. It was here that General George Washington resigned his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army and the Treaty of Paris was ratified. The homes of all four of Maryland’s signers of the Declaration of Independence are located in Annapolis, and three of them are open to the public.

Signer William Paca’s home features the only two-acre 18th-century pleasure garden of its kind in Maryland. Around the corner is the Hammond-Harwood House. Designed by 18th-century architect William Buckland, it boasts the Most Beautiful Doorway in America. Across Maryland Avenue is the Chase-Lloyd House, where National Anthem author Francis Scott Key was married.

Because Annapolis’s historic sites are so close to one another and to the waterfront, boaters find it easy to spend the day exploring the Museum Without Walls that is Annapolis. No visit is complete without a trolley or walking tour of the city. Colonial tour guides depart the Visitors Center at 26 West Street daily, filling visitors in on the gossip of the centuries as they wind their way along the brick-lined streets of the Historic District.

If you plan your visit right, you will arrive in time to compete in the Wednesday Night Sailing Races that depart from the Annapolis Yacht Club from April through early September. Some 130 boat crews test their skills weekly in this Annapolis tradition. First gun is at 6:00 p.m. If you prefer to sit back and enjoy the colorful display of sails, you can stake out a spot at one of Annapolis’s many waterfront restaurants and eateries. Following the races, head to the Boatyard Bar and Grill to watch the night’s racing films at what Sail Magazine calls one of the Top 12 Sailing Bars in the World.

If laid back racing is more your style, you have three other days of the week to choose from. On Tuesday nights at 6:00 p.m., the Severn Sailing Association in Eastport hosts the Tuesday Evening Sailing One-Design (TESOD) races. No one keeps score in this event designed for smaller keelboats.

J/World in Eastport hosts Thursday Night races that cater to J22s, J24s, and J80s. Typically, seventy boats compete in two separate series. The first runs from mid-May through June, and the second runs from mid-July through August. Dock call is 5:30 p.m.

On Fridays, the Eastport Yacht Club’s Beer Can series takes center stage. Some fifty boats typically compete in this just for fun series that starts on the Severn River where it meets the Chesapeake Bay. Boats race to the entrance of Spa Creek in front of the Eastport Yacht Club. It is open to racers, cruisers, members, and non-members and runs from mid-May until mid-August. Dock call is 5:45 p.m.

While the weekday races provide ample opportunity for sailing enthusiasts to enjoy good fun, more serious racers head to Annapolis to compete in such high profile events as the North American Offshore One-Design (NOOD) Regatta in April. Sponsored by Sperry Top-sider, the Annapolis NOOD regatta attracts close to 200 boats in 18 one-design classes. In addition to local sailors, sailing’s top stars, including America’s Cup and Olympic champions are well represented at the NOOD.

Annapolis hosted U.S. Sailing’s Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship in 2005, and Volvo Ocean Race organizers selected Baltimore/Annapolis as the only official U.S. Stopover in the 2005-2006 around the world race. Maryland’s capital city is also well known for Annapolis Race Week. More than 200 boats in fifteen classes compete in this annual Labor Day Weekend event that attracts boaters from across the country.

As the gateway to North America’s largest estuary, it’s only fitting that Annapolis is home to the National Sailing Hall of Fame and Museum. Organizers are expected to begin construction of a permanent home for the museum at City Dock by 2010. In the meantime, Annapolis is internationally known for the U.S. Sailboat and U.S. Powerboat Shows that happen back to back at City Dock every October. Located at the site of the former McNasby Oyster Company in Eastport, the Annapolis Maritime Museum commemorates the maritime heritage of Annapolis and the neighboring waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

It’s easy to visit Annapolis by boat. For $20 a day, sailors can drop anchor at a mooring ball right in front of the Naval Academy and catch a water taxi into town. One of the first things you are likely to see is a host of sail and power boats strutting their stuff at City Dock, affectionately known as Ego Alley.

Part of Annapolis’s appeal to boaters is the fact that it is located where the mouth of the Severn meets the powerful sailing winds of the Chesapeake Bay. Many boaters choose to keep their boats in Annapolis so they can head down after work on a Friday night. If you are among them, you could find yourself spending the evening dining and exploring the Historic District. The next day,  it’s off for a day sail or for a weekend getaway to St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore. Solomons, Baltimore, Rock Hall, Havre de Grace, Chesapeake Beach, and Herrington Harbor are all popular places within easy reach of Annapolis. By Sunday, don’t be surprised to find yourself back in Annapolis enjoying a roll-up-your-sleeves, steamed crab feast.

If you have the time, you’ll want to explore the hundreds of miles of shoreline that thread their way throughout Anne Arundel County. There is no better companion for the journey than the Landings brochure created by the Four Rivers Heritage Area of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. Be sure and stop by the Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau at 26 West Street to pick up the publication that shows you how to access the county’s many attractions along the Severn, South, Rhode, and West Rivers. Come Sail Away to Annapolis and Anne Arundel County. There has never been a better time. For information, visit www.visitannapolis.org or call 888-302-2852.