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Life on the Water

Boating at the Annapolis Maritime Museum

by Ben Miller
photo by Cathy C. Miller

Laurence Hartge established the Hartge Nautical Museum at the family boatyard and marina.

The Annapolis Maritime Museum in Eastport is one of the liveliest museums in Chesapeake Country. There’s always something going on, from kid’s programs to lighthouse tours to concerts to the museum’s annual get-down Boatyard Beach Bash. Throw in a dock where you can fish, tie your boat, launch your kayak and see the best view of the Bay from Annapolis: Here’s a place well worth a visit. The museum is worth visiting now for three exhibits, each with a different slant on life on the water.

The Hartge Family and Chesapeake Bay

The first exhibit celebrates the Hartge family, whose lives have been entwined with Chesapeake Bay for six generations.

The exhibit, Legacy To The Bay 1832–2009, The Hartges from Piano Makers to the Maritime Business, is a labor of love crafted with affectionate detail by Laurence Hartge.

Laurence Hartge, who is a boat builder and designer himself, established the Hartge Nautical Museum in 1999 at the family boatyard and marina in Galesville.

Laurence’s great-great grandfather Henry is the piano maker in the exhibit’s title. Henry went from building pianos to boats, and many of the family has followed that nautical path ever since.

Laurence and his cousin Suzanna Hartge developed this exhibit with help from Annapolis graphic designer Peter Tasi, and another cousin, Jack Hartge, who dug out many photographs of Hartge family members as children and adults, sailing boats and building boats.

Legacy to the Bay shows a family’s pride in its maritime heritage. It’s like viewing a family album, except the stories are better organized and everyone seems to be on a boat or near a boat.

A Hartge Sailboat -- the Chesapeake 20

Appropriately paired with the exhibit on the Hartge family is another on the Chesapeake 20, a class of racing sailboats designed by Captain Ernest ‘Dick’ Hartge (Suzanna’s father and Laurence’s uncle) and built at the Hartge Yacht Yard in Galesville.

The Chesapeake 20, a racing sailboat designed in the 1930s by Captain Ernest ‘Dick’ Hartge, is still competitive and is a racing tradition.

"The Chesapeake 20 is a high performance, go-fast racing dingy, an efficient fast machine designed in the 1930s that is still competitive and is a sailboat racing tradition that lives on,” said museum director Jeff Holland.

According to this exhibit, Cap’n Dick Hartge’s motivation for designing and building the Chesapeake 20 was that he didn’t like losing in the competitive races sponsored by the West River Sailing Club.

Hartge built a fast boat. The Chesapeake 20 “will go like a scared cat in a breeze,” he claimed in a 1943 advertising brochure.

The Serenade, a restored Chesapeake 20 built by Hartge, is displayed inside the building.

About 90 Chesapeake 20s were built, 44 by Dick Hartge, according to the exhibit booklet written by Ted Weihe, president of the Chesapeake 20 Association.

Chesapeake 20s are still racing as a class out of West River with up to 14 boats showing up to race.

The Hartge family and Chesapeake 20s “bridged the traditions” of Chesapeake Bay boating, Holland said.

The Hartges “took the same tradition of craftsmanship they applied to building working boats for the seafood industry and applied it to building pleasure boats for playing on the Bay.”

Scenes from the Marine Industry

Kathy Bergren Smith’s photo exhibit, At Work on the Water, reminds us that boating on the Bay is not just graceful sailboats and sleek power yachts.

A third exhibit, At Work on the Water, photos by Kathy Bergren Smith, captures the beauty of some unlikely subjects: the tugs, freighters and working fishing boats that are part of the industrial commerce of the oceans and the Bay.

We’re reminded that boating on the Bay is not just images of graceful sailboats and sleek power yachts; it is also boxy container ships from China bound for Baltimore.

Bergren, who works as a photojournalist in the marine industry, looks for a special visual quality beyond steel and rust, and she finds it in her subjects, sometimes in the bright colors of lobster gear in Mexico and sometimes in the muted shades of gray and brown in the Ghost Ship series.

Annapolis Maritime Museum, 723 Second Street, Annapolis; Th-Su Noon-4PM. Other hours by appointment; 410-295-0104: free. Special Boat Show hours: Th-Su 10am-5pm.

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