Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors

Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors | 12° West

Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors

One of the oddest and most endearing traditions in boating was borne out of frustration.

As legend goes, the winter of 1977-78 was a particularly cold and snowy one in Annapolis. Fed up with the cold and hankering for warmer weather, boatyard worker and sailing enthusiast Bob Turner was done with all of it. Leaving work on the first day of spring that year, he gathered some folks from the yard, cracked open a beer – and burned his socks.

“I told them, ‘I’m not putting them on again until next winter. Period,” he later recalled to Baltimore Magazine.

Bob’s defiant gesture ultimately became an Annapolis tradition, celebrated each year on the Vernal Equinox – a.k.a. the first day of spring. The symbolic farewell to winter was adopted by the Eastport Yacht Club, and now the spring sock burning tradition is celebrated in an even bigger way by the Annapolis Maritime Museum.

Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors | 12° West

An oyster shucking competition is part of the annual event. Photo:

Each year the Maritime Museum hosts the Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning. It’s a full day event with live music, an oyster shucking contest, and of course the obligatory sock burning. It’s one of the museum’s major fundraisers and almost always sells out well in advance.

Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors | 12° West

MD governor Larry Hogan tosses the first socks on the fire in 2015. Photo: Preservation Maryland

A good tradition can’t be kept down, so the ritual of sock burning to welcome spring has spread across the U.S. and even to Canada. Dockwa (the app that makes it easy to book slips and moorings in the U.S. and Caribbean) has a great list of sock burning events across the country so you can find a celebration near you.

Sock burning ushers in spring for sailors | 12° West

Sock burning illustration by Kim Scafuro for Baltimore Magazine.

We particularly like this idea: joyously throwing your oppressive socks on a burning fire while reciting this very appropriate verse, (courtesy of Chesapeake boating magazine Spinsheet):

Burn your socks my friend, the winter is done, 
Tis time for boating, crabbing, and fun.
Light them on fire, yes let them burn, 
A promise that warm water is soon to return.
So pull up those pantlegs, and take off your shoes, 
Pull off those socks and break out the brews.
Goodbye to winter, only deck shoes we wear! 
Though the socks we are burning leave a stink in the air!
And so the tale ends and the sock smoke shall rise… 
Long live our tradition, an Annapolis pride!

 Happy sock burning sailors, and happy spring. It’s a sure sign that sailing season can’t be far behind!


Did you enjoy this? Check out some of our other Annapolis-related posts.
Annapolis Boat Show – the perfect weekend getaway
Cool nautical-themed things to do in Annapolis

And now that spring is here, it’s time to get prepared for sailing season!