The Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival (MASCF), coming up on 40 years now, is one of the best small boat "messabouts" in the country. The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) hosts the event at their spacious waterfront grounds in St. Michael's, Maryland, usually the first weekend in October.

MASCF has evolved over time. For a period in the late '90's and early 00's, it had become a boatshow, with vendors hawking boats and gear from tented booths. Then the event relaxed a bit and morphed into a "messabout," the term of art for a gathering of small boats and small boat enthusiasts. Everyone likes it better this way!

Officially it's a Saturday event. But in the hands of the late and much-loved John Ford, his CBMM successors Peter Lesher and Shannon Mitchell, and participants who have been coming for decades, MASCF has acquired a distinct identity and rhythm. One of the charming features of MASCF is the availability of camping right on the shady grounds of the Museum. Folks start arriving as early as Thursday, getting their boats rigged and gathering with old friends at the campgrounds. 

On Thursday afternoon before the show, a contingent of regulars sail their smallcraft about nine miles north to a campground on the wild and scenic Wye Island, then return Friday in time for the official events on Saturday. This is called the "Thursday Night Gunkhole," gunkhole being the sailor's term for exploring shallow and scenic creeks that are off limits to big boats.

This year, Chesapeake Light Craft's Raid Chesapeake division organized an additional night of camp-cruising, starting Wednesday. This involved a 14-mile sail north to Cox Creek on Kent Island, where the fleet landed at Cascia Vineyards. Participants were treated to heavy hors d'oeuvres and a wine tasting, camping ashore or sleeping aboard their open boats. This fleet joined up with the Thursday Night Gunkhole for a second night of camp-cruising.

It was all a great success, with an exciting variety of small boats and, of course, fellowship with lovers of small boats.

Here are some photos from this year's event.

A clutch of CLC boats at the 2021 Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.

Launching a yawl-rigged version of the Lighthouse Tender Peapod, ready for two nights of camp-cruising.

One of Graham Byrnes's cat ketches making knots on the way to the Vineyard.

A Joel White Marsh Cat, one of several on hand.

John Harris turned out with PocketShip #1, daysailing with the fleet on Wednesday and Thursday.

One of Michael Storer's Goat Island Skiffs.

The mark of a great smallcraft is the ability to row (or paddle) when the wind dies. And die it did as the fleet worked their way up Crab Alley and Cox Creek to Cascia Vineyard. This is our yawl-rigged Lighthouse Tender Peapod, mainmast stowed and the oars shipped.

At the Vineyard, moored boats rigged for sleeping aboard. (There was camping ashore as well.)

Two Peapods enjoy a broad reach down to the Wye River on Thursday.

One of John Welsford's popular camp-cruisers.

A Lighthouse Tender Peapod in single-sail configuration.

John working PocketShip up the Wye River on Thursday...

...And running for home, as work forestalled overnight adventure.

Another of Joel White's Marsh Cats.

Eric Vance's CLC Northeaster Dory, modified as a cat yawl.

A Melonseed. This family of smallcraft design evolved a hundred years ago and more for waterfowl hunting in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Beautiful fall evening on Maryland's Eastern Shore. One of the best places in the world for small boat adventures.

An intriguing and well-sailed 8-foot dinghy joined the overnight cruise on Thursday.

A neat plywood sloop from the board of Selway-Fisher.

Bashing around in the Lighthouse Tender Peapod on Saturday. It's in no danger of capsize!

An Iain Oughtred Caledonia Yawl, one of at least three at MASCF.

Kids Cardboard Boat Race on Saturday.

A delightful scrum during the low-key sailing race on Saturday.

CLC's Jimmy Skiff II mixing it up with a bewildering array of small boats and rigs.

See you next year!