Burn Notice

Sock-burning ritual ignites Annapolis springtime.

By Amy Mulvihill - March 2015

Burning Socks Signifies Boat Season

Sock-burning ritual ignites Annapolis springtime.

By Amy Mulvihill - March 2015

-Illustration by Kim Scafuro

Bob Turner was done. The winter of 1977-'78 had been a snowy nightmare for the Annapolis boat builder and sailing enthusiast. Chief amongst his complaints: socks.

Accustomed to padding around Eastport's marinas in the requisite Sperry Top-Siders, he found wearing socks oppressive. As the first day of spring arrived, he was more than ready to shed them. So, after work, he invited his fellow employees at Proctor Masts USA outside, cracked some Budweisers, and lit his socks on fire.

"I told them, 'I'm not putting them on again until next winter. Period,'" recalls Turner, now 66 and living in South Carolina.

Though only a handful of marina mainstays attended the first sock-burning, the practice soon caught on, spreading to other port towns from the Pacific Northwest to New England.

When Turner moved south in 1994, both the Eastport Yacht Club and the Annapolis Maritime Museum stepped in to preserve the tradition. The Eastport Yacht Club will hold a burning of the socks ceremony on Friday, March 20 from 4 to 7 p.m. while the Annapolis Maritime Museum will host its own event the next day beginning at noon and featuring live music, an oyster roast, and a recitation of the poem "Ode to Equinox," written by the museum's former executive director, Jeff Holland.

Turner is "amazed" at the impact of his quirky, defiant act. "It was never meant to be taken seriously," he says. "It just says, 'Enough with the socks! Time to go sailing!'"


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