Annapolis sailors tend to pay close attention to the flowerbeds around their neighborhoods, waiting for the first signs of crocus and tulips to signify that spring has finally sprung and it’s time to get back out on the water. But even more of a kickoff to the spring sailing season is the Box of Rain Rock n’ Roast party and fundraiser, held each year at the Annapolis Maritime Museum to help bring water access to local disadvantaged youths. It’s a regatta party with no regatta, celebrating the hard work of volunteers and organizers to get more kids interested in sailing and boatbuilding.
Because despite the miles and miles of waterfront in and around the city of Annapolis, if you don’t come from a boat-owning family, it’s hard to find a way onto that water. There are no public beaches within the city limit, and no public buses take kids out to Sandy Point Park. For every marina, there are 50 signs reading “No Crabbing” and “No Fishing.” And no matter how well you know your port from starboard, it’s intimidating to simply walk up to a skipper and try to talk your way onto his boat on any given Wednesday.
Box of Rain has found a way to change that. Started in 2003 to honor the memory and legacy of Lee Griffin, Box of Rain nurture self esteem and develop significant life skills in disadvantaged area youth by getting them involved with maritime activities like boat building, sailing, and swimming. While Annapolis has a long history of maritime industry, the legacy hasn’t been passed down through generations.
“We have kids who are growing up in Eastport three blocks away from where their grandparents, great grandparents processed oysters at McNasby’s or built boats at Trumpy’s Boatyard or were watermen, but that whole cultural link is gone now,” says Regan Weaver, Box of Rain board member. To amend this, Box of Rain organizes field trips and lessons to get children between the ages of 9 and 14 involved in the lasting legacy. They learn to swim, sail, kayak, and canoe from local authorities such as J World, Annapolis Canoe & Kayak, and Annapolis Sailing School. They learn about teamwork from midshipmen in rowing skulls, and they learn about sustainability and environmental concerns from the Department of Natural Resources.
Box of Rain isn’t just interested in teaching kids to swim and sail: Box of Rain wants kids to understand the lasting legacy of the maritime industry in Annapolis, and make it their own. “If you just show up with the right attitude and non-skid shoes, you can get on a boat,” Weaver says. “You can get a job if you can swing a hammer and aren’t afraid of barnacles. If you just know about the resources, you can get out there.”
Box of Rain is a successful program because it brings together passionate people. So it’s no surprise that their party is one of the most highly anticipated parties each year. Setting up shop at Annapolis Maritime Museum, the Rock n’ Roast gets together the sailors and watermen who spent a long winter lurking inside for a night of rockin’ music and roasting oysters. There’s grilled chicken and shrimp, with beers from Fordham and Old Dominion Brewing. More casual than most of the fundraisers around town, attendees often slip off their sandals and wade in the warm water while the Dan Haas Band gets others dancing. You see the people you know at the Rock n’ Roast, but more importantly you see the people you want to know. You see the things you want to do.
Box of Rain is made up of community members intent on preserving and celebrating our community. The Rock n’ Roast celebrates the incredible history that surrounds us in Annapolis while working to make sure that history isn’t lost or forgotten.