1. Foxy's, Jost Van Dyke, British Virgin Islands
In the British Virgin Islands, one of the world's great sailing playgrounds, everybody comes to Foxy's. Foxy Callwood presides over this ramshackle, open-air beach bar at Great Harbour on the island of Jost Van Dyke, serving flying-fish sandwiches, grilled lobster, and other local delicacies, plus oceans of rum drinks and beers created in his own microbrewery. Foxy plays guitar and sings calypso, sometimes making up teasing songs about his guests on the spot; 284/495-9258 or foxysbar.com.
2. Boatyard Bar & Grill, Annapolis, Maryland
Former investment banker Dick Franyo created this place for those who love the Chesapeake Bay lifestyle―especially from the deck of a sailboat. A couple of years ago, Sail magazine named the Boatyard one of the world's top 12 sailing bars. No wonder. Sailboat photos, ship models, and other sea-theme paraphernalia fill the bright, airy space. Even landlubbers will feel welcome, thanks to the friendly service and tasty seafood; 410/216-6206 or boatyardbarandgrill.com.
3. Pink Pony Bar & Grill, Mackinac Island, Michigan
Mackinac, a Victorian resort island, offers quiet charms. And then there's the Pink Pony, which isn't quiet at all. Competitors from the Port Huron-to-Mackinac and Chicago-to-Mackinac yacht races always end up here, where stories of their boats' speed and the wind's ferocity grow with each new round of drinks. The Pony provides excellent food, live entertainment, great views of Lake Huron, and, for the convenience of its sailing clientele, a private dock; 800/241-3341 or chippewahotel.com.
4. Harbor Pub, Honolulu, Hawaii
Harbor Pub draws relatively few tourists―except for itinerant yachtspeople. The pub overlooks Ala Wai Marina, so it's handy for everyone from fishermen to island-hopping blue-water cruisers. Locals love the pizzas. The rest of the menu runs toward sandwiches and such typical bar fare as nachos and wings, but, oddly, almost no seafood. Apparently, the patrons would rather catch fish than eat it; 808/941-0985 or theharborpub.com.
5. Fiddler's Green, San Diego, California
One admiring Internet reviewer describes a visit here as "sort of like going to the yacht club without the membership fees." Half-hull boat models and nautical gadgets scattered around the dining room contribute to the ambience. Seafood dominates the menu. All in all, it feels like a comfortable home port for anyone bewitched by the siren song of water; 619/222-2216 or fiddlersgreensandiego.com.
6. Sundance Grill, Seabrook, Texas
This restaurant, in the Seabrook Shipyard, offers dockside service for those who prefer the comfort of their own vessels to the pleasant dining room or large outdoor deck. The Web site also advises, "If you want to pick up an order and simply cruise while dining just give us a call and we'll have it ready." The seafood-centric menu includes an excellent crawfish bisque, and the wine list includes bottles from Texas and California to Europe and South America. The location provides not only fabulous sunset views but also up-close looks at the parade of pleasure boats navigating the busy main channel between Clear Lake and Galveston Bay; 281/474-2248 or sundance-grill.com.
7. M&M's Café, Oriental, North Carolina
East Coast sailors already know the charms of Oriental, a nautical village near the mouth of the Neuse River. Newcomers seeking to learn should head for the bar in this rambling old house just an anchor's throw from the waterfront. Whatever the question, whether it concerns anchorages or sail repair or which Chardonnay goes best with the crab cakes, someone will have the answer. M&M's serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day except Tuesdays, cheerfully fulfilling its promises of "healthy and hedonistic cuisine" and "luscious desserts"; 252/249-2000 or pamlico-nc.com/restaurants/mandms.htm.
8. Sloop Tavern, Seattle, Washington
Any bar with a namesake yacht club definitely qualifies as a sailors' hangout. The Sloop Tavern Yacht Club runs a series of races and facilitates recreational cruising. But it emphasizes fun over snootiness, befitting an organization founded over beers at this pleasantly divey watering hole (with a cool neon sign) in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. An excerpt from a recent club newsletter, under the heading "Membership": "We have some. We have more that keep joining. I am still concerned about a few of them." Anyone, regardless of club memberships, may grab a seat in the Sloop Tavern itself, snack on the excellent fish-and-chips, and, if particularly thirsty, down a 33.8-ounce "Sloopersize" draft beer; 206/782-3330 or slooptavern.org.
9. Maddie's Sail Loft, Marblehead, Massachusetts
Why have sailors returned to Maddie's, generation after generation, since its founding in 1946? It could be the location, less than a block from the harbor. It could be the highly regarded clam chowder, seafood entrées, and steaks. It could be the friendly, welcoming atmosphere. Or, just maybe, it's Maddie's reputation for serving the strongest mixed drinks in New England, and possibly on the entire Eastern Seaboard; 781/631-9824.
10. Sam's Anchor Cafe, Tiburon, California
Sam's has indeed anchored the waterfront of Tiburon, across the bay from San Francisco, since 1920. The wood-paneled front room harkens back to another era when, the story goes, founder Sam Vella prospered by taking a decidedly casual approach to the enforcement of Prohibition. These days, most patrons favor the enormous over-water deck out back. There, they enjoy great seafood, fabulous views, and Sam's signature (and, since 1933, perfectly legal) Ramos Fizz, which features an ounce and a half of gin; 415/435-4527 or samscafe.com.
(published December 2006)