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Guest story: Marmaduke’s Pub, Eastport’s 80’s Sailing Bar

by Warren Dahlstrom

I returned to the Annapolis area after college with an entry level job that was a great opportunity in my field (economics) and allowed me to continue my student lifestyle; group house, cheap food, Dodge Dart. I had crewed on PHRF boats in high school so I knew racing would provide a full social life at almost no cost to me. I needed a boat. Active crew has just two degrees of separation from active skippers and I soon found myself being interviewed by Bill Heim for a spot on his J24, LAST CALL. We met at his business; Marmaduke’s Pub in Eastport, Annapolis.

So this story has two threads; first, and the focus here, is the story of the late 70’s sailing scene and the Annapolis bar at the center of the action. Marmaduke’s was that place and that was Heimy’s intent from day one. The second thread is sailing action in the J24 fleet’s Wednesday night shootout. The J24 was the hot boat in the 70’a and its fleet attracted all the sailmakers staking their claim for supremacy. LAST CALL was up-close with those hotshots at every start, not so much by the windward rounding. The fleet drew sailors from around the world. I’ll tell the tale of the night a Spanish 470 champion met a Maryland line squall for my upcoming story. I may get some of the facts wrong and apologies for that, but if facts suffer, well, fiction can be entertaining too.

Bill Heim must have been a wrestler in high school, he had that low, wide, and ripped physique. His personal energy was always in 'Go' mode. With a civil engineering degree from College Park (University of Maryland), he landed a job helping with the State’s concrete pour of the two giant caissons for the second Bay Bridge. Google a picture of the western caisson Bill was assigned to and you will appreciate there was a lot of concrete involved.

Our hero was junior-man but he looked tough so they gave him a walkie-talkie and placed him at the business-end of the long line of concrete trucks at the mouth of the caisson. His job was to test each truck’s concrete for “freshness”. Trucks that passed ended their long, unproductive wait by adding their load to that deep hole at the bottom of the Bay. If your truck’s concrete was too old, Bill failed it and sent you away. “What am I supposed to do with my load?” “That’s your problem, get outta here”.

After a few weeks of this question ringing in Bill’s ears, he had an epiphany. He and his brother bought a plot of land about a mile west of the bridge and they bought a second set of radios and new shovels for the work ahead. Then they set about building Maryland’s first all-concrete subdivision. First they dug foundations and soon Bill had an answer for those miserable mixer drivers. “Your load failed, go get a fresh one. If you want to dump it, here is a map. My brother is expecting you and he will give you a place to dump your load.” Brilliant, eh? That’s how Heimy got the money to buy a troubled biker bar in Eastport.

In those days, Baltimore had an outlaw motorcycle gang called The Pagans. Their Eastport Clubhouse was now the object of Bill’s next business scheme. “I went to work everyday for a year knowing that I was going to be in a fist fight. It was routine. I could never back down. They hated me. And when I kept coming week-after-week they recruited their toughest friends to Eastport to pound on me. Slowly and painfully they got tired of me and drifted off to a dive bar more welcoming to their kind." Marmaduke’s was born.

Bill’s next brilliant idea was to buy one of the very first portable Sony video cameras. It was barely portable; consisting of a big shoulder mounted camera tethered to a suitcase sized Betamax recorder via a 0000 gauge cable. It was $12,000.

Bill hired his friend, Tom Petrini, (yes - of the storied Eastport boatyard dynasty which, like Trumpy, had thrived building and maintaining yachts in Eastport from the 1940’s). Tom had served in Vietnam and that had damaged him, but his gentle soul prevailed and he was dedicated to Heimy’s mission. It was to get a Whaler out to the windward mark on Wednesday nights, get a video of the rounding action, and get that tape back to the bar so the winners and losers could relive all the action, tell their lies, and make boastful promises about next Wednesday, all the while drinking Bill’s beer and eating his burgers.

Annapolis had a new high-tech sailing bar and you had to be there.


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