×

Create Your Dockwa Account

I'm A Marina

I'm A Boater

Events     

Odd Sailing Events: The Burning of the Socks


Post by Becky at Dockwa - Published on 5/4/20 9:00 AM
Another season, another cause for a weird sailing tradition! What started as a one-off lighthearted act of defiance to welcome Spring has since taken on a life of its own, spreading from Eastport, Maryland across the United States. Read on for more about this odd sailing event. 

Note: This post was originally published March 16, 2016 and updated to reflect 2020. 

Jump to: The Ode to the Sock Burners

A Brief History of the Burning of the Socks

The annual sock burning began in the Spring of 1978, when, after a snowy winter, boatbuilder Bob Turner bid his oppressive sock-wearing days farewell for the summer by throwing them into a campfire. What was an act of defiance turned into tradition, and this weekend marinas and yacht clubs around the country will celebrate the return of Spring, Sperry topsiders, flip flops, and best of all: boating season. As Turner stated to Baltimore Magazine, he was amazed at what a lasting impression he's had, stating, "It was never meant to be taken seriously. It just says, 'Enough with the socks! Time to go sailing!'"

Fast-forward to 2019, where the sock-burning represents a time to clear out the yacht club cobwebs and embrace spring. On each coast we spotted events with everything from cookouts and bonfires to golf-cart parades, boatyard clean-ups, yard sales, and polar bear plunges. 

To get close to where the Burning of the Socks began, head to the Annapolis Maritime Museum for live music, an oyster roast, and a recitation of the poem "Ode to Equinox," written by the museum's former executive director, Jeff Holland (full poem below). 

Burning_of_the_socks_1

 

Sock-Burning Etiquette 

Feet, amirite? Whether you see them as fetish-worthy or foul, in a public arena certain basic guidelines keep things upbeat instead of uncouth. A few quick pro-tips to help you toe (heh) the line: 

  • Prettying Up. Pedicures: They're not just for dames! Some sock-burning events are attended by local press, so pamper your ten little lords or ladies before those high-res photos come back to haunt you in the daily paper. 

  • Defining "Socks." The term can be confusing, so to clear things up: under no circumstances should you attempt to burn stockings, panties, boxers, briefs, spanx, crocs, bras, belts, garters, suspenders, or thermal underwear. Nor should you attempt to cross the Burning of the Socks with a Viking Funeral; leave your ex's belongings or correspondence at home so a bunch of barefoot sailors aren't left bewildered as you cry into the stinky flames. Socks made of synthetic materials are frowned upon, so keep it to cotton or wool and refrain from fleece or other tech materials. 

  • The Ceremony. As you remove your socks, you may be invited to address the crowd, which after several ciders should be no problem. This address should not include deeply personal revelations about yourself or others, your terrible poetry, a garbage rendition of Wonderwall, or any attempt to climb or be thrown into the fire. 

  • Remaining barefoot once you've burned your socks is frowned upon. Either sneak clean socks back on or put your shoes back on sock-less. Do not remove additional clothing.  

Burning_of_the_socks_2

 

Ode to the Sock Burners

By Jefferson Holland, Poet Laureate of Eastport, 1995
 

Them Eastport boys got an odd tradition

When the sun swings to its Equinoxical position,

They build a little fire down along the docks,

They doff their shoes and they burn their winter socks.

Yes, they burn their socks at the Equinox;

You might think that’s peculiar, but I think it’s not,

See, they’re the same socks they put on last fall,

And they never took ‘em off to wash ‘em, not at all…

So they burn their socks at the Equinox

In a little ol’ fire burning nice and hot.

Some think incineration is the only solution,

‘Cause washin’ ‘em contributes to the Chesapeake’s pollution.

Through the spring and the summer and into the fall,

They go around not wearin’ any socks at all,

Just stinky bare feet stuck in old deck shoes,

Whether out on the water or sippin’ on a brew.

So if you sail into the Harbor on the 20th of March,

And you smell a smell like Limburger sauteed with laundry starch,

You’ll know you’re downwind of the Eastport docks

Where they’re burning their socks for the Equinox.

  

 

Know of an odd boating tradition we should write about? Email becky@dockwa.com. Happy Spring!

Explore 1000+ Dockwa Marinas

Post by Becky at Dockwa

Email Me!

Share

Get your cruise or event recap on the Dockwa blog
GO

Subscribe

Follow

(Bonus points if you tag us when visiting our marinas!)