No Bull…Sandbagger sailing is F U N!

The Bull, The Bear, & The APS Staff Boating!

The sand slipped through the hourglass quickly yesterday afternoon as we pushed package after package out the back door and a few customers out of the front doors a little earlier than usual. Finally, with the day’s deeds done, it was time to go sailing. Big deal right? We go sailing every day you say? Yep, most of us do, but last night was different. The team at APS were both making and sailing history.

We’re all sailors at APS, and we often all sail on the same nights, but last night we made history. 13 of us went sailing together for the first time. But, that wasn’t the only first. For all but Katie it was the first time we had gotten to sail the two historical reproduction Sandbaggers, Bull and Bear, that have taken up temporary, hopefully permanent, residence at the National Sailing Hall of Fame located on City Dock in downtown Annapolis. Sandbagger? What’d you call me?

Originally built in the 1800s for tasks like oystering and transporting cargo in New York Harbor Sandbaggers are specimen sailboats. Wide and low to the water for ease of loading and unloading freight their lines are stunning and their hulls stable. Sandbaggers were also designed to be fast for in those days getting back to market first meant setting the day’s prices and earning the highest dollar for goods. It wasn’t long before higher and faster was the call in order to be first to market. Taller masts and more ballast, with the need for more speed soon the day’s cargo wasn’t enough to counteract the massive amounts of sail area being piled on, enter the sandbags. Pile them on the rail and you might make it in first. But, while their historical roots are grounded in working during the week for their wages and competing to set the day’s rates things got interesting when wagering on the weekend competitions became more profitable. Soon business tycoons were building Sandbaggers just for speed with the ones deemed too slow for racing relegated to working.

Bull and Bear, named after the two types of market categorizations, are modern day replicas built by the Independence Seaport Museum’s workshop at Penn’s Landing in Philadelphia with funding from a successful businessman as well generous philanthropist. Constructed of wood, fastened with bronze, and peppered with some hidden carbon fiber Bull and Bear were built using a mix of traditional building techniques from both traditional and modern materials. Based on the lines of the storied racing Sandbagger, SUSIE S (circa 1869), and measuring 28 feet on deck they offer a glimpse into the what the most extreme racers of their day would have been like and with support from the donor Bull and Bear do just that for everyone. Part circus, part school, the Bull and Bear organization travel the country with the sole mission of “helping youth organizations learn to sail, get experience on the water, learn leadership and just enjoy themselves.” While no longer a betting man’s boat when they’re not educating they also donate themselves to race in order to benefit various charities.

Although sometimes we feel like a charity, and occasionally act like children, it was a distinct honor and pleasure for the team at APS to get to take them for a spin. Smiling faces and ear to ear grins were the order of the evening and the boats proved their racing heritage as 6-8 knot breezes equaled a guesstimated 6-8 knots of boat speed. With only a few “sandbags” (filled with water for show) and reportedly the smaller of the mainsails, counteracted solely by form stability and a simple centerboard without any internal weight added, that proved enough breeze to bury the rail and require easing of the jib sheet. Jib sheet? That’s right, no easing the main on these boats. As we took turns on the helm and sheets we quickly learned the odd balance of the long chord rudder and generous proportions of sails that with much more breeze would require reefing. We can’t imagine what sailing these beautiful boats would be like in some “real” breeze but we’re also very appreciative of the opportunity we had.

Even as an Annapolitan, I find it difficult to claim my home town as “America’s Sailing Capital,” but I think even a devout Newport yachtsman would find it tough to argue after having set off from Annapolis’s City Dock on the Sandbaggers last night. Many thanks to the folks at the National Sailing Hall of Fame, located in Annapolis ehem, and a special thanks to Pat and Amy Teeling as well as the rest of the crew that helped take us out last night. You rock and roll!

Please enjoy this brief video of the APS team showing you how it’s done…

For more information about Bull and Bear as well as to learn how you or your charitable organization can benefit from the program please visit

For more photos of the APS excursion click HERE.

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