Volume 1 Issue 19 1993

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week! Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Year In Review Commentary
People in Review Reflections
Good Earth News Diversion & Excursion
Burton On The Bay Who's Here
Dock of the Bay Politalk

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Year In Review

Vol. 1 No. 1

Blue Crab Blues:
The perennial perplexion: Maybe Blue crabs will be good this year; maybe they won’t. Nobody knows but everybody’s talking. (Alex Knoll)

Kayaking; Paddling Pleasures and • w. photo The Bay Takes a Life:
“December 5, 1992 had worn a different fact at 9am when Philippe Voss, 41, an impetuous, life-loving Frenchman, pushed off Bembe Beach at Chesapeake Harbour for his crossing to St. Michael’s. The 20-mile paddle in his kayak, an Aquaterra Chinook would take about five hours. … He never made it.

“On January 4, a couple walking the beach found his body about a mile south of Kentmoor Marina on the Eastern Shore.” (Bill Lambrecht)

Trashing Our Beaches:
“Plastic vampire teeth, uppers and lowers, chomp at the sand alongside a tampon shield. An exploded shotgun shell rests near an old shampoo bottle—dandruff shampoo. Half a candy bar wrapper snuggles up to an empty antacid bottle. (Sandra Martin)

“The Chesapeake knows your habits.”

Vol. 1 No. 4

w. photo The Draketail Mary Edna:
“Nestled among the hulking fiberglass forms of sail and power boats at Casa Rio Marina in Mayo, a piece of history is being born.

“More accurately, reborn.

“The Mary Edna, a 60-year-old Hooper’s Island Draketail, is one of the last of her kind…” (Alex Knoll)

Vol. 1 No. 5

I Swam the Bay:
“Without warning, the finish line appears just two hundred yards away. The crowd on the beach in front of Hemingway’s looks so friendly, so inviting as the sun peeks through the clouds. Fatigue in my arms disappears, as does the queasiness. The mind can do wonderful things.

“I hit the beach after two hours, 13 minutes and 12 seconds. I place 220th of the 505 who finish …” (George Kerchner)

Black Watermen of the Chesapeake
Captain Ben Dennis, of Shady Side, Maryland, hails from generations of watermen. The number and importance of black watermen on the Bay has been impressive … (Fred Scott)

Vol. 1 No. 6

Play Bay Ball

Every Sunday at 3pm, from April through, September, The Chesapeake Independent League cranks into action.

This Sunday, George Spriggs puts his Tracey’s Twins on the field against the Galesville Hot Sox. We’re speaking here of the George Spriggs, former Pittsburgh Pirate and Kansas City Royal. We’re speaking here of real ball, baseball like it’s supposed to be. (Bill Lambrecht and Sandra Martin)

Biggest Teeth on the Bay
“Millions of years ago, Chesapeake Bay was an ocean teeming with giants. Mastodon and rhinoceros visited these shores. whales rolled and stingrays glided in the warm waters. Scallops grew the size of soup bowls. Crocodiles wallowed in the shallows. Sharks big as boxcars—big eaters fitted out with layered rows of razor teeth—preyed here.

“Now on Calvert County beaches, the hunters of old have become the hunted …” (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 9

The Sinking of the Levin J. Marvel
When Hurricane Connie roared up the By 38 years ago, Capt. John H. Meckling gambled with his passengers’ lives—and lost. (Bruce Bauer)

Vol. 1 No. 10

Rebuilding North Beach
It takes more than a good view to make a town a good place to live. Here, editor Sandra Martin assesses North Beach’s often invisible progress against American Planning Association Ruth Knack’s uncommonly sensible “good life” standards:

  1. A common vision
  2. Creative zoning
  3. Respect for the environment
  4. Housing for all
  5. Balanced growth
  6. Public places
  7. Solid Infrastructure
  8. Design standards
  9. Commitment to children and elderly
  10. Sound finances
  11. Unique character
  12. Growing smart
  • illus. A Beach timeline
  • photo Laughing Gourmet: Neptune’s

“Customers feel a part of it the way it’s set up,” says Neptune’s partner and chef Bil Shockley of his modern-day, haute cuisine “midget.”

Vol. 1 No. 11

The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal runs 184.5 miles from Cumberland, Maryland to Washington, DC. On this sultry September, day, the fastest of 11 cyclists covers the distance in 12 hours 50 minutes. Rider Dave Hawxhurst weaves his story of the ride with Alex Knoll’s narrative and photos.

Vol. 1 No. 12

Ol’ Grand Pappy Tobaccy
Last September, tobacco was picked, speared and hung in the barns to dry. (Alex Knoll)

Doing the Right Thing with Your Wastewater (and Your Money) & Toilet Training: The Least You Should Know about Your Closest Link to Nature
“Brush your teeth. flush the toilet. Wash the dishes. Take a shower. Wastewater is the stuff you send down the drain everyday, probably without thinking. It may be out of sight, out of mind, but it’s not out of your life, especially if you live along the Bay.” (Carolyn Martin, New Bay Times Special Environmental Correspondent)

Trolling for Rockfish … in 1834
Antiquarian Jim Gscheidle unattics what may be the earliest known account of rockfishing on the Chesapeake Bay or its tributaries.

“The boat is rowed as fast as possible across the river, from shore to shore, above and as near to the falls as they can go, to avoid being swept down them …”

Vol. 1 No. 13

Wildthings: What to Do When They Come too Close & Where to Go When They Come to Harm.
Laura Simon, president of the Connecticut Wildlife Rehabilitators Association, offers a set of rules for peaceful coexistence with the animals we humans have displaced.

And regular NBT contributor Lee Summerall tours us through Chesapeake Wildlife Sanctuary, where rehabing wildthings gets to be bigger business every day.

Diversions & Excursions: Autumn’s an Unbeatable Time to Stalk Stripers
In one of his famous fishing stories, Bill Lambrecht tells how he and local sport Captain Rick Blackwell bust Big Tony’s Bahamian hex

Vol. 1 No.14

Hunt for Hair-Raising October Horror
“A successful haunted house has structure, says master house designer Skip Smith of St. Leonard. Like a good story, it opens with a teaser, builds to a climax, relaxes, climbs to an anticlimax, then ends with the best trick in the bag.”

Liz Zylwitis guides a tour of this year’s opportunities.

New World Cornucopia:
Publisher Bill Lambrecht and regular Lee Summerall recount what to do when your cup runneth over with native abundance.

Oysters: Scraping the Bottom for the Dregs of the Bay’s Past Abundance
“The harvest forecast for the ‘93-’94 season is once again gloomy. Long gone are the days of multi-million bushel harvests. Depending on which voice you listen to, the new goal is to save, sever or survive.” (Carolyn Martin, New Bay Times special environmental correspondent)

Sailor’s Log: from the Chesapeake to the Gulf
Installment 1: Preparation (Adam Smith)

A crew of college kids refits a 29-foot sloop nearly as old as they are for a voyage to make men out of boys.

“ ‘A little too ambitious,’ I thought as I looked at the enormous pile of debris surrounding the Cal ‘29 on blocks. Perhaps the idea of creating a new boat from the hull up was naive, but we had tools and gumption and nothing to do for three months. And we had this boat … ”

What Did We Learn this Summer?
A North Beach summer school made learning fun. Now Children Organized for Responsible Environmental Service (CORES) kids are teaching environmental survival lessons to their parents and communities. (Donna Reifsnider)

Diversions & Excursions: Get ‘Em While You Can
At the Deale Volunteer Fire Department fall roast, oysters are eaten as if there were no tomorrow. For oysters, there many not be, recounts editor Sandra Martin.

Vol. 1 No. 16

Bay Reflection: A Toast To Gene Martin
Gene Martin, pater familias to New Bay Times, is dead at 85. Editor Sandra Martin reflects on the qualities of the man who introduced her to Chesapeake Bay oysters.

Swans Return to the Chesapeake:
“November 11 is traditional Tundra Swan day to me,” says Bruce Bauer, explaining the cycles that bring these big birds from deep, cold Canada to our Bay for six months of each year.

Vol. 1 No. 17
Reflection: Bob Best, publisher of the News•Progress in Sullivan, Illinois and adviser to New Bay Times, is dead at 62.
NBT General Manager Alex Knoll reflects on the qualities of a man who transformed “looming deadlines, zealous editors, late hours and bad food” into “rocket fuel.”

Do You Need a New Electric Knife for Christmas? What’s it Worth to You to Repair the Old One?
Among the good reasons to repair them? You won’t have to worry about environmentally correct ways to throw them away.

Micha Dannenberg explains the whats and hows of good repair.

Vol. 1 No. 18

Out with the Old: It’s Time to Choose 1994’s Calendar
Liz Zylwitis reviews a baker’s dozen of regional and environmental calendars.

A Sailor’s Log: From the Chesapeake to the Gulf
Installment 2: Our intrepid travelers report a close encounter with a freighter, a closer encounter with a bridge, and the captain jumps ship. (Adam Smith and Darin Linebaugh)

Diversions & Excursions: Small Beer on the Chesapeake
Local brew and brew pubs are returning to Maryland. Here’s a tour to take you from Frederick to the Eastern Shore. (Elizabeth Morris)

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People In Review

Vol. 1 No. 1

“The Chesapeake knows your habits.”
w. photo Bay Life: Miss Ethel—The Longest Memory on the Bay:

“Having lived nearly 105 years in the Chesapeake-surrounded village of Shady Side, Ethel Andrews knows the Bay.” (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 3

w. photo Bay Life: “Moving Miss Mattie”
“Mattie Johnson never imagined, when she was a girl going to a one-room school, that one day just such a school house would be here home. Nor that she’d be 67 going on 68 before she had her own running water, plumbing, bathtub or washing machine.” (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 4

w. photo Bay Life: The Real Mary Edna Marshall
That draketail’s ‘just another boat,’ to its namesake, 88-year-old Mary Edna Marshall, who can’t understand what all the fuss is about …” (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 5

w. photo Bay Life: Joe Williams: The Man Behind the Bar (Alex Knoll)
After 32 years behind the bar at Pirate’s Cove, Joe Williams, son of a sharecropper, can almost read people’s minds.

Vol. 1 No. 6

Bay Life: The Turtle Who Stopped Traffic
photo (p. 12) Of squashed turtles, saved turtles, and a turtle so ugly it stopped traffic. (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 7

w. photo Bay Life: Bay Indians Battle to Prove Who They Are
The Piscataway Indians are nearing the day when Maryland will finally recognize their tribe. (Bill Lambrecht)

Vol. 1 No. 8

Bay Life: Colonial Marylanders
Three hundred years afterward, we know what the Stephens family ate and how they lived from what they threw away. (James Gibb)

Vol. 1 No. 9

w. pix Bay Life: Working Dogs of the Chesapeake
Dogs, some people say, are the best workers you can hire. Here’s a Bay octet. (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 10

photo Bay Life: Ed Connors
From National Press Corps to Annapolis Sports Store: “The first time I helped a mother fit her kid with a hockey helmet and saw how pleased they were leaving the store, I got more fulfillment than during 10 years on Capitol Hill.”(Bill Lambrecht)

Vol. 1 No. 11

photo- Bay Life: Sam and Joe
“Joe’s a little gnome of a man, while Sam’s a great big blue crab, a foot from point to point. Of course, without Joe, Sam wouldn’t be at all, for he’s a story-book Chesapeake Blue crab, conceived, born and sustained in imagination. But you know how creatures of the imagination carry on …” (Sandra Martin)

Vol. 1 No. 12

Bay Life: Brian Daley
This Annapolitan adapts Star Wars: The Movie for reading and listening (Liz Zylwitis)

Vol. 1 No. 13

w. photo Bay Life: Flight of the Osprey
As summer merges into fall, this familiar Bay resident heads for distant shores—in South America. Here bird bander Steve Cardano tracks their flight.

Vol. 1 No.14

Bay Life: Generations of ghosts haunt Point Lookout.
Horror has mounted on horror until you can feel, hear and see its traces. Point Lookout, says world-renowned parapsychologist Hans Holzer, is the most haunted place he has ever visited. (Audrey Scharmen)

Vol. 1 No.15

Bay Life: Don Shomette
This underwater adventurer’s a historian (Eli Flam)

Vol. 1 No. 16

w. pix and illus. Bay Life: For Barbara Noel, Christmas Lasts All Year (Sandra Martin)
Noel’s signature style makes her cards collectable beyond early January, when many holiday cards go into the office paper recycling bin. Its elements: an eye for characteristic place; verisimilitude for what we would see day by day—if we looked. Then, controlled tenderness. Finally, whimsy.

Vol. 1 No. 17

w. pix Bay Life: Tales of a True-Life Explorer Marylander Robert Hyman romps from the Americas to Albania. (Bill Lambrecht)

Vol. 1 No. 18

Bay Life: Local Santas
The Guys Behind the Beards (Steven Anderson)

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Good Earth News

As ‘93 became history, we saw signs of good news among us and good years ahead. People are beginning to wise up, to go easy on the land and the Chesapeake Bay.

We don’t mind at all when doing the right thing is easy. That would be our druthers any day, week, month or year. So we’re delighted to report here and in the weeks to come about new values, attitudes, applications and technologies that make it easy for us to live wisely and well.

One of those nice easy steps is reading New Bay Times, where seven-eighths of the news you’ll find is good—and good for you. But before you sit down to enjoy 1993’s Good Earth News, take the easy step of improving one way you keep your life in order. Dial 800/260-4320 and order yourself a catalog of environmentally safe cleaning products (and say New Bay Times told you to do it). It’s so easy that even the phone call is free.

OK, New Bay Times is all yours!

Happy New Year!

May the world we love—and Bay—long outlive us!

A Break from Chemical Farming: Just Say No
Do you know how your vegetables grow?

Many of the vegetables you buy in the store are worth their weight in gold. They’ve gobbled up vast helpings of water, been served regular meals of chemicals and spent time bedded in vast sheets of black plastic.

We pay a big price for those indulgences.

The fertilizers that strangle Bay life also add dollars to your grocery bill. Plastic is costly to produce and to get rid of. Water’s getting dearer every day. “We’ve dammed, drained, dirtied and diverted our fresh water to the point of a potential emergency,” warns National Geographic Society president Gilbert M. Grosvenor.

That’s not the worst of it. Most of our vegetables have been so drenched with pesticides that all the water in the Bay won’t wash them clean. We’re learning, dangerously late, that pesticides are killers throughout the life chain.

The National Academy of Sciences reported last summer after five years of study that our children are threatened by overuse of pesticides. Don’t believe that the rest of us are immune. And in the Latin American countries that now produce about half of our winter vegetables, pesticides pose a death threat to farmworkers.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

Right here in Maryland, Dr. Aref Abdul-Baki, in his research in the Sustainable Agriculture Program, has proven that you don’t have to endanger the world to feed it.

All you’ve got to do, says this scientist at Beltsville’s Agricultural Research Center, is dress Mother Earth in a nice green coat of hairy vetch. Crimson clover will do.

In early fall, Abdul-Baki plants thick cover crops of the clover and hairy vetch. Fall, winter and spring, these legumes are at work. Their tenacious young roots hold the soil in place all winter. With warming weather, growth begins apace, until above and below, each row is a hearty plant tangle, moist and resistant to erosion.

But there’s more here than meets the eye. The air around us is rich in the nitrogen plants crave. Vetch and clover borrow it from the air, fixing as much as three to five pounds per acre each day. Finally, in early summer, the blooming vetch and clover feed beneficial insects before they are mowed for an organic mulch that recycles left-over nutrients and adds organic matter to the soil to enrich, moisturize, and improve its water-holding capacity.

When tomatoes, sweet corn and your favorite vegetables are planted into the green mulch, their bed is well made with enriched, protected earth.

Only when earth is stripped naked do you need to bed vegetables in plastic, drown them in water, goose them with fertilizers and dose them with pesticides.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Yes, but not too good to be true.

Abdul-Baki’s 1992 and 1993 tomatoes were “exceptionally stable and high yielding,” he says. He reports a bumper crop of broccoli and cabbage harvested into early December.

The technical news was just as good: “The climax of this year’s experiments told us very clearly that we don’t need supplemental nitrogen fertilizer. Our tomatoes in vetch with no nitrogen supplement gave us a yield equivalent to the application of 150 pounds of nitrogen per acre under plastic.

“The plants were much larger and looked much greener. The chlorophyll content was 65-70 percent higher and the harvest season was longer,” reports Baki.

1993, a hot and dry year in the Bay region, was the third year Baki’s experiments have been afield. It confirms the good results of 1992, when the growing season wet and cold. “Our experiments give us more and more confidence every year,” concludes Abdul-Baki.

Safer food at lower prices isn’t good only for us. It could mean the Bay carries a slighter burden of toxics, nutrients and erosion. It could mean a well-fed world at last.

This report updates our story “Bay-Friendly Farming” from Vol. 1: 3.

Recycling: Everybody’s Doin’ It
Those brightly colored containers outside your door gathering bottles, cans and newspapers for pick-up are evidence of a transformation in our trashy habits.

We should take a moment to pat ourselves on the back for this remarkable achievement in a fairly short time. Remember when, not so long ago, we were throwing all that glass, plastic, tin, aluminum and paper away?

Yet we have more worthy goals, among them cutting down on our use of plastics; encouraging more recycling and composting at landfills rather than building incinerators; and urging (with our buying habits) manufacturers to cut down on the toxics they produce as byproducts.

We’ll be telling you how in every upcoming issue of New Bay Times.

Rockfish are Jumpin’
In the history of Bay restoration, the return of the striped bass stands as a beacon of success. Anybody with some years around the Chesapeake knows how these succulent, fighting beauties had all but disappeared a decade ago.

Now, all signs point to recovery. The number of small rockfish in the Bay measured by the Department of Natural Resources this year was four times that of 1992 and the highest since the annual survey began in 1954.

“Juvenile striped bass are everywhere,” observed DNR Secretary Torrey Brown.

The rockfish resurgence is a pleasure trove for anglers and for the fishing industry along the Bay. Just as important, it stands as a monument to what can happen when government acts smartly and proactively.

This is significant given the plight of oysters in the Chesapeake as well as the dwindling bluefish population along the East Coast. Yet another bright spot of 1993 was new legislation in Congress which gives the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission power to restrict catches of threatened species.

People’s distrust of government remains at an all-time high. But the rockfish success can help to make castor oil palatable as government moves ahead with costly programs to control nutrients and toxics in the Bay.

We’re Getting a Grip on Nasty Nutrients
One of the dullest things to read about is perhaps the biggest danger to the Bay today: nutrients. And thanks to researchers, we are armed with the evidence we need to slow the seepage of harmful nitrogen and phosphorous into the Chesapeake.

What’s the problem here? These nutrients pour into the Bay from farms, water treatment plants and lawns and feed algae, which in turn blocks sunlight and uses up oxygen. So Bay grasses, which sustain Bay creatures, die or never sprout.

Donald Boesch, president of the Center for Environmental and Estuarine Studies, says that the work of scientists in pinpointing the problems has paved the way for progress.

“Twenty years ago, people weren’t concerned about too many nutrients in the Bay,” Boesch says. “Scientists did their research, there were fights to convince the people who make the decisions. And now those decisions are being implemented as policy. It’s been a remarkable thing.”

In 1993, Pennsylvania passed a new law that will control some of its worst runoff into the Susquehanna River, which feeds the Chesapeake. That may prove to be the most tangible step taken in recent years.

The task of controlling nutrients will become exceedingly tough, Bay experts worry. For instead of command-and-control methods, government must succeed in convincing people to willingly change old habits.

The Bay: Everybody Loves It
It takes bright light to do fine work. That’s why artists seldom work at night.

From National Geographic to the New York Times Magazine, from the Chesapeake Paddlers Association to the U.S. EPA, the Bay has been much chronicled, much watched and much loved.

Indeed, 1993 proved once more that no body of water that is not an ocean surpasses the Chesapeake in winning attention. (Except, perhaps, for flooding along the Mississippi River.)

The limelight and literary focus is good for the Bay when it comes to prying loose money for restoration.

David Carroll, secretary of Maryland’s Department of the Environment, believes that interest in the Bay adds up to “political will to make very tough public decisions that are often very unpopular.”

Let's hope that political interest is sufficient to replace the one-third cut in government spending on Bay programs in recent years.

Hail to That Green Stuff on the Bay Bottom
Back when H.L. Mencken called the Chesapeake “the world’s biggest protein factory,” the Bay’s bottom was blanketed in grasses. It’s no coincidence that by the early 1980s, when Bay fisheries were in critical condition, Bay grasses had all but died out—victims of nutrients and chemical seepage.

With the correlation clear between Bay grasses and aquatic life, surrounding states set about to restore the underwater grasses. So far, the effort is shaping up as a success.

In a decade, the amount of Bay grasses has almost doubled—to 70,000 acres, officials estimate. The goal is another quantum leap, to 114,000 acres by the year 2,005.

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Burton On The Bay

1993 Goes Down in Memory

Is all that we see or seem but a dream within a dream? That’s how Edgar Allan Poe wound up his short poem, “A Dream Within A Dream,” and that’s how — in my way of thinking — 1993 goes down in memory — though many of the dreams were in reality nightmares.

In the eyes of those who hold fish, fowl, other wildlife creatures and just plain outdoor living dear, 1993 was the Year of the Paradox. Thankfully, it’s just about over as I write this. May 1994 herald a new era.

But let us not forget 1993; may we profit from experience— though “endurance” is probably a more fitting word. Let’s review some of the more paradoxical moments of the year just entering history.

It was tragic enough that the headboat El Toro II was apparently unfit to sail when she did so on Dec. 5 only to sink off the mouth of the Potomac with a loss of three lives. But it is incredible how a few self-serving charterboat skippers overlooked the problems of the vessel’s structural fragility and the skipper’s role in ignoring weather reports to place the blame on the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

How? you might ask. Seems the reasoning was DNR has restricted rockfishing to the point that some Maryland-based headboat and chartercraft have been forced to sail to Virginia waters to participate in a season later than ours. No kidding. Such was the malarkey dished out in the aftermath of the disaster that could have been much worse had it not been for the heroics of the Coast Guard.

Those who pointed the finger at DNR were obviously under the impression that the Coast Guard’s motto applies to fishing captains. In the lore of the Coast Guard are the heroic words “It is our duty to go; not to return.”

To its credit, Coast Guardsmen have lived by these words. When called upon, they go; whether or not they can return is secondary. And through its legendary history, the Coast Guard has witnessed times when their seaman went but did not return.

Contrary to what a few defenders of the El Toro II’s decision to sail say, it is not the duty of a captain to go simply because fish are available and the day’s trip promises a take of $500 or more in fishing fees. Are not those who board any boat for hire deserving of a seaworthy craft, a dependable crew and a prudent captain at the helm?

Still others come to the defense of the El Toro II on the grounds that weather reports are inaccurate, thus need not be monitored. “If we listened to the weather, we’d never go fishing,” one skipper was quoted in news reports. Curiously, statistics—as opposed to hearsay— indicate that NOAA’s weather reports have an accuracy rating of between 80 and 90 percent.

While not 100 percent, that’s an average that makes it difficult to understand why a captain would go from a channel monitoring weather to another monitoring fishing chit-chat from other boats when small craft alerts were posted 20 hours before the sailing schedule. Shortly after the El Toro II’s radio changed channels, the gale warning (not just an alert) was issued.

Forget for the moment that just prior to the sinking an insurance company representative deemed the El Toro II—as well as other boats in her fleet—unfit to sail or that earlier this year a Coast Guard inspection resulted in her certification. Both certainly figure into a final decision, but the bottom line is whether she or any boat should have sailed on that particular day.

The official Coast Guard review of the incident will be completed in 1994, and with it undoubtedly will commence a campaign for change. Hopefully, it will not involve inspections and procedures that will place an unreasonable burden on others whose craft sail for hire. Obviously some changes are called for.

The sinking of the El Toro II was a public relations and marketing disaster for the headboat and charterboat industries. It dispelled the old myth that once on a boat for hire, the passenger is as safe as if in his mother’s arms.

Ye gentlemen of England
That live at home at ease,
Ah! little do you think upon
The dangers of the sea.

Those words penned by Martyn Parker in the 1600s remain appropriate to these days; probably will as long as humans venture on the water. A man who is not afraid of the sea will soon be drowned, wrote John Millington Synge around the turn of the century. It, too, is appropriate today.

Two other fishermen seeking rockfish were drowned off the upper Eastern Shore during Maryland’s season, but they were private fishermen who chose to trust their lives in their own decisions though their boat was small and the waves large. The El Toro II was large, some 58 feet, and the decision affecting others’ lives was made by the captain.

The El Toro II was wood and presumably suffered corroded plank nails in her hull as she fought seas of up to eight feet. But don’t get the impression that fiberglass boats are immune from disaster. A dozen years ago, well inside the Patuxent River inlet at Solomons, I watched a late model fiberglass boat virtually disappear in a fire within 15 minutes.

Wiring systems are vulnerable in boats old and new, wood or ‘glass, and short circuits can generate incredible heat—more than enough to spark a blaze. But, fortunately, few result in serious fires. Fortunately, loose planking woes rarely lead to sinking. Unfortunately, we learned on Dec. 5 that it can happen.

Charterboat and headboat industries will survive the sinking of the El Toro II; they must. They are a vital avenue to the Chesapeake for those who don’t own their own boat, have access to one through an owner friend or know where and how to catch fish.

For the most part, headboats and charterboats are safe and are run by capable skippers whose prudent operations offer safe outings, many fish—and much enjoyment. A few changes in regulations and inspections can insure in the future there will be no repetition of the wreck of the El Toro.

No public relations program can wipe the memory of the sinking of the El Toro II from the minds of those who fish, but assurances that things will be safer in the future should restore confidence among those who go fishing on boats to hire. More than 20 years ago, a headboat broached off Virginia with a loss of life, but the industry rebounded—as it will now.

In no way will the El Toro disaster affect my future plans in boarding charterboats or headboats. In the Chesapeake, I headboat fish aboard the Tom Hooker out of Chesapeake Beach and the Bay King out of Ridge on the Potomac; on the Atlantic on the Miss Ocean City and the OC Princess. All are obviously shipshape, with exemplary crews. The same can be said for charterboats I fish regularly, which are too numerous to mention.

To me a well-kept boat, and a knowledgeable, helpful and courteous crew are indicators of a sound operation. And that is the way it should be for other patrons of those businesses. Most anything we do today involves a risk, but the risk is small on a fishing boat for hire.

The El Toro II incident wasn’t the only blemish on the Year of Paradox. What about the precedent set when then Speaker of the House Clayton Mitchell squirmed by Gov. Schaefer and did an end run around the frustrated and dismayed DNR to increase the daily bag and lengthen the season for the troubled migratory Canada goose?

The concerns of waterfowl biologists and the Bay as well as those of the general hunting public were cast aside in the interest of the business side of waterfowling. It was purely a business decision; the welfare of the fowl was ignored.

Thankfully, shortly thereafter—after the barn was burned—the speaker announced his resignation. May his retirement be as enjoyable to him as it is to Canada geese and those who hunt them. May it also be long.

In the waning days of 1993, the Baltimore Sun carried the headline “Bay Campaign Flags After A Decade Of Success.” While Gov. Schaefer finds the funds to pursue a professional football team for his beloved Baltimore, state funds are down one-third for Chesapeake’s restoration effort.

Meanwhile, state parks show more weeds and brush, and volunteers perform some tasks previously assigned to professionals, camping seasons have been shortened, and heaven knows what else—all sacrificed by the governor’s quixotic battle for the Baltimore Bombers.

In these days when some DNR Police officers are recalled from the water and field while actually writing tickets because of shortages of funds, taxpayers’ dollars are spent to lure an existing team to a new stadium in Baltimore. Why not use that money to pay overtime for DNR Police who can’t finish their jobs because the law won’t allow it?

The Year of Paradox had a few bright spots: a resurgence of hardheads and a relaxed length limit for catching, which saved Bay fishing in early season. But with the exception of an abundance of black drum and continued improvement with rockfish, the Bay’s fishing picture continued to deteriorate, especially with the coveted bluefish, sea trout and red drum.

On farms, bobwhite quail and pheasants continued their disastrous decline, on the marshes and bogs, woodcock and railbird populations were of legitimate concern. Yet when the Governor’s Conference on Agriculture was held near Baltimore, the host wasn’t in attendance.

Doesn’t Gov. Schaefer realize that a better Chesapeake Bay and better fish and wildlife populations ride on the practices of farmers? Why was he not at his own conference?

That day he was reported to be meeting with Redskins’ owner Jack Kent Cooke, which prompted grumbling among delegates, some of whom asked “What’s more important, football or agriculture?”

If you know the answer, it’s not a question. Enough said, and good riddance 1993.

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Dock Of The Bay

Death on a Country Road

In all of Anne Arundel County, no place may be as out of the way. Leitch Road, south of Deale a few miles, opens through a natural gate of gnarled oaks. It snakes eastward for a mile to the Bay beneath a canopy of Maryland woods and alongside an idyllic horse farm.

It was here on Leitch Road, at daybreak on the Sunday before Christmas, where a waterman traveled to fetch a newspaper and pastries. Instead, he discovered the confluence of solitude and criminal madness.

At first, he thought it was a pile of rags he was seeing at the grassy turnoff to a bean field. Maybe a mannequin. But reality swiftly became clear to the waterman, who had seen bodies during war.

“She was a little gal, lyin’ there on her back with her feet together and her arms down to her sides, like somebody had picked her up and put her there,” said the man, who requested anonymity.

She was dressed in a black coat, and the man noticed a swath of bare skin showing beneath. She was quite pale, and quite dead.

“We read about all this stuff and hear about it and see it on television,” said the man’s spouse. “Now, it has gotten close to home.”

Police closed Leitch road while they searched for clues.

Who was she? How did she get here? How did she die?

The last answer was the easiest. Gunshot wounds.

News accounts held clues to her identity: the letters P-U-L
tattooed crudely on her forearm.

In Annapolis, Tristram Jones recognized the markings and telephoned police. His fear became fact. The body lying on the lonely road was that of a woman he knew and befriended, Margaret “Peggy” Courson, 26.

Who was this woman? And what lay behind yet another crime statistic?

“She looked real peaceful, lyin’ there like she was,” observed the man who found her.

Peaceful then, but seldom before. Indeed, Peggy Courson had been tormented in her short life, unable to control her drinking. She wound up in Annapolis after hitchhiking around the country—in 48 states, friends say—and leaving behind her two small children in Florida.

“She was enormously intelligent and wonderfully witty,” said Jones. “She had a big sloppy grin.”

But the same Peggy who read widely and said smart things could transform into a street tough.

Survival instincts propelled her to sober up and get jobs. But she would fall of the wagon—as she apparently did in the fall. And she had other flaws that may have led to her demise. A friend noted that she had problems with men, attributed to the suicide of her father when she was young.

Despite her intelligence, she had an abandon that prompted her to put out her thumb on street corners. Friends say that these traits may have led to Peggy Courson’s demise on a Saturday night full of holiday parties.

Police continue to investigate. Perhaps we will never know the answer. What we do know is that gun violence can leave its gruesome mark anywhere.

As it did on this troubled young woman whose demons got the best of her.

“Now that she’s dead and a headline, she has a million friends,” said Jones. "“She'd be amused by the cloying sentimentality.”

Chesapeake Water Trail: Will the Bay Get Its ‘Emerald Necklace’?
Imagine journeying along the Bay to an island wilderness. You pull up your kayak or your canoe, your sailboat or your small-powered craft, and pitch your tent for the night.,

In the morning, you head out with your water trail map and another beautiful campsite beckoning.

Sounds like a fine time, eh? Perhaps a whole vacation.

In the future, you may be able to travel along a Bay water trail—if people pitch in now to plan.

“A water trail would be more than just fun—it would be a way to revive a great transportation tradition of the Chesapeake,” said Chris Conklin, president of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association.

A Bay water trail has a heap of obstacles in its path, but it is hardly farfetched. Full networks of waterway trails line the Maine Coast, cross the Florida Everglades, wind through northern Minnesota rivers and the Pacific Northwest’s Puget Sound.

In other places, water trails are being developed: along rivers in New York and Connecticut; on Lake Superior; and along the coastal waters of South Carolina and California. They are clean, green business opportunities in remote areas that need economic development.

The Chesapeake has all the raw material, including plenty of beautiful places, many of them already publicly owned. But it also has impediments, among them an absence so far of coordinated planning.

One high hurdle will be gaining access to private property and waiving liability. Planners also will need to work out a system for monitoring campsites to make certain they remain clean and undisturbed.

“It may have to be a self-patrolling situation,” suggested Ron Casterline, who operates Annapolis Coastal Kayaking.

Most people agree that the dream of a water trail will take not just a few kayakers but an alliance of boaters to pressure government agencies—perhaps a new group called the Chesapeake Bay Trail Organization.

(If you want to be part of the planning, write to the Chesapeake Paddlers Association, P.O. Box 3873, Fairfax, VA 22038.)

Indian Giving

It may be a long way from the Chesapeake Bay to British Columbia's Alert Bay, but an exhibit at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington brings the distant worlds together.

"Chiefly Feasts" focuses on the traditional practice of Indian tribes giving away gifts to those invited to ceremonies that mark marriage, birth, death and benchmark events in seafaring lands. The exhibit runs through March 6.

Be prepared for startling, brightly colored masks of mythical birds and sea creatures. And who knows — you, too, may become infused with the spirit of giving.

—Eli Flam

Way Downstream...

In parts of South Florida, people are mystified about the disappearance of sand from beaches. They blamed storms, but when they went to dredge for sand in the ocean, the bottom was hard coral. So much for the phrase, "like taking sand to the beach..."

Along the St. Lawrence River between the U.S. and Canada, they're finding a use for those dreaded, drain-clogging, fast-breeding zebra mussels: they're analyzing them to pinpoint pollution.

In one batch, they discovered Strontium 90—evidence of a leaking nuclear power plant...

Those Canadians make good beer, and now they're leading the way in reusable beer cases. The Sleeman Brewery in Ontario, which introduced the plastic cases, believes it can cut the use of cardboard beer containers in Canada by two-thirds...

In England, well-heeled Brits have their knickers in a twist over wind farms sprouting in the countryside. Never mind that they live in an energy-short country where you have to drop a quarter or two in a box for a blast of heat. Rich folks say the wind generators are unsightly...

Our Creature Feature this week concerns those giant, lovable pandas that often have problems in captivity. We won't be pining for our local panda much longer.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says it will no longer consider applications to import pandas into the U.S. Instead, the government will work with the China on ways to preserve the remaining 1,000 or so bears in their mountain bamboo habitat...

Finally, as you return your holiday gifts, think of your beleaguered government officials. EPA administrator Carol Browner had to give back a framed photo of the Everglades because its value exceeded $20.

President Bill Clinton had to return a gift of his own—$245 worth of Slim-Fast.

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You don’t have to be an old-timer to recall schools of strapping American shad in the Chesapeake Bay. Or herring. Or the croaker, flounder, hardhead and bountiful sea trout (weakfish) that combined for angling joy and good business.

Some will tell you to sit tight, these things run in cycles.

Don’t listen.

Many factors make for declining fish populations. But truth be told, we Marylanders are victims. Victims of commercial intercept boats in Virginia that harvest shad en route to their spawning rivers. Victims of North Carolinians plundering sea trout.

The critical state of migratory fish in our region requires a fix that goes beyond the Bay. The best solution out there is legislation in Congress to force cooperation among states.

The bill, authored by Rep. Gerry Studds (D-Mass) requires fish management plans in the Atlantic coastal region. It has teeth to make them work: authority for the federal government to slap on fishing bans in states that drag their feet.

Don’t let anybody snow you with claptrap about this bill tramping on states’ rights. You’ll hear that in Virginia, where they’re opposing the Studds bill and fighting to protect their right to overfish.

The bill needs work. Provisions for sea trout should be sped up. The Interior Secretary needs to be given enforcement power equal with the Commerce Secretary.

But the concept is sound and badly needed. Maryland members of Congress ought to battle for this legislation. Simply endorsing it is not enough.

MVA (Many Vipers Afoot)
A caller asked if we write only about the Chesapeake Bay and its people. No. We are drawn to many issues, among them government’s maddening ways.

In this space today, we write about a plague that has afflicted many Baysiders—rudeness by the Motor Vehicle Administration. Our experience is fresh.

You’d think licensing a truck would be a simple dealing. In Maryland, think again. After waiting in line for 45 minutes, we were greeted by Clerk No. 1.

“Give me your papers,” she barked.

“What specifically do you need, ma’m?” we said.


She immediately declared our title no good, which was nonsense. Corrected by her supervisor, she grudgingly dispatched us to wait some more.

About 50 minutes later, we said hello to Clerk No. 2. She said nothing, until she found and chided us over her own imaginary problem. Finally, she handed over the tags, but not before berating us once more, this time for the way we had made out our check. A fat check at that.

Is this necessary? Could it be that some MVA offices hold rudeness competitions? After closing, they howl with laughter as they tell tales of misery inflicted. (“I sent this one fool all the way to Baltimore, then I locked the door just when he got back.”)

What the El Toro II Taught Us

The El Toro II mishap Dec. 5 that took three lives and the Coast Guard hearings afterward taught lessons that most of us won’t forget.

We learned vividly how with little warning the tranquil Chesapeake can turn ferocious. The wind climbed to gale force that day, creating six-foot seas and swamping the crippled ship.

We saw how an angry Bay will victimize even big boats—in this case 60 feet—if they are unseaworthy.

We found out once more how important it is for boaters to plug into weather forecasts—even though we were reminded that you can’t always bank on the predictions.

In troubling and sometimes conflicting testimony, we learned how communication between insurers and boaters can break down.

Finally, we saw how fates and carelessness can team up to make tragedy.

The Coast Guard has promised a report likely to recommend new regulations. Already, they have issued a national safety alert to toughen standards for inspecting wooden boats such as El Toro II.

We also think that the Coast Guard would be wise to beef up communications abilities beyond the marine band so that complicated rescues could run smoother. That was a topic of a pre-Christmas meeting organized by Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., among the Coast Guard, Maryland State Police and local fire and rescue teams.

The batch of lessons already learned centers on the Bay’s unpredictability and the need for heightened personal responsibility by charter operators.

We welcome the Coast Guard’s report. And we trust that it will fine-tune without over-reaching or impinging on boaters’ rights.

BWI Signs: ‘Flightmare’ on Elm Road
We’re among motorists who read every sign, billboard or bumper sticker that flies by, no matter how silly.

High on our list of pet peeves are rude and preachy signs like you see on beaches or in parks listing the many things you can't do. Or signs repeated—and ignored—every 10 or 20 feet. We consider this sign pollution.

We’ve noticed more signs of the times around Baltimore-Washington International Airport, the travel venue used by many Baysiders.

We call this sign confusion.

Unless you’ve been to BWI a few times, you may not get there. On time, anyway.

Coming from the South on I-97, directional signs are vague and befuddling. If you’ve been lucky or cunning enough to get near the terminal on Rt. 170, you’ve done very well. Then, a small green sign points you leftward if you want Elm Rd. or Air Cargo.

If you happen to notice a third listing on the sign, Airport Terminal, you may be able to jerk the wheel left in time. Your adventure isn’t finished yet.

The next crucial sign instructs you to veer left for terminal parking or rental car return. Excuse me, but a parking lot and a terminal aren’t the same thing. At least around most airports they’re not. But at BWI, if you take things literally, you’ll end up back on the interstate.

Attempting BWI from the north is trickier still. Leaving is no piece of cake, either.

We heard that BWI was to be featured in a scene from a new film, "Major League II." We wonder if the actors are still out there, driving around confused by dumb signs.

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On Swimming an Estuary

When we’ve colonized our moon and terraformed the face of Mars,

will we then remember the Piscataway and the Potomac?

when what we knew as Earth begins to fade from the consciousness of our ancestral survivors,who will recall the juncture in our cultures when Europeans and Native Americans fished together upon a river destined centuries later to run through a world capital which oversaw our blasting out of the atmosphere, stretching for the stars, sealing our survival yet clouding memories of our distant past?

I stroke and stroke and stroke chanting “for the river’s sake” across the mouth of a cold river churning into a still abundant Bay sweeping in and out of a mighty sea bearing both unbelieveable and untapped resources and the time bombs of nuclear debris.

Merge my spirit, set me free, give me—water— a new identity!

Tired, aching, cold, stroking still, not seeing land ahead,wondering whether I am making any forward movement at all, I remember the rock passed from friend to friend, affirming my ability, reaffirming my determination, warming me with familiar faces which might be awaiting me on the shore and “for the river’s sake” I stroke and chant and kick and breathe and stretch and pull my way across the Potomac “on the path and off the trail” alternating with “for the river’s sake” now and I am like the rocket reaching Mars …but what does a swim across a river once inhabited by a tribe known as Piscataway have to do with settling Mars?

Merging spirit, set us free, give us—space—new identity …but one taking into account mistakes we made,
cultures/ways/spirits co-opted, corrupted, destroyed, arrogance and greed, pollution, the proliferation of selfish needs depleting the common good.

Wash away our foolishness and fear and as the sun burns our planet’s face
and we find safety far away on terraformed Mars remember I swam the Potomac in the former land of the Piscataway for the river’s sake and to merge my spirit, set me free and find a new identity. So be it.

—Joe Stewart

Joe Stewart first swam the Potomac in May, 1993. He’ll repeat that 6.3 nautical-mile effort on May 21, 1994.

Join him in his effort with a pledge of any amount. All money raised will be divided among the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Potomac River Association, St. Mary’s Friends of the Chesapeake, Southern Maryland Sierra Club, St. Mary’s Environmental Support Group, and Point Lookout State Park.

Mark your calendar early for a picnic celebration at the finish line: 3:15pm on May 21, 1994 at Point Lookout State Park.

Little Birds Pull Heart Strings

Editor’s note: Steve Cardano’s description of the migration of Bay osprey (Vol. 1: 13) moved his old acquaintance, Kent Mountford, to write his own observation of birds with whom we share part of our year (Vol. 1: 16 and 17). Now University of Maryland student Betsy Kehne describes how Dr. Mountford’s Commentary, “The Little Birds Flitting Through Our Autumn Forest Are Threads in the Living Fabric we call ‘Biodiversity,’” tugged at her heart strings.

The emotional slant in “The Little Birds Flitting” affected me more than the rational on my first reading. But after emotion draws me in, I’m ready to ask rational questions.

The details of the rational portion—the series of locations, the types of birds, the conference—don’t really pull me in because I’m separated from it. I’m interested but not dedicated.

A series of geographic locations and generalizations regarding size—”migrants,” “warblers,” “big migrating pool”—achieves another effect: the world seems big and we’re “sharing resources.”

But Mountford pulls at my heart strings when he introduces such emotional terms as “strong champion,” and “grasping at straws,” which create a contrast between strength and desperation.

Next forests are “cut up” into “smaller patches,” forcing me to re-evaluate my image of the land, where birds are plentiful. Focusing on smaller and smaller sections of the bird population, Mountford relates them to the human household (prey for our household cats) and calls them “little visitors,” bringing them even closer to me by using personification.

The emotional bond is intensified by the list of these birds’ potential tragedies so similar to human tragedies: failure to nest, loss of young, death from weakness.

Finally, the focus on the single, “tiny” Golden Crowned Kinglet wrenches my heart. Suddenly I am much more focused and much more willing to re-investigate the details.

To make sure that I don’t interpret the Kinglet’s death as isolated, Mountford returns to the image of largeness: 230,000 birds in the sky and the millions “falling exhausted into the sea.”

The mix of size—tiny birds and large-scale tragedy—moves me first to reread, then to look further into the subject to understand my effect on the greater environment.

—Betsy Kehne

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Going Like 60: Reflection on Resolves
by Eli Flam

That’s it, I told myself on seeing the story in the New Bay Times about a newly-designated, 100-mile-long “Beach-to-Bay Indian Trail.” I had to hike it, bike it, traverse it from start to finish. Put my footprint on it, and vice versa.

“The trail,” the article said, “begins at Assateague Island and winds through historic towns, tidal bays, an old-growth forest and a cypress swamp.” It marked “the seasonal movement of Native Americans from ocean to Bay,” at least in times past.

As to my movements—
A recent hike on a remote stretch of the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Tow Path, up near Paw Paw, had stirred plans to gear up for a solo hike all the way, before the 50th anniversary this spring of Justice Douglas’ walkathon from Cumberland to Washington, D.C. (done with plenty of company), which helped to keep that salutary retreat unpaved. (New Bay Times' David Hawxhurst traversed the C&O’s 184.5 miles on bicycle in just over 14 hours this summer, with the winner doing it in just under 13 hours, as headlined in the Sept. 22 issue: “… Ouch!”)

But a week-plus C&O hike presented a lot of roadblocks, beginning with logistics. The Beach-to-Bay, on the other hand, or foot, recalled a week-long summer bicycle trip in the late 1970s.

I started in Southern Maryland with a well-thumbed copy of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance in one saddle bag, worked up the Bay shore through Annapolis and tooled down Eastern Shore back roads, mixing in a century (a hundred miles in one day) just for the sweaty, gorp-gobbling hell of it. Early on the last morning, I rolled across the long, quiet causeway into Chincoteague under a big blue sky, took a room in a little inn that made raspberry pancakes and immersed myself in the ocean off the dunes of Assateague.

Now here was a chance to work my way back—as in that old spoof, right? “Backwards run the hands of TIME...”

Going 60 at 60
Having recently reached 60, I find myself wanting to accomplish finite, measurable things, self-generated, start to finish; fresh, worthwhile ventures, where possible tying into, rounding out the past.

Still ghosting around, if seemingly out of effective reach, is the notion to walk across America, hatched at the end of my two years in the Army, in 1958, though pretty much laid to rest after Peter Jenkins wrote A Walk Across America.

Later, I was going to bike across the U.S., walk the full Appalachian Trail, swim across the Bay, do the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C.—among other feats at home and abroad. I read Sailing Alone Around the World, Blue Highways, Caucasian Journey and a scad of other traveling tales.

But until now, though having run—well, jogged—from Washington to Alexandria and back, survived a dicey clamber across a jagged rock face on a Greek island and otherwise scooted around and about, I haven’t pulled off any truly individual, long-haul adventure. While keeping active, staying in good shape and scoping out Big Jaunts, I’ve mostly fallen back on excuses like work, other travel, “the house,” “the family,” responsibilities, even Thoreau’s chestnut about traveling far without leaving home.

Just the other month I learned that a young, well-founded archaeologist was planning next year to follow Capt. John Smith’s voyage up the Potomac in 1608—a project I’ve been toying with since moving to Southern Maryland early in the 1980s.

But until now …

Editor’s Note: Eli Flam’s resolves, as you see, are many. How many of these dreams will he live up to? Join us in keeping a close eye on him in New Bay Times in ‘94. Start this week, when he considers trails in Diversions and Excursions.

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Diversion & Excursion

Hot On The Trail of Adventure
by Eli Flam

Trails far and near to put your footprints on

A newly designated American Discovery Trail, almost 5,000 miles from Ocean City to San Francisco, is ballyhooed as the “first east-west, coast-to-coast hiking trail.”

Maybe. Maybe not. Close to home (where ever you live) runs the AT&T Transcontinental Coaxial Cable Route, a broad cut-out pathways for power lines or, better yet, buried cable. On main stems and backroads, you’ve seen orange-painted poles marking this route.

Signs ask you to please call AT&T (toll free) before excavating, boring, bending, folding, spindling, mutilating etc. But nothing says not to walk these swaths, which usually cut through remote, wooded countryside. That’s what I’ve been doing the past couple of years. Used shotgun shells show that others have been there before.

The first time, my wife and I were walking the dog by an “acreage for sale” sign. Lo, the path wound into woods and sloughs, up hill and down, with only one distant cabin spied. What a sense of freedom, of discovery, of leaving the rest of the world behind, so close to home.

Other treks were tracked, above Locust Grove, up the old railroad bed from Popes Creek, and in the bargain, I learned that AT&T has a fleet of small planes that survey the Transcontinental Route from above as well as vehicles to do the job on the ground. And then it hit me: I—or you—could be the first, in your neighborhood and chances are the whole nation, to walk the AT&T Transcontinental Coaxial Cable Route.

Or you could be one among millions. The Potomac Heritage Trail, denominated by the National Bureau of Outdoor Recreation in the 1970s, gets high marks for diverse geology from Jean Craighead George in The American Walk Book.

“Here,” she writes of the Point Lookout area, “birds wheel and flash above Bay estuaries … Grebes, loons and scoters flock to the salt marshes to stalk fish and crustaceans in the shallows and along watery trails made by muskrats and rice rats.”

It sees plenty of other life, too. “Millions of people walk parts of it every year.”

No indication, though, that any one of those putative millions has covered the whole shebang, almost 900 miles from Point Lookout, where the Potomac joins Chesapeake Bay, or Smith Point across the river mouth in Virginia, to twin endings, one at Blackwater Falls in West Virginia, the other at Conemaugh Gorge in Pennsylvania.

I’ve followed the trail, with detours here and there, through Historic St. Mary’s City and Leonardtown, passing fresh-water Zehiah Swamp to track back up undulating, open-scaped Rt. 234.

Time for a right turn on to Rt. 301 and soon a left onto Chapel Point Road, with a stop at the old brick fastness of St. Ignatius Chapel (which has an historical marker). Enjoy the hilltop riverine view; let the mind wander, in past and present. Stretch your legs at the recently constituted Chapel Point State Park just below. On your left a dirt road leads to a sandy beach on the Port Tobacco River. At low tide, follow the shore to the last pilings of the pier where steamers once—many times, actually—brought folk from the Bay and Washington for various daytime and evening disporting.

Zip through the minimal remains of silted-up Port Tobacco (if it’s a weekend afternoon, the replica courthouse, on your left, may be open). You can get to Rt. 210—Indian Head Highway -- by Rt. 6’s long loop through back-country Nanjemoy, by 225 (with a stop in General Smallwood State Park), by Poorhouse Road (off which awaits Doncaster State Forest) or—my vote—via gently serpentine Rose Hill Road, winding past a few more historic settings to take Bumpy Oak Road to Bryans Road.

Across Rt. 210 is Kabin in the Korner, a page from the past with its old-time photos and memorabilia on pecky-pine walls.

Having reached Georgetown, head up the C&O—foot or bike only. The tow path is the middle portion of the Potomac Heritage Trail, whose Virginia portion joins at Harper’s Ferry for the march up the C&O to its two-pronged ending— almost 900 miles from its beginning at the mouth of the Potomac.

Or send David Hawxhurst—who did it in a day (see NBT Vol. 1 No. 11)—as a surrogate.

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Who's Here

Jack Frost

With boats stored, foliage gone and not much moving on the Bay, people pay closer attention to the weather. Feel it more, too.

The post-Christmas snow and cold that enveloped the Chesapeake had people wondering what gives. After all, wasn't it just a year ago when folks along the Bay had out their golf clubs? And weren't those New Year's Eve parties on Bay beaches just last year?

Right. But in this part of the world, you never know.

Fact is, we have several inches of snow every four Decembers, according to the National Weather Service.

That pre-New Year's storm had a discerning eye for Bay towns. If you live in the Annapolis area, you got just 2.5 inches. But south, in St. Mary's and Charles Counties, you might have received as much as eight inches.

What do we have to look forward to? January's average snowfall at Washington National Airport is 5.1 inches. The average high temperature is 42; the low 27.

In February, average snowfall climbs to 5.8 inches. The high temperature rounds out at 46, with the low 29.

Winter time, Baysiders often move a little slower; stick closer to home fires. Habits change and so do attitudes.

Animals behave differently, too. If you don't believe it, check out the action at your bird-feeder.

This morning the usually aggressive sparrows didn't chase away the chickadees and the cardinals. All of the birds, among them the woodpeckers and bluejays, dined together.

Unmistakably, the cold and the snow fostered new camaraderie among the birds.

We're watching to see if it works that way for people, too.

(We didn't mention the titmouse, because we have trouble with the plural of that bird. Which reminds us of the story about the gentleman with the snake problem who decided he needed a mongoose. Or two.

Like us, he didn't want to make a mistake. So when he ordered, this is what he said: "Will you please send me a mongoose? And while you're at it, will you send me another one?")

The news about Bay oysters so often is gloomy. Oystering may indeed be a deeply troubled industry because of disease and overharvesting.

But Bay oysters can be found, and they're tasting mighty fine. (The much-discussed oyster diseases dermo and MSX have no effect on people, by the way.)

For the oyster fisher, the days are cold and the proceeds often slim. In the Herring Bay area, Bootie Collins reports that tongers are bringing in between five and ten bushels a day. And the oyster price off the boat has recently dropped to beneath $25 per bushel.

In the precarious art of oystering, you would expect captains to rely heavily on winter weather forecasts. Not so, says Collins, noting how often predictions on the Bay miss their mark.

"In oystering, you've got to get up every day and go out, and if it gets too bad, you quit and come home," he says.

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Special Environmental Correspondent
by Carolyn Martin

Virginia Oyster Closing
Virginia sent a strong message about the plight of oystering in the Bay when it chose not to extend oyster season after New Year’s Eve.

In September, the Virginia Marine Resource Commission decreed the early closing but left open the possibility of re-opening during the new year. But at its meeting in December, the commission decided that nothing had occurred to change its mind.

“Boat effort was very low and catch per boat was very low,”
said Robert O'Reilly, the commission’s deputy chief of fisheries management.

The commission had set a 6,000 bushel limit from Oct. 15 through Dec. 31. When the commission got around to reconsidering Dec. 18, just 4,564 bushels had been taken, 70 percent of which were tiny oysters for reseeding in private beds.

Before the next meeting on Jan. 21, the commission will look at any new information along with some proposals by industry to get oyster boats back on the water.

Where Old Christmas Trees Go
We know an odd woman or two who insist on keeping their Christmas trees until until Easter. Whether or not they had needles.

If yours is still around, consider recycling it when it has blinked its last.

You can find compactor-recycling sites throughout Anne Arundel and Calvert Counties. In Calvert County alone, past recycling of 70,000 pounds of old Christmas trees has saved about 70 cubic yards of space in landfills, according to the Department of Public Works.

And full landfills mean more taxes and proposals for expensive, polluting incinerators.

Of course, we don’t want to hurry you if still love that tree.

Pump Don’t Dump
It’s one of the least pleasant but very real issues for Bay boaters. Marine sewage. Dealing with the waste that comes out of portable toilets is yet one more way people can restore the natural balance of the Bay and improve the future of its creatures.

In Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources is trying to help boaters by providing an environmentally correct sewage solution. The department’s “Pump Don’t Dump” program provides facilities where recreational boat holding tanks and portable toilets can be relieved of their waste.

Now the program is $1.4 million richer, thanks to a grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The goal is to expand the list of marinas with sewage facilities from 100 to every marina that berths boats with toilets.

“We are concerned that many boaters try to treat their sewage on board. Unless it is done properly, onboard treatment can be ineffective. Also, some chemicals used onboard are toxic to aquatic life and cause damage to Maryland waters when discharged,” the department’s Bruce Gilmore says.

What goes around comes around—that’s the strategy for funding the program. The sewage facilities are built with federal and state money, provided by boater taxes. Natural Resources builds the facilities at no cost to marina owners. In turn, marinas can only charge boaters $5 for the service.

So far, the state department has discouraged entrepreneurs from offering competing services.

Call DNR to learn what marinas now pump or to become a pumpout station: 410/974-2939

For the full story on Maryland’s “Pump Don’t Dump” program, call or write for NBT Vol. 1:4. (Send $1 to cover mailing).

Green Eyes
Down, but not out, the Sierra Club will be keeping a very close eye on the North American Free Trade Agreement when it goes into effect in January. The 100-year old environmental group campaigned hard against the trade agreement, claiming NAFTA would have negative effects on the environment.

President Clinton can look forward to hearing from Sierra Club staff and members if he doesn’t produce on his promise to enforce NAFTA environmental side agreement. Specifically, the club wants the U.S.-Mexico border cleaned up, industrial pollution reduced and environmental laws protected from challenge as trade barriers.

Sierra Club president Michele Perrault says NAFTA changed forever the way trade agreements will be negotiated. That means you can expect to see her organization and others keeping a green eye on future trade deals.

Recycled Tires
With the new year comes a new law cracking down on old tires. Beginning in January, Maryland landfill operators won’t be able to bury scrap tires. Only landfills specially licensed for tire collection will be allowed to accept tires.

Marylanders generate five million scrap tires each year, according to the Maryland Environmental Service. That’s a lot of old rubber, gobbling landfill space and posing fire and health risks.

Reduce, reuse and recycle to cut down on that mountain of waste. Reduce the number of tires by retreading; about 12 percent of passenger tires and 40 percent of truck tires are retreaded. Reuse by shredding scrap tires to make bumpers, mats, even flower pots. Recycle so that the rubber meets the road ... and becomes one with it. Rubber asphalt pavement, supposed to decrease road maintenance and increase pavement longevity, is being highway tested in Harford County, Maryland.

Sweet Science
So you ate chocolate over the holidays like there was no tomorrow. Only now tomorrow is here.

Relax, some scientists are making sure you’ll be able to keep eating that sweet substance throughout 1994.

In what probably leads the category of “Projects Most Folks Would Like To See Funded,” scientists are working to keep chocoholics calm. According to the genetic journal Diversity, efforts are increasing to conserve the cocoa plant’s wild relative in the field and the current supply of cocoa germplasm stored in genebanks. Like everything else, “the cocoa plant is threatened by changing patterns of land use and a lack of funding for genebanks,” Diversity reports.

The Cocoa Research Unit at the University of the West Indies is coordinating the effort to make sure there will be chocolate to satisfy your next craving. So far, they’re not looking for volunteers to help with the effort, but we’ll keep you posted.

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