Bay Life

Vol. 8, No. 26
June 29-July 5, 2000
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Welcome to Maryland
Strange Sights, Good Company on Chesapeake Bay
Photo essay by Scott Dine

By 8am, four Coast Guard Auxiliary members waited on a 28-foot Bertram at the head of Whitemarsh Creek. Their day’s work would be escorting the tall ships headed for Baltimore and Philadelphia from Norfolk. From Bloody Point to Sandy Point light, they’d be keeping the curious at a reasonable distance.

Auxiliary member Floyd Martin owns the Bertram, Irish Wake. Martin and his auxiliary crew would spend nine hours on Irish Wake. They received no pay. The only compensation would be for Irish Wake’s fuel.

But the June morning had begun to look like a no-boat regatta for the Bertram.

Two of the tall ships sailed early enough from Norfolk to arrive in Baltimore for the 7am television news shows. No word of more ships and no ships in sight. Martin’s crew wanted to get on the water.
Also on board Irish Wake was a visiting photographer, recently arrived, along with his sailboat, from the Midwest. For him, sailing to Thomas Point Light from Galesville is an expedition. For Floyd Martin and his three Coast Guard compatriots, escorting tall ships was hardly an adventure.

Martin set course down out Whitemarsh Creek, down the Rhode River into the West River, carefully steering through crab pots as Irish Wake made her entrance to the Bay. And what an entrance: wind out of the south at 18 knots, seas one to three feet. Irish Wake whacked through.

Martin’s Coast Guard Auxiliary crew for the day — Aileen Meschter, Chris Pariseau and Bill Webb — peered off into the haze. No tall ships, only a sloop flying a mainsail reefed two points. Irish Wake bobbed and whacked through the chop, whack, whack, whack. Two hours later, back to the protection of the Rhode River for lunch, tied off to a skiers’ raft.

The radio crackles report of a tall ship off Bloody Point. Martin pushes the throttles forward and off we go into a wind that has built to 20mph and waves two to four feet. Up and down, whack, whack, and whack. “Potholes,” shouts Martin and he’s right. Potholes as good or better than anything the streets of Washington, D.C. have to offer.

And then there she is, moving steadily up the Bay, the tall ship Esmeralda, flying the Chilean flag, motoring at seven knots north toward the Bay Bridge. With no sails to tend, her crew of 223 has the day off. She’s escorted by three Coast Guard Auxiliary boats and a Maryland Natural Resources Police patrol craft. Chris Pariseau waves a powerboat away from the Irish Wake’s starboard. Wind and weather have kept sightseers away. A four-masted vessel, Esmeralda is 371 feet long. And she slides neatly under a fresh banner on the Bay Bridge that says, “Welcome to Maryland.”

Esmeralda is turned over to the next escort. Irish Wake and the tide head south into a 20-knot wind. The waves are getting whackier. Distance between waves is getting shorter and deeper.

Suddenly, off the starboard bow emerging from the haze, the bark Europa … flying what appears to be every sail in her inventory, running at eight knots. Ancient technology hard at work.

Also hard at work is Europa’s crew. One climbs the netting hung from the bow-sprite neatly, furling a headsail. Two more climb the aft mast and begin repairs on the top of a sail. Europa’s only motion is straight ahead. Hardly a rough day for the Dutch vessel that works the English Channel and North Sea.

Europa moves northward, waves and wind having little effect on her hull. The governor’s sign and the hum of traffic greet Europa as she passes under the twin spans of the Bay Bridge past the sign:

Welcome to Maryland.


Copyright 2000
Bay Weekly