Dock of the Bay

 Vol. 10, No. 32

August 8-14, 2002

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The Political Scene ~ Candidates Put Out Their Wood

Six pm July 31 found Dave Wayson abloom in sweat from the ritual his Calvert County counterpart Grace Mary Brady calls “putting out the wood.”

It’s grudging work getting the earth to give or take in these dry times, when sweat runs down the brows to pool in the eyes of farmers and politicians alike. But once politicians have spent an August day planting signs bearing the primary colors of election season, nobody can say they’ve never done an honest day’s work in their lives.

“I tried to use an auger, but the ground was too hard. So I just dug the holes by hand,” said the insurance agent Wayson, who is running as a Republican candidate for District 7 of the Anne Arundel County Council. In the early days of the sign race, Wayson has the lead on fellow Republican Ed Reilly, who he must beat to continue his campaign beyond September 10.

Like deer-hunting with bow, muzzle loader, shot gun or rifle, vote-hunting with roadway signs has a season. It’s illegal to put a sign up earlier than 45 days before the election. If county or state road crews don’t carry it away, your opponent will certainly tell on you. Breaking that rule is why the name of Bill Rinehart, a Democrat running for the same seat as Wayson, played musical chairs with the name George Washington on a big sign posted months ago at the Lothian roundabout.

That sign must have been all Rinehart wanted to do with this form of hunting, because in season, his name is so far rare.

Not so Rinehart’s Democratic opponent Peter Perry. Perry’s green signs — “It’s a grassroots campaign” — sprouted early and often. A few home owners had chosen to decorate their lawns with signs long before the season for candidate plantings. But come July 28, Perry and his sign crews were out digging, first with a fence post digger — until Perry went out and bought an augur.

Road signs must not intrude on state or county right of way, and they must generally be no closer than 10 feet from the edge of the road so that they do not block visibility.

With five candidates, Southern Anne Arundel’s Seventh District — where Perry, Rinehart, Wayson, Reilly and Patricia O’Brien Boarman compete — is the County’s biggest Council field. In Severna Park’s Fifth District, Republican incumbent Cathy Vitale faces a single Democratic challenger, George Maloney. Though they won’t meet on the ballot until November 5, in the war of signs, they’re already going head to head. In the early days, Maloney has outsigned Vitale, but she promises a stiff battle.

“Most are not up yet,” says Vitale, who says the number she plans to plant is a trade secret. But you’ll see her new logo, the red Vitale with prominent V, on 108 signs if you’re counting. Larger signs bear her tag line, “Working Hard for You.”

Vitale, who was appointed to her seat after the sudden death of Cliff Roop just a month after he had taken office, long ago landfilled most of the signs that didn’t win her the 1998 election.

But in Calvert County, Democratic Board of Commissioners Candidate Gene Karol has recycled signs from his unsuccessful race for school board four years ago.

“Oh my, is it cheaper!” said Karol. “Buying plastic strips to change ‘Board of Education’ to ‘Commissioner’ will save a great deal of money. Some of those signs are very expensive.”

With the money the former school superintendent saved, he could have paid somebody to do for him the work he describes as “like digging into concrete, a job for a 20-year-old.” But he says “doing it yourself makes you feel good,” and he’s got young help, his 16-year-old son.

“Boy, have we become expert at using an augur!” says Karol. “I’ve been busting my you-know-what for three days putting signs in from 7am till 7pm.”

Hard as they are to plant, most political signs are simple of message. The name’s the thing, plus a little color psychology, which explains why most signs are red, white and blue. The office sought is usually named, often in smaller letters, but the political party is apparently taboo.

Gene Karol’s green-on-white signs are big — no wonder they cost so much — but otherwise standard. His Democratic competitor Wilson Parran marches to the beat of a different drummer. His red, white and blue signs feature his photograph. That, explains Parran, is to distinguish him from the other Parran in the race, Republican incumbent John Douglas Parran, who is running for reelection. The smiling headshot of a man in a suit also tells voters that Wilson Parran is African American.

There’s more to learn about candidates from the signs they plant. Calvert County Commissioner Republican incumbent Linda Kelley, who styles herself “the citizen’s voice,” reinforces her home-grown image with garage-made Irish green-and-white signs sporting shamrocks. Sure, she’s got her apostrophe wrong — grammatically speaking, she’s claiming to be the voice of only one citizen — but who doesn’t get their apostrophes wrong nowadays? What you see is what you get. It’s a good subtext, if you’re into such analyses.

Which brings us to the boldest sign on the roads of Chesapeake Country. When he ran four years ago, Calvert County Commissioner David Hale planned to plant your average sign. But in his name a friend saw a traffic stopper: Hale, Yes!

Hale had his doubts. But, he recalls, “I asked 30 or 40 people, and they said ‘you’d be crazy not to do it.’ Within a few weeks, everybody was laughing about the signs.”

Well, not quite everybody. Becky Wahl of Chesapeake Beach calls them offensive “because of what they didn’t say.”

Will you see them again this year? Hale, yes.

“I’ve got $6,500 invested in those signs,” said Hale, who calls road signs “one of the most effective means of getting your name recognized. When your signs are not up, people ask why you’re not running.”


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Stalking the Governor’s Cup

Al Holt spent the afternoon of August 2 under water. He wore no mask or breathing apparatus, just a pair of shorts. His arms carving steady arcs, he disappeared beneath the brown water of Burley Creek, leaving a few bubbles behind. Tethered between the dock and a pair of pilings, Al’s boat sat still while he scraped the slime from her belly.

Her name was Stalker, and she looked the part — 33 feet of smooth curves and quiet angles. Her reinforced aluminum mast rose 50 feet from her decks. Inside she was all business; there were no bunks nor galley, just a dry sink and a couple of hard cots.

She was a lean, mean racing machine, ready for the contest ahead — the Governor’s Cup Race, an overnight scramble from Annapolis to St. Mary’s College at the mouth of the Potomac, 70 miles away. Would scraping the slime from her belly make any difference?

“You bet it’ll make a difference,” Al said, hoisting himself onto the dock. A retired physicist, Al ought to know.

Al’s crew assembled as he changed his clothes. First was his wife Edith, who stood in the kitchen, slapping together ham and cheese sandwiches. At 20 sandwiches a race, Al once estimated that Edith made 800 sandwiches a year.

Starting the Governor’s Cup Race was the Maryland Dove, a replica of the square-rigger that brought the first colonists to Maryland.
photo courtesy of St. Mary’s College
That afternoon, Edith also packed fried chicken, apples, carrots, cantaloupe chunks and cucumber slices (pickled and fresh). Jasen Adams hauled the food down to the boat, where he packed it alongside cases of water and Gatorade.

“Racing’s like war,” Edith said as she worked, referring to the planning that goes into such an expedition. Al tries to keep an eye on his “tooth-to-tail ratio,” or the amount of fighting power — sailing power, in this case — compared to the amount of support required.

Jamey Mangus has soldered a lanyard to Edith’s flashlight. On overnight races, Al requires every crew member to wear a life vest, a flashlight and a whistle. The kitchen counter was a clutter of flashlights, whistles and cell phones.

Beyond logistics, there are also strategy and tactics to think about. The strategy of sailing, Al explained, includes what side of the Bay to sail on.

“My strategy this time is to follow the Western Shore all the way,” Al said, hoping a breeze would kick up between the Bay and the shore.

He sat aboard Stalker, her engine gurgling, and stared at the creek’s flat water. Jasen said he heard seven- or eight-knot winds were expected.

“The current will be against us, initially,” Al said.

They were also shorthanded, even after Frank Kendall and Mia Anderson arrived. Al was raised racing sailboats, but it had been a long time since he’d won, and it wasn’t looking like that would change anytime soon.

The sun beat down on her decks as Stalker motored toward the Race Committee boat. Jasen stretched out on the foredeck. Al leaned on the tiller and talked stocks with Frank, who sat propped against the mast. The water grew thick with sails. Among them lumbered a towering freighter. The parchment-yellow sails of the race-starting Maryland Dove — a replica of the square-rigger that brought the first colonists to Maryland — stood off to port.

A man with a clipboard stood on the committee boat’s deck. Little girls hung from the rigging like monkeys.

As he passed, Al called “63026.” The man with the clipboard nodded. One of the girls gave him a thumbs-up. Al cut the motor and the crew hoisted the sails.

Stalker wove back and forth, waiting until 6:15pm, the start time for boats in her class. Watches synchronized, Edith and Mia timed Stalker’s passes. Al wheeled her around seconds before the start. She charged forward, her sails cracking in the wind.

“Watch for the smoke,” Mia said. “You’ll see the gun before you hear it.”

A plume of smoke rose from the Dove’s decks, followed by a cannon’s crack.

“We’re not early,” Frank breathed.

Frank and Jasen hauled the foresail down and hoisted another. Stalker surged forward, pulling ahead of the pack. A second crack pierced the air, louder and closer than the cannon shot. The mainsail sagged as the main halyard snapped.

“Well, that’s it,” Al said. “We’re done. We’re going home.”

He started the motor and wheeled the boat around. Frank watched the crowd of sails disappear toward the horizon.

Again passing the committee boat, Al called, “63026. We withdraw.”

The man with the clipboard nodded. The girls frowned.

“We had a good start,” Al lamented. “We were clear and right where we wanted to be.”

An hour later, Stalker sat tethered between the dock and the pilings. Her captain sat in his living room, surrounded by his crew. The next morning they would race against the sun to replace the broken line, but now they sat in front of the television watching a tape of the America’s Cup.

“That’s the difference between racing and war,” Al said. “You lose a war, all your women get raped and they steal everything you own. You lose a race, you go home, eat some sandwiches and drink some beer.”

Nearly 160 yachts finished the 29th annual Governor’s Cup. They rode high winds down an agitated Bay until morning, then hoisted big spinnakers for a colorful parade up the Potomac. Don Wagner of Shady Side finished first in Stalker’s class, 11 hours and 26 minutes after the start. Wagner also took home the coveted best-in-fleet trophy the second year in a row.

— Brent Seabrook

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A Summer at the Beach Holding Nasty Bacteria at Bay

Kinley Partello spent her summer at the beach helping monitor against water-borne bacteria.
photo by Katie McLaughlin
Kinley Partello reaches a long metal pole with a small jar at the end into the lapping waves of the Severn River at Bay Ridge Beach.

She is one of two students helping the Anne Arundel County Department of Health with its water quality sampling this summer. The program measures levels of enterococci, nasty bacteria that come from the intestines of warm-blooded animals, and you know what that means. Their levels are used as an indicator of water quality and the safety of raw shellfish harvested in a region.

Under Maryland regulations, from Memorial Day to Labor Day the Department of Health samples water from 78 sites on area creeks and streams to test for the bacteria. Local counts are reported through Labor Day at the department’s automated 24-hour information line at 410/222-7999 and online at

If enterococci remain high, they may indicate a sewage leak. But single samples can be misleading, so the health department collects results over several weeks to evaluate and determine whether there is a public health risk. Readings can be raised by a heavy rainfall or by tidal action, which nature can fix in a day or two. Even the arrival of a big flock of waterfowl can skew a reading. But if over time the sample results remain high, the department will look for possible sources of human sewage. Spills or leaks of human waste have the greatest potential for causing disease in humans.

If there is a risk in the water, the department issues an advisory recommendation against swimming and water sports in the area. Once the source of the problem is found and corrected, results must be back to normal — as judged by the state and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be 35 organisms per 100 milliliters of water — for at least two consecutive days before the area can be re-opened.

According to the department’s water quality information line for the week of July 29, Marley Creek and Furnace Branch were closed to water contact, and Rock Creek was closed from Head Waters to Valley Road. Wall Cove and White Cove were also closed on Rock Creek.

Enteroccoci counts for the same week in Annapolis ranged from 82 organisms per 100 milliliters of water at the Severn Sailing Association to 24 at City Dock. On the Severn River, counts ranged from 65 at Arden-On-The-Severn to 13 at Sherwood Forest. South River counts ranged from 59 at Quiet Waters to 10 at the South River Bridge, and Rock Creek counts were as high as 82 at the Pasadena Boatyard to as low as 19 at Kurtz Beach.

Other people might have more fun at the beach than Kinley Partello, whose summer job is now over. But she’s the one who held those nasty bacteria at bay.

— Katie McLaughlin

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Way Downstream …

In Maryland, farmers have until August 16 to apply for the state’s cover-crop program, which pays farmer to plant small grains in the fall. The popular program reduces soil erosion while providing a way to absorb nitrogen and phosphorus pollution that might otherwise seep into waterways …

On the Eastern Shore, the Poplar Island restoration project would get another $10.6 million in government funding under legislation passed out of the Senate Appropriations Committee late last month. The bill also includes $3 million for oyster research and $500,000 for a new project aimed at restoring sea grasses in Chesapeake Bay …

In Londonderry, N.H., Stonyfield Farm has begun its search for “strong women,” the yogurt maker announced last week. That’s strong either athletically, intellectually or emotionally, and it’s part of Stonyfield Farm’s new initiative to encourage women and girls to adopt strength training along with wholesome eating. Learn more at

Our Creature Feature comes from Peru, where there’s trouble with llamas and alpacas, neither of which are strangers to Chesapeake Country. According to reports, nearly 80,000 of these camelids have perished in a cold snap that has dropped temperatures in the Andes to 10 degrees and buried pasture land under deep snow.

Like American leaders who rush to natural disasters, the Peruvian president flew over the llama lands last week to inspect the disaster. Ninety percent of the animals are owned by small farmers, and aid has been flown in to help them in this troubled time.

Copyright 2002
Bay Weekly