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Volume 15, Issue 36 ~ September 6 - September 12, 2007

Where We Live
by Steve Carr

Wednesday Night Races

At summer’s end, all us species are racing against time

At Wednesday night race time, sailboats converged on the starting line off the mouth of Annapolis harbor. A steady 10-knot breeze blew out of the west, right down the Severn. It was hot, even on my cliff high above the river, where I was sitting after a refreshing swim, watching the sailboat race and drinking rum.

The boats started at five-minute intervals, headed east with the wind at their backs for a mark off Kent Island, where they would then engage in a brisk tacking duel back into town. None of that would I see. I can see the start, then the probable winners coming around the final mark off the point of David Taylor Research Center as they reach into Annapolis harbor and finish at the Annapolis Yacht Club.

As I waited to see who was leading that night, other important races were taking place all around me.

An angry kingfisher exploded from his nest on my sandstone cliff to scold a fish crow sitting at the end of a neighbor’s long dock atop a light pole, doing his nasal cough-call for no apparent reason, there being no other crows in the vicinity. A black-headed, laughing gull sat serenely on a lone piling nearby, ignoring the chatter while checking out the minnow scene. Meanwhile, a black cormorant dried himself after a swim. In their own special way, each bird was locked in a competitive duel for limited resources.

Fighting the Tide

Then I saw something that made absolutely no sense. Wow! I thought. It’s a manatee.

I ran inside to get my binoculars and camera.

It turned out to be a man swimming in the middle of the river, coming from the Naval Academy, struggling hard against both the wind and a strong out-going tide. Once free of the main current’s grip, he slowly made his way, side-stroking relentlessly toward the new rock breakwater Anne Arundel County installed at Jonas Green Park. Three families fishing from the stone revetment watched in wonder as this lunatic emerged from the river without boat or life jacket. The swimmer shook himself off like a Labrador retriever and headed for his car as if he were late for dinner or an important appointment.

As the sun tried to limbo under the dry scud-clouds to the west, a ruby-throated hummingbird zoomed in on the orange-blossoms of trumpet vines atop the cliff. The sky turned burnt yellow as a jet ski and cigarette boat barreled noisily up the river as if racing the sun. A great blue heron squawked angrily from his shoreline hunting perch and flew away toward North Severn in disgust.

A little green heron played counterpoint in up-and-down flight toward the swamp off B & A Boulevard, looking to snag a sunset snack of little fishies.

The sunset show moved to the south and lit up scarlet cumulus clouds rising above the distant horizon like snow-capped mountains.

An osprey dive-bombed the river and came up with a silvery perch, then banked into the breeze and rode it like a wave toward its nest off Ferry Point.

The west wind was also giving orders at BWI that evening, and jets large and small were stacked-up in an unbroken line as they glided in silently from the south and sailed up the Severn River on their final approach to the airport. People rushing toward family and deadlines and who knows what.

Day is Done

The 22-feet Etchells and the big boats finally came into view, cruising toward victory along the Navy seawall.

The Wednesday night sailboat races are both a living tradition and great fun. The races symbolize — dare I say, celebrate — the inherent desire in all species to be happy, even when struggling against one another.

As the sunset breathed its last gasp, the whole sky turned a glowing pink surprise.

From the Naval Academy, the mournful sound of a bugle playing taps rose on the breeze as the American flag dropped slowly atop Cemetery Hill.

As if on cue, a flock of resident geese flew by in a perfect V formation, racing toward Greenbury Point at the end of a late summer day on Chesapeake Bay.

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