21-Gun Salute to
Summer on the Bay
Welcome to Chesapeake Bay summer, where the livin' is easy, the fish are jumpin' and hopes are high. Summer on the Bay is magic, the time when rewards come our way for work and perseverance all year long.
With Memorial Day comes time to grab hold of life's great offerings. Our "21-Gun Salute to Summer on the Bay" shows you how.
As you'll see, you don't have to travel far and spend big to enjoy the Bay. So read on, make your plans and plunge ahead into the wonders that await you along the beautiful and beckoning Chesapeake.
I. Discover a Bay Beach
Bay beaches lack the great sweep of their ocean cousins. Cut to a human scale, most can be measured in footsteps. They're scarce, too, for nowadays development has closed up most Western Shore waterfront. So when you've found a Chesapeake beach, you've found a treasure.
Bay beaches are most accessible by water. Cruise the shore till you find a sandy, deserted strip. If your boat is big, swim, raft or dinghy in. In kayak or canoe, where you're already close in, help yourself. Beaches belong to all of us up to median high tide line, but be a gentle, considerate beachgoer.
At the head of the Bay, Elk Neck State Park offers gorgeous beaches. So does Sandy Point State Park, right under the Bay Bridge (you'll pay park admission).
You'll find many of the mid-Bay's beaches in Calvert County. North Beach boasts what may be the last free public beach on the Bay. Farther south, indulge in the Bay breezes at Breezy Point Park for $4. You'll also pay a small fee to use the beach at Calvert County's lovely Flag Ponds Nature Park. Or take a longer walk to Calvert Cliffs State Park, where your $3 parking fee or $20 season pass helps the Friends of Calvert Cliffs State Park keep up the park. (Both are off Rt. 2-4).
Another beach beneath the cliff is Matoaka Beach Cabins on Calvert Beach Road (also off Rt. 2-4), where owners Larry and Connie Smith charge a small fee for the pleasures of their beach on the Bay.
Once you've found a Bay beach, you'll find a million things to catch your eye: bivalve shells delicate as the wings of moths, iridescent mussels, old-gold oyster and tiny crab shells, barnacles looking like the hungry beaks of young birds, bonsai-twisted splinters of driftwood, the segmented limbs of dried sea grasses, ovoid clay pebbles, amorphous anthracite lumps, beads of quartz. All are polished to gemlike smoothness by sand and sea.
Creep along in the distinctive beachcomber slouch with your eyes fastened to the tide line. Or creep on your knees. Bring a pocket or pouch to stash your treasures.
Calvert County beaches are loaded with real treasures: shells, bone fragments, and especially sharks' teeth that tell a prehistoric story of an ancient ocean teaming with brutes and monsters. Teeth top off at seven inches, which means the Great White Shark that grew them was as big as a box car. But even an ancient tooth as tiny as a rose thorn can be a thrilling discovery. Learn about these treasures from Calvert Marine Museum's pamphlet "Fossils of Calvert Cliffs" (410/326-2042).
Best beaches: Flag Ponds Nature Park, Calvert Cliffs State Park and Matoaka Beach Cabins.
II. Drive a Lap Around the Bay
Better allow yourselves a few days for this one, or better yet, a week. But can you think of a better idea for an inexpensive vacation than a Chesapeake regional auto trip?
Get a map and plot your blend of quaint villages, Bay cities and water sports. Use this New Bay Times list for some hints. The only rule: end where you began. A tip or two: at the northern end, take a break at Elk Neck State Park.
And way down south, take a ferry from Crisfield to the Bay's storied islands - Smith or Tangier. To make the full circle, you'll need to cross on the somewhat spooky Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel for your return, whichever way you're headed. Be brave and don't delay.
III. Switch Gears to Pedal Power
For the best of both worlds, rack your bike on your car. Hundreds of miles of some of the prettiest roadway in the world surround the Bay. A bike gets you in the middle of it all. You can spend 20 minutes or 20 days on either shore, though the Eastern is flatter and motorists fewer. Choose a destination, or go from gas to leg power when the scenery suits you.
IV. Buy a Boat (Or Fix Yours)
Almost any Bay pleasure is sweeter by boat. Summer's the time to get serious about owning your own vessel. This is a buyer's market, whether you're looking for a runabout, a cruiser or a sailboat. Interest rates are as low as they've been in a long time. That helps you afford a new boat. Since that money in your savings isn't earning much, why not convert it into boat?
If you're a boat-owner already, now - while you're thinking about it - is the time to make those on-water repairs. Get your engine purring, canvas in shape, teak oiled or hull brightened.
V. Explore the Back Waters
Were you thinking of something smaller? For some of the best Bay boating adventures, creep into Bay nurseries in a canoe or kayak. In these creeks, marshes and rivers, red-winged blackbirds should make the only sound as herons fish, crabs scuttle, marsh mallow blooms and cattails swell. Paddle quietly and, especially if you enter from the big water of the Bay, skillfully.
Unlike bigger and more obtrusive vessels, kayaks and canoes glide into pristine waters without disturbing wildlife or the environment, offering a tranquil experience in harmony with the Bay and its creatures. Both approximate the glide of water spiders, but in a canoe you're on the water while in a kayak you're in it.
Good trips: Smithsonian Environmental Studies Center on the Rhode River guides fascinating trips (Anne Arundel Co.). Rent a canoe or bring your own to explore Patuxent River Park (Prince George's Co.).
VI. Check a Wreck
You would not believe how many ships and boats have met their Waterloos on the Chesapeake. From the 1600s through the Civil War, naval warfare was a favorite Bay sport, with dozens of ships blasted to the bottom. Likewise, the Bay has seen its share of passenger ship disasters, among them the burning of the Wawaset in 1878, which claimed 76 lives.
Build up your knowledge; plan to visit a wreck in its own element some day. Among the best books is Donald Shomette's Shipwrecks on the Chesapeake. While you're at it, read Shomette's Pirates of the Chesapeake, get yourself an eye patch and earring, put a rubber knife between your teeth and terrorize some neighbors.
VII. Get Crabby
In Bay country, you've got three good choices: steamed crabs, crab cakes and soft-shelled crabs. With the whole summer ahead, you've plenty of time to do them all. More than once.
Steamed crabs demand a feast. Start by gathering all the friends you'd love to spend a couple of hours with.
You can feast on crabs at home, cooking them yourself or buying them steaming hot and spicy from a crab truck. Or you can eat them at a crab house. Either way, you need plenty of butcher paper (or old New Bay Times) to cover the tables, paper towels to wipe your hands, spices and vinegar to perk up the flavor, crab mallets, and maybe little crab knives and forks. Dump a steamer full of bright red, red-hot crabs on the table. Pick your crab and dig in.
Whatever your crab cracking style, we guarantee a good time.
Then it's time to explore soft-shell crabs. If you've not eaten them, the eight wiggly legs and two claws sticking out of your sandwich may make you squeamish. If you have, you know few foods in the world are better. But do you know who serves the tastiest of all? Or know how to cook up a batch yourself? You'll have to find out the former for yourself. For the latter, pick up a copy of Bay gourmet Whitey Schmidt's Crab Cookbook at any ship's, marine or bookstore.
Nor will you want to forget that manna from Bay heaven, the crabcake. We suggest you devote a good part of your summer to finding the Bay's best crabcake.
You've got nobody but yourself to please and the whole Bay's your - if you'll excuse the mixed metaphor - oyster. You can anchor your hunt in a single spot or reconnoiter the whole Bay. You can take a day, a week, all summer - or the rest of your life. You can set your own rules for degree of spice and method of cooking. Just one tip: we find our favorites in out-of-the-way places - sometimes very close to home. Good hunting!
You're in for enlightening experiences and the probability of discovering gold in the least promising places.
VIII. Ride a Ghost Train
Chesapeake Railway Museum makes you wish you could share this ride with the legions of Washingtonians who left their cares behind them when they boarded the "Honeysuckle Route."
From 1900 to 1935, their destination was pure summer pleasure: the cool waters of the Bay gilded the resort town of Chesapeake Beach. It must have been better than Ocean City, with its over-the-water rollercoaster, carousel, race track, casino, bathhouse and long boardwalk.
Today's conductors are locals who had a part in this chapter of Bay history, folks whose fathers and grandfathers worked on the railway or in the amusement park. Models, photos, and even an old "Model A" taxi round out this trip down memory lane.
Bands strike up the old spirit in the Summer Bay Breeze Concert Series on the second Thursday of each summer month, June 11, July 9, August 13 and September 10 at 7:30pm.
Summer hours (through September) 1-4pm or gladly by appointment: 410/257-3892.
IX. Get Jazzed
You don't have to go to New Orleans to check out this proud American music tradition.
With music that ranges from Dixieland roots to latest sounds, area musicians warm the hearts and soothe the souls of audiences.
By night, you can jazz up your summer almost every night of the week. On Sunday evenings, the Topside Jammers play Dixieland at Galesville's Topside Inn. On Mondays, Stef Scaggiari and his Trio play Jazz on the River, opening the mike in the second half of the evening at Surfside 7 in Edgewater. Fridays and Saturdays, listen at Annapolis' King of France Tavern.
By day, the weekend of June 6 and 7 returns JazzFest to Annapolis. Dance the evening of June 6 away at the Cool Cat Caper from 8-Midnight. Come the 7th, noon-6 brings the Annapolis JazzFest Concert, w/Monty Alexander, "Jamaica's Piano Man," with Keter Betts; Susannah McCorkle singing in tribute to the great jazz local, Charlie Byrd; the Charlie Byrd Trio with Derek DiCenzo; Unified Jazz Ensemble; and Main Street Octet, all in festival setting with refreshments and jazzy wares.
All on the Banks of College Creek at historic St. Johns College in Annapolis: 410/987-3559.
X. Charter Fish
This is a very good idea. Just like people, fish return to the Bay each summer. But finding those fish can be iffy. Access to good shoreline and docks isn't always easy (unless you or your buddy have a boat) and if the tide isn't right, forget it. You need a captain who knows this Bay.
Charter captains do. Plus, they're talking to one another on the radio all day to see who's seen the fish. On a charter, not only do you catch fish, you also learn. So the bluefish aren't what they once were? On a charter boat, your captain will put you on top of flounder, jumbo spot, sea trout and fish that taste better than blues.
So grab some friends, make a day out of it and plan a memorable fish fry for evening. Look in New Bay Times for charters, or find them in most towns along the Bay.
XI. Bar Hop in a Boat (but be careful)
For a chunk of fun on a sultry summer evening, try cruising for cocktails. You'll need some friends for this one; perhaps a designated captain or two. There's nothing worse than a drunken bum at the helm.
That said, pick a calm day, start early and hit a crab house or three. Most any eating and drinking establishment has temporary docking. So ease on up, tie off and tip one.
On a humid Bay evening, we recommend frosty mugs. We also recommend picking spots near one another, not blazing with a snoot full from river to river or across the Bay. Make sure your lights are right in case you don't make it in before the moon comes up.
XII. Take a Dip
Nothing beats a dip in the Bay for relief from the searing summer sun. The Bay has beaches for walkers-in, but the choicest swim is in deeper water from a boat. Start early and, in summers like this when they're supposed to show up late, you can beat the sea nettles.
If you like to see the Bay but not swim in it and you don't have a pool in your backyard or marina, the best bet on the Bay is Chesapeake Water Park, an extravaganza of pools, rivers, slides and sprinklers overlooking the Bay in Chesapeake Beach: 301/855-8398.
XIII. Look for Luminescence
What's that stuff glowing in the Bay with you during your evening swim?
Dinoflagellates. They're tiny organisms-probably plants rather than animals-that live among plankton. You can see them only because they're so numerous. And because they glow in the dark.
Look for the glow in wakes of boats, on the crests of waves, and on swimmers rising from the night-black water.
XIV. Get Struck by a Rising Star
Annapolis' Summer Garden Theater, at Main and Compromise across from City Dock, the harbor, offers refreshing theater - including singing and dancing - under the stars Thursday through Sunday. The season opens Andrew Lloyd Weber's Joseph's Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat , continues with William Shakespeare's A Mid-Summer Night's Dream and concludes with Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate, adapted from Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. Typically these evenings are well worth their minuscule price. Call 410/268-0809 for their recording.
XV. Learn How the Bay Works
The world's biggest estuary has many mysteries. Learn a few of them, and it will be good for dinner conversation, not to mention the Bay.
What is the source of the Bay, anyway? How do tides work? What good are oysters other than for eating? Are wetlands something more than bird sanctuaries? Where does most Bay pollution come from? Why do islands vanish? What causes salinity and what does salt have to do with the prevalence of Bay creatures, sharks and seahorses among them?
While there are many sources for these answers, try Tom Horton's Turning the Tide for some of them.
XVI. Pick Your Own
Along roadsides, in gardens and pick-your-own farms, you can help yourself to the Bay's bounty of fruits and vegetables from apples to zucchini. Tastes are garden fresh, prices a bargain, and amateur picking's a treat. To find out where to supplement your garden (or your friend's), pick up your copy of the 1998 "Maryland Direct Farm Market and Pick-Your-Own Directory" from any county library.
XVII. Make a Batch of Jam
What better way to remember the bounty of summer than to whip up some jars of jam? Easy, economical, and fun to do and with almost zero chance of failure, "jamming" brings you the sun-fresh taste of strawberry, peach or nectarine jam when winter's blowing up a storm outside.
Directions are on the back of any box of jelling liquid or powder at your grocery store. In about an hour, with very little effort and little special equipment, you'll have a half-dozen glistening jars of summer memories to share and savor.
XVIII. Sip and Smile
Thanks to the Mid-Atlantic Wine Festival, you don't have to import from France to enjoy world-class vintages. Taste the wines of Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Delaware while enjoying musical entertainment ranging from world beat to acoustic rock. Also enjoy beers from the areas micro-breweries as well as a locally provided cuisine featuring ribs, pit beef, fruit, cheese, bread, and crepes, all for $16. June 26-28 at the Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds in Crownsville: 410/280-3306
XIX. Travel to Maryland's Past
Early colonial history comes alive in this reconstructed 17th-century setting. St. Mary's, the fourth permanent settlement in British North America, boasts a full-sized replica of the Dove - one of the colonial ships that first landed there - a tobacco plantation, an archaeological dig, hiking trails, a restaurant and even costumed "living history" interpreters.
St. Mary's remained the capital of the colony until the 1690s, when Protestants wrested control from Catholics and established Annapolis as the colonial capital.
Help celebrate the planting season May 23-25 in all the farms and fields, learning by watching, listening and doing ($7.50 w/age discounts). Other festivals continue throughout the summer.
St. Mary's (located off Route 5 in Southern Maryland) is open through November, Wednesday through Sunday: 800/smc-1634.
XX. Savor a Seafood Festival
Bay dwellers know the connection between fish and good times, as we see from the abundance of seafood festivals this summer. Crabs, crab cakes, fried fish, sweet potatoes, corn, and homemade bread are only a few of the offerings at the Bay's many feasts. So break out of the eat-and-run routine and join the fun.
Highlights include the St. Mary's County Crab Festival June 14 (301/863-6328) · the Tilghman Island Seafood Festival June 17 (410/886-2677) · J. Millard Tawes Crab and Clam Bake at Somers Cove Marina in Crisfield, July 15 (410/968-2500) · the Rotary Crab Feast at Navy Stadium in Annapolis, Aug. 7 (410/841-2841) · North Beach Bay Fest on Aug. 22 (301/855-6681) · The Annual Skipjack Race and Festival Sept. 6 & 7 on Deal Island (800/521-9189).
Get a full list from Maryland Department of Agriculture Seafood Marketing Program on the web at www. mda.state.md.us.
XXI. Read NBT All Summer
Look for new installments of Bay life, lore and pleasures each week in New Bay Times, the newspaper for people committed to the Chesapeake. Pick up your copy, free, at any of our hundreds of distribution points. Or pick us up in your mailbox. $50 brings NBT home all year: P.O. Box 358; Deale, MD 20751 · 410/867-0304
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VolumeVI Number 20
May 21-27, 1998
New Bay Times
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