A Modest Proposal to Enhance the Enjoyment of Our Rivers
by Sy Kotler

Following in the tradition of Jonathan Swift's "Modest Proposal," this end-of-season commentary is a work of satire offered -- and we hope read -- in that vein.

This spring, the jet skis gently glided down a score or more concrete ramps. After happily racing across the waters of the Bay tributaries, they gathered at their favorite ambush points and awaited their natural prey, the deep-vee power cruiser, at full throttle. The blustery winds of spring also called forth the sailboarders with their gaily painted sails. Together, the riders of these craft - sheathed alike in neoprene, some marinated in beer - heralded the beginning of the boating season.

Supplanted by the fiberglass creations of the now-dominant species on the Bay, crowded out or consumed by our expanding population, the native creatures of the Bay have departed for Heaven or the Eastern Shore, the same to some. The loss of the natural inhabitants has left us almost bereft of the traditional pleasures of the Bay, hunting and fishing. Though we can no longer engage in the robust pleasures of the frontier, there are new pleasures awaiting those of us who crave those rugged pursuits.

So, although I know the more timid among us would demur and worry and wring their hands in fear of being thought cruel or heartless, nonetheless I humbly propose new sports and pastimes to replace the old.

The first of these will be the Spring Shoot. Targets will be, of course, those jet skis that are only just beginning to emerge in late March or early April. To preserve the sportsmanship so characteristic of the inhabitants of the Bay, shooting will only be permitted from sailboats hard on the wind or running under spinnaker, the reach being too stable a point to be fair to the prey. The difference in speed will assure that some survive to provide entertainment for the next season. It will be considered very bad form if the hunters adopt the ruse of being fishermen and employ a deep-vee vessel as a decoy.

From personal experience, I recommend 10- or 12- gauge side-by-side or over-and-under weapons, with a 30-inch barrel, also the best choice for the wily goose. Mercy demands the use of #2 buckshot or greater and a range no greater than 30 yards. An acceptable substitute would be the black powder rifle of .50 bore or larger, which can be used at longer ranges. On no account may one use the currently popular MAC-10 or AK-47.

Lest any reader feel that I entertain a prejudice for sail and against power, I propose a second sport, the Powered Gill-Net Event. The prey here are those painted sails and riders that skip across the waves like demented butterflies.

This sport requires both teamwork and stealth. Two powered boats of approximately equal speed have attached to them the opposite ends of a net, which may be no greater than eight feet in height and 50 feet in length, with a mesh no smaller than 24 inches. The hunters must approach the prey in a manner that does not excite suspicion or violate the speed restrictions on the rivers. At an appropriate moment, the hunters spread the net - and may accelerate briefly if coming from astern - to insure the prey is well and fully caught.

Any riders that wriggle through the mesh are free to swim ashore; however the sailboard becomes the property of the hunters. Sailboarders so caught and kept become the property of the hunters. But, since they are an innocuous species and cause no harm, they must be fed and clothed and not mistreated.

On the other hand, the jet ski riders are a pestiferous lot, generating unwanted noise, odors and the occasional oil slick. Once downed, they may be recovered for the taxidermist's art, left to drift and rot with the tide, or, for those of you with exotic tastes, served up broiled, barbecued, stuffed with crab meat, flambeed, or as a ragout. Be sure to remove the neoprene sheath before cooking.

The details of scoring have yet to be worked out and will require thoughtful review by the yacht clubs of the Bay, the Department of Natural Resources, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Marine Industries Association, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Maryland Bar Association, who are currently forming a committee to study the proposal.

DNR, quite reasonably, has proposed that these hunts be conducted subject to permit, seasonal restrictions, in daylight only, and only on the main bodies of the rivers to avoid disturbing the breeding grounds. Although the prey species are not protected, and, in fact, are proliferating, this seems a good idea, as the uncontrolled hunting and fishing of the past are a cause of the depletion of the birds and fish once so numerous on the Bay. Furthermore, the DNR will require that Coast Guard-approved personal flotation devices be worn at all times by the hunters, and that each hunter successfully complete the safe boating course.

Sailor Kotler is a member of the Cape St. Claire Yacht Club, in whose newsletter his proposal originally appeared.

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Volume VI Number 35
September 3-9, 1998
New Bay Times

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