Volume 1 Issue 15 1993
November 4-17

Previously inaccessible archives from 1993-1997 now coming on-line, with more each week! Note that this is working copy (uncorrected text, no photos, including covers).

Diving Deep into Bay History
Sailor’s Log: From Bay to Gulf
I: Refitting
North Beach Learns to Recycle—from Kids
Burton on Bay vs. Bombers

What would we see if the waters of the Chesapeake Bay were rolled back?
Marine archeologist Don Shomette knows. Bay Life

Four young men build character as they refit a 29-foot sailboat.
Now the Atlantic will test how well they’ve built.

50 kids spent two summer weeks on the Bay.
Now they’re missionaries for the Bay way, spreading the gospel of recycling and conserving.

Dock of the Bay
On organic learning, postal efficiency, horse and rhinoceros mutilation, plus the spoils of fire, volcanos and war

Burton on the Bay | Editorial | Letters to the Editor | Commentary | Bay Reflections

Who's Here | Politalk | Diversion & Excursion | Laughing Gourment

to the top

A Sailor’s Log from the Chesapeake to the Gulf
Installment I: Preparation
by Adam Smith

“A little too ambitious,” I thought as I looked at the enormous pile of debris surrounding the Cal ‘29 on blocks. Perhaps the idea of creating a new boat from the hull up was naive, but we had tools and gumption and nothing to do for three months. And we had this boat. Actually Stowe Teti owns the boat; Darin Linebaugh, John Gill and I work on it. We have all either just graduated or are about to graduate from St. Mary’s College of Maryland, and we all have varying degrees of sailing experience. The prospect of rebuilding a perfectly nice cruising sloop into a stark white, function-over-form, racing boat was intriguing and crazy and seemed to be something on which to build character. We were right.

The project was born before most of this crew started kindergarten, in the July heat of 1975, as a blue and off-white 29 foot sloop, laid-up by hand. It’s still a sound hull and tells few stories. One, however, came with the boat.

During a summer storm on the Eastern Shore, she settled a little too forcefully on the top of a piling. An occupant in the head at the time of the puncture might have been surprised to find a large vertical log paying a brief visit to the forward thru-hull fitting.

An Eastern-Shore yard won the nasty task of cutting a three-foot by three-foot section out and replacing nine layers of roving with alternating cloth. When we inspected the boat, we found little evidence of the repair besides the subtle change of pitch with a knuckle rap against the re-roved port side.

Stowe purchased the vessel in November 1991, updated it, repainted it a sort of midnight blue and renamed it Stoweaway.
We delivered her to St. Marys in one long day with a Northwest Chesapeake stiff breeze. It was cold and rained from sun-up until we fell exhausted in our dormitory beds at 0300. She sailed well under a genoa and single-reefed main.

Overpowered? Yes, but we wanted to prove her worth in the most dangerous of seas. We also wanted to go as fast as possible in this somewhat heavy cruising-class sailboat. And we went fast: from Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Facility to the ominous gas off-loading and distribution dock north of Point Lookout, we averaged 8.2 knots.

Sailing almost every weekend on Stoweaway, which Stowe left moored just off the college waterfront, we learned how to sail together. When he went back home to Carmel for the summer, I watched Stoweaway for him. When the 1992 fall semester started, we hatched a plan to sail her to California the following summer. In dry storage in March, we began to dismantle her from the inside out; replacing bulkhead, portals, and floor-pans. California was shortened to Corpus Christi, Texas via the Florida Keys, avoiding the Intercoastal Ditch. Summer 1993 was postponed to fall.

Fall arrived, and with the addition of Darin and John, construction resumed with renewed vigor. We began by replacing the main bulkheads with 1/2 inch laminated plywood, yielding a combined thickness of three inches. The ceiling was tongue and groove fir-coated in West System epoxy and finished with two-part varnish, a far cry from the original off-white non-skid. Working forward, we began construction on the galley—an amidships arrangement centered on the new five-by-seven mahogany mast compression post. The cabin-top support beams were one-inch by five-inch mahogany headbangers (John and Darin are both over six feet tall while Stowe and I are in the five-foot-ten range).

Just this week we have installed the engine-to-gearbox mounting plates and the new packing cord to prevent leaking. John has placed hinged quarter-berth panels on the engine compartment and has installed the engine-box as well. His dogged determination and conservative disposition keep us all from running into problems, though his happy-go-lucky attitude may be the result of an overdose of cuprous oxide; he sanded the entire bottom and repainted with Regatta Baltoplate. John will be the navigator.

Darin has installed the anchor roller and has restrung the bow-lights. Recently he has stripped and repainted the mast and boom, mounting new bails for the space-saving cabin-top mounted traveler. Darin has placed the new winches on the comings in the cockpit—a pair of used two-speed Barlows will drag the genoa in nicely. The centerpiece (actually it sits to port on the cabin-top, aft of the traveler) is the self-tailing, two-speed Lewmar 30 mounted winch for hauling the mainsheet, hoisting the rope halyards and occasionally ungrounding from Chesapeake super-goo. Darin has proven invaluable for reminding us that this is a vacation. He will be first mate.

Stowe tries to redirect all our misguided fumblings. Though we harass him, we recognize that he has read and retained a tremendous amount of material. His custom woodworking experience has awarded us a mahogany table, galley counter, navigator’s table and electrical box. The rest of the boat, to add emphasis to the massive wooden accouterments, is stark white. It is so white that when you open the cabin door you expect a light to come on, exposing wire racks and a thermostat. Stowe has built and installed davits for the dinghy and is wiring the boat this week. Stowe will be our captain.

I am in charge of making the engine run the way it should (the bane of owing metric tools, I suppose) and cooking on the trip. I can also sail pretty well but all the experience I have is in dinghy sailing and square riggers. I look forward to testing ancient, nautical recipes on the guys.

After a series of frustrating setbacks, we are nearly ready. This week will see the launching, mast raising and engine aligning party all in one day. We plan to sail the second week of November (God willing) with a shakedown up the Bay through the C&D Canal.

Adam Smith worked for two years as a second mate and historic interpreter of the Dove, the St. Marys-berthed replica of the Lord Baltimore’s expeditionary vessel.

to the top

What Did We Learn this Summer?
Enough to Teach Our Parents & Communities How to Take Better Care of the Bay
by Donna Reifsnider

About 50 children from area towns got the chance to do something unique this hot summer. Some lucky adults got in on it, too. I was one of them, along with Beth Braden-Bugenhagen of Rose Haven. We were supposed to be teachers, but sometimes the role between teacher and student got rather fuzzy, and fun was the province of everyone.

It all started with a little-known, grassroots program ambitiously called CORES—Children Organized for Responsible Environmental Service. In our three, two-week classes (16 children per) at the Twin Beaches Community Center in North Beach, we learned about the Bay, its creatures, its watermen, its history. We sailed on a genuine draketail oyster boat; we went to the Jug Bay Estuary Preserve, the Calvert Marine Museum, Flag Ponds and the Chesapeake Railway Museum.

We learned about recycling and cleaned local beaches. We wrote letters urging citizens to start an active recycling effort and read them at the North Beach town council meeting. We sponsored a recycling booth at Bay Fest in North Beach, where we showed arts and sculptures made from recyclable materials, and talked to thirsty visitors about recycling.

We collected sharks’ teeth and fossils at Brownie’s Beach and made murals, homemade paper and videos of ourselves talking about the Bay. We partied on the Beach and teased the jelly fish and got stung. Domino’s and Subway sent us pizza and subs. Our videos appeared on Jones Intercable.

Now summer is gone, but we’re still talking about what we did and learned. And that’s good for our communities because everyone who listens will learn about the benefits of recycling and conserving and being careful about what we dump down the drain.

We’re still telling our communities what we learned. Six of us appeared on Jones Intercable’s Channel 6 program about children, “Nooks and Crannies” this fall to explain curbside recycling to Chesapeake Beach and North Beach, where community recycling starts Nov. 10. North Beach is also seeing recycling videos made by CORES kids summer: they’re airing on American Cable TV’s Channel 18 Wednesdays at 5pm throughout November. CORES also paid for the recycled paper the town’s how-to-recycle brochure is printed on.

CORES began three years ago to encourage community recycling. What better way than through children, thought organizer Dehlia Sher. By the summer of l992, the children’s educational environmental group had funding and support from the Chesapeake Bay Trust, the Cultural Arts Council of Calvert County and the towns of North Beach and Chesapeake Beach.

This past summer, Beth and I were asked by Dee Sher to expand it. We designed an ambitious program to introduce kids to the Bay. We believed that love would follow naturally and flower in long-lived kinship and responsibility to that environment. We were enthusiastic. We would teach and learn with hands, noses and ears, experiencing biology, ecology, anthropology, music, fine arts and video production. Community leaders, artists and specialists joined our efforts.

One favorite was Calvert County Recycling Coordinator Steve Kullen, who not only contributed lively videos and an entertaining spiel on recycling but also taught the class to make paper. Author Mick Blackistone came with copies of his books The Day They Left the Bay, Broken Wings Will Fly and The Buffalo and the River, which he autographed, telling the children about how clear the Bay used to be when he was a child.

None was more popular, however, than Captain Bob Besse of the Draketail Marine Project in Churchton who took the children on three unforgettable trips across the Bay in a genuine replica of a Draketail oyster boat—the John Gregory. On board, we learned from him about the settlement of the Bay, that oysters used to grow as big as plates, and that erosion and pollution are killing Bay life. We visited long-time waterman Norm Cummings and watched him crabbing from his own draketail boat. We picnicked on High Island. We sailed to St. Michaels, learned how Bloody Point got its name and swam in The Hole.

Museum curator Harriet Stout entertained us for more than two hours with tales of the railroad and the resort history of Chesapeake Beach.

Even so, the children and their parents make the best testimony.

Brenda Rose, of Chesapeake Beach, happened to see the only story about the program in the local paper and enrolled her son Matthew, age 9. Matthew admits he loves the outdoors and says if he hadn’t done this program he would have spent the summer swimming and, less pleasantly, working on math and reading. Instead, he was fascinated by the Drum Point Lighthouse, moon snails and “how scallops push out their stomachs.” “I take paper and tin cans to school to put in the recycling bin,” says Matt, who goes to Beach Elementary. He even taught his little sisters how to make paper. “We put leaves and stuff in it, too, and put it on the roof to dry and I think it blew away,” he admits.

“I got a lecture regarding things I buy and saving plastic containers,” Brenda laughs. “The price was unbelievable ($39 per child for two weeks). That made it available to everybody,” she says.

Sharon Lyster, of Waldorf, brought her daughters Kim, 8, and Sherb, 11, because the family wasn’t “going to get a vacation this summer and she wanted them to do something special. Sharon, who has taught in public schools, praised CORES: “We had visitors later in the summer and my children took their children to the beach and dazzled them with what they had learned. You would think these children were long-time beachcombers.”

Clips of Kim talking about natural ways to unclog a drain and Sherb interviewing sunbathers at North Beach about recycling appeared on Jones Intercable’s Channel 6 in late August.

Lauren Henry, 11, and Christina Garner, 11, both of North Beach, are good friends. Christina, who was in the first summer session, invited friend Lauren, who had just moved back from Florida, to join the program. Lauren was skeptical at first but now she’s glad she did it. “You knew you were doing something that's helping the environment and having fun, too,” she says. Lauren’s mother, Mary Ann, got involved too and chaperoned the children on board the John Gregory. “Now, notes Lauren, “we recycle our grocery bags, too.”

“My friend who came to Bay Fest said it was really neat,” says Christina. “She was really bored over the summer watching TV and eating junk food, and she was impressed with the art work she saw. Another friend asked me where I was because I wasn’t around for two weeks and I told her we’re trying to make the earth better and we’re learning about the Bay.”

Christina’s father, Bobby Garner, says Christina, was “really excited. If she wasn’t she would have lost interest after a couple days,” he said. “I heard about it all the time.”

Lauren said the boat trip to St. Michael’s was her favorite activity. “We got to steer the boat. We were the sailors, not the adults. We were conducting it and learning how to find our way around and it was so fun. I also thought Jug Bay was neat, like watching a bug eat a leaf and all the different birds and fish and sounds they make.

“I loved making the video, and it was neat to see ourselves on TV. Our friends think we’re famous now,” says Lauren. She’s also a better friend of the Bay. She uses less water and soap and says that dumping leftover chemicals down the drain is not a good idea.

“We were learning but we were having fun.” That’s how Christina sums up CORES.

North Beach Starts Recycling
North Beach talked about recycling for years, but the idea didn’t get off the curb until Councilman Charlie Gray told Mayor Alan “Buck” Gott that he’d like to take it on as his own project.

On November 10 at 6am, North Beach will have its first curbside collection, thanks to Gray’s efforts in conjunction with Calvert County’s Bureau of Solid Waste Management and Office of Recycling.

Nearly 2,500 town residents have received a yellow bin marked with their house numbers, a letter introducing the service and a brochure explaining what is and what is not acceptable material for collection. The brochure itself is printed on recycled paper paid for by CORES. Collection days will be the second and fourth Wednesday of every month.

North Beach’s curbside recycling will keep an estimated 350 tons of garbage from going into the landfills and lower trash collection fees by about $7,500 a year, Mayor Gott says. A town truck will collect recycling and deliver it to the old sewage plant at the end of Dayton Avenue, where they will be stored temporarily until Laidlaw, a recycling company in Landover, picks them up for separating and recycling. North Beach alone generates about two million pounds of trash each year.

Eventually, recycling will mean huge savings at the landfills, where fees for handling garbage go up every year, says Gott.

Generally, residents may fill their bins with brown, green, clear (and red, blue and yellow) glass food and beverage containers; metal cans (lids too); plastic soda, milk, water and juice bottles and jugs; and laundry detergent bottles with recycling emblems #1 or #2 stamped on their bases. Old newspapers (dry and clean) and tied in bundles or bagged in brown paper will be collected, too.

North Beach joins other Maryland communities to achieve the state Recycling Act of 1988 goal of reducing every county’s landfilled trash by at least 15 percent by 1994. The state will grant no building permits—meaning no new homes, offices, schools, remodeling or deck or pool construction—for counties that miss the mark.

— DR

to the top

Greening of Annapolis?
Most of us realize we’re beyond the day when we can afford to keep poisoning and plundering the earth. But as we struggle to pay bills and keep up with so many demands, we sometimes forget how doing small things can help our wallets as well as our world.

That’s why a project like Green Gardens—sponsored by the Alliance for Community Education— is so valuable in reminding us what to do.

What is Green Gardens? It’s a common-sense approach to living that goes well beyond the garden. It recommends:

  • Cutting out pesticides and cutting down on fertilizers;
  • Composting food scraps and yard waste;
  • Growing organic vegetables and fruits;
  • Planting native plants;
  • Using rainwater for gardens;
  • Planting trees and building arbors to make energy-saving shade.

The Annapolis-based Alliance for Community Education is moving swiftly to spread its ideas with slide shows and to apply Green Gardens as part of the curriculum at Anne Arundel Community College. As the plan goes, students could set up an alternative lawn and garden service.

Green Gardens is the brainchild of Ann Pearson, 62, of Annapolis, who founded the Alliance last May based on what she has learned in a varied life that has included working in the theater and running an inn.

Back in the ‘70s, Pearson grew weary of what she describes as the suburban commercial culture. So she packed up her son and daughter, then 16 and 13, and moved to a log cabin in the Maine woods.

There they lived primitively, packing in supplies and growing much of what they ate. The teens were schooled at home until college.

“It really transformed our lives,” she recalled.

Now, Ann Pearson is trying to turn attitudes along the Bay toward sustainable living.

“The concept underlying what we do is that sound environmental principles also are sound economic principles that can have social impact,” she said.

Cultural Outposts
With a resounding “Welcome,” postal customers and staff in Deale and neighboring communities ushered in Pat Pruitt as their new postmistress. From 1:30 to 3pm, Deale Post Office's back office, ordinarily closed to customers, was opened up and spruced up with seasonal decorations, seating, hors d’oeuvres, punch and cake.

Pat, who lives in Rose Haven, has been keeping communications flowing for eight years in Southern Maryland communities, where the PO is a cultural center. As postmistress in West River (AA County) and Cheltenham (PG County) she’s put her patrons first by keeping herself readily available to them, offering quick, personal responses to their questions and requests and expediting the mail.

Installations are serious. Like weddings, they need witnesses. In such ceremonies, everybody assures everybody else that society is civilized and efficient. Bill Minor, who manages post office operations for part of the 207 area, introduced Pruitt, praised her “outstanding performance” and swore her in. Gene Calvert, of Anne Arundel County’s Department of Human Resources, offered his assistance for the future. Postal staff from other South County post offices showed Pat’s professional community’s support. Postal customers stopped by, as if to say keep up the good work, keep our mail moving.

Pat Pruitt, bringing communities together throughout South County for eight years, is now postmistress in Deale. It’s official.

— Liz Zyltiwis

Animal Attacks: “Dark Minds” At Work
Spooky, unexplained crimes are the worst, and crimes by sick people the most frightening. The string of shocking horse mutilations in Maryland has all of these features.

Since June, seven cases of brutal and seemingly ritualistic horse abuse have been reported in four counties. The most recent happened near Mitchellville in Prince George’s County in mid-October when a stallion’s genitals were cut as it grazed in a field.

The 12 year-old animal, named Revere Paul, had to be put to death from a neck injury that occurred when he tried to break loose from a rope drawn tightly by the attacker.

This was the first stallion after a string of mares. All of the cases have the common thread of bizarre attacks with knives in the same region of the animals’ bodies. The crimes have produced high anxiety, to say the least, among the horse crowd in Maryland.

“Most of us are a combination of outraged and frightened,” said Mary Johnston, of Woodstock, the owner of three horses bred for dressage—complex maneuvers resembling gymnastics for horses.

Deri Jeffers, a highly respected American Show Horse Association dressage judge, said that people are deploying extra caution.

“We’re totally appalled. This is just crazy and absurd,” said Jeffers, of the Eastern Shore. She observed that horses are very trusting of humans, which makes the crimes sadder yet.

Tfc. Gary Bachtell of the Maryland state police, who is coordinating the investigation, said that he is consulting police nationally and internationally for leads.

He said that the attacks in Maryland all do not fit the same mold and that police have not ruled out the possibility of cult involvement. Bachtell said that police had not assembled a profile of the attacker.

Others have.

Those who know horses are certain that it’s a man because of the strength needed to restrain big animals. They think it must be someone who knows horses, perhaps someone vengeful toward the elite world of horse owners.

“This is not just a bunch of kids who decided to pick on a poor horse,” said Johnston. “My image of the attacker is of a man who has some great dark spot in his mind about horses and horse people.”

Kathy Schwartz, operator of the Days End Farm Horse Rescue in Mount Airy, believes that the attacks are carried out by more than one person. She recalled that one of the mares was a previously abused and extremely shy animal unlikely to stand still under normal circumstances.

History and trends suggest forces at work beyond Maryland and beyond Virginia, where attacks on nine mares occurred three years ago.

Animal mutilations occur distressingly often, and some experts attribute them to satanic worship. In England alone, more than two dozen mares were attacked in the past two years. Among them were three animals owned by musician Davy Jones, a member of the Monkees—the 1960s’ singing group.

In the U.S., the mutilations happen most frequently in the West. On Sept. 28, two horse heads were found on a street in suburban Phoenix. Three days later, a passer-by discovered 23 bird corpses with body parts missing.

Two years ago in Arizona, after eight cattle and a horse were attacked, authorities said flatly that it was the work of Satan-worshippers.

One of the strangest cases occurred at the Denver Zoo last year, when an Australian black swan was slit with surgical precision. A year before, precisely to the day, another black swan was killed at the zoo in the same gruesome fashion.

Dogs, cats, goats, roosters, chickens and doves—all have turned up mutilated around the country in recent years. Many times, stumped authorities have attributed the crimes to supersecret cults performing rituals of sacrifice, perhaps during an underground holidays.

Who knows what evil lurks.

Back in Maryland, a reward has been set up to help track down the attackers. Horse owners sleep fitfully with the mystery unsolved. Horses that once were turned out nights are locked in the barn with dogs that used to sleep in the house.

“People are being very careful,” observed Deri Jeffers.

Mysteries like this belong in a Dick Francis novel, not in real life.

(Donations can be sent to: Star Reward Fund. c/o Days End Farm. P.O. Box 157/Fund. West Friendship. MD 21794.)

Way Downstream...
In California, the fire that devoured ritzy homes in Laguna Canyon may have been deadly to threatened wildlife. Fires can revitalize habitat by creating soil nutrients. But in this case, the canyon is home to many of the last of 300 or so gnatcatchers, tiny songbirds facing extinction ...

Nearly three years after the shooting stopped, Kuwait’s environmental toll from the Gulf War has become disturbingly clear. Geologists meeting last week in Boston reported at least 240 oil lakes in Kuwait from spilled oil caused by fires and bombing.

Thousands of flamingoes in Kuwait have mysteriously changed colors—from brilliant pink to dull white. Why? Flamingoes get their color from shrimp, and now many of the shrimp are dead from pollution...

Some of America’s worst public relations happens at sea. Remember the infamous garbage barges and Khian Sea waste ship prowling the globe in the 80s, looking for dumping grounds? Poor countries don’t like this because they don’t have the technology and plastic-lined dumps to handle toxics.

Now, the famous luxury liner, United States is reported by Greenpeace to be headed toward the Ukraine after being turned away from Turkey. United States, homeported in New York, needs a place to unload all the asbestos being stripped from her interior.

As far as PR, the ship couldn’t have a worse name ...

How about some good news on the technology front? AeroVironment Inc., an aerospace company in California, is building a solar-powered platform to study the environment from space. The 100 foot-long, unmanned vehicle, which looks like a giant wing, will carry sensors to monitor pollution, track storms and spot forest fires...

This week’s Creature Feature is a twinbill. Some of those geologists meeting up in Boston concluded that dinosaurs didn’t die from asteroids. Rather, they believe that dinosaurs succumbed to a lack of oxygen caused by volcanic eruptions.

Meanwhile, discoveries in Hong Kong show how people are stuck in the past. An environmental group called the Environmental Investigation Agency says at least half of 90 medicine shops still sell rhinoceros horns despite laws that prevent it.

Horns of the endangered rhinos are valued for what people believe is their aphrodisiac power.

to the top

Hey Klan: We’re Watching You
Something ugly occurred recently in Southern Anne Arundel County. Something I’d rather not think about. Something I’d rather not remember. It haunts me like a dream, and perhaps I am not alone. Perhaps there are others who would rather not know, who would rather not remember. Worse still, perhaps some aren’t bothered at all.

A couple weeks ago, on a bizarre October night full of contradictions, off a small road along the Bay, the Ku Klux Klan held a recruitment “rally.” As one of the Klan organizers obsserved, “not too many people know about us down here, so we thought we’d come show them what we’re about.”

Thank you, but I think we already know what you’re about.

You’re all too familiar. You’re in the news every day, from places like the former Yugoslavia or South Africa. You’re in the history books, played out in the rise of Adolf Hitler.

You’re about hate. A commodity that’s never in short supply and is never less than ugly.

When I read that the Klan was bringing their hateful message so close to home, I was outraged and sickened.

Granted, our constitution guarantees you the right to gather, to speak and to protest in the name of your krooked cause. Still, no law could make it good.

As a journalist, I could not ignore this, as I’m sure most people of good will did. Nor could I stand and join the throng of several hundred candle-holders, although my heart was with them as they silently protested a few blocks from the site of the “rally.”

No, I had to know the nature of the beast, to look it in the face and hear its hate-filled words.

The neighborhood was unnaturally quiet despite the flow of passing cars filled with people swiveling their necks for a glimpse of ... who knew what. Everywhere, police stood in clusters or sat in their squad cars, alert for the first sign of violence. Though they reported no outbreaks, the feel of palpable violence floated through the air.

Standing in a small group along the sidewalk, Klan organizers asked, “are you here for the rally?” They wore combat fatigues and jackets—no white robes. I nodded my head and the man reached to an extension cord suspended in the air and flipped a switch illuminating the wooded pathway.

The whole thing felt like something from the Puritan stories of the moon-lit gatherings of witches and devil-worshippers. As I negotiated the twisted roots and broken, rotting pallets that laced the trail, I kept expecting that old cloven-footed sooty fellow to jump from behind some tree and offer me God-only-knows what.

Finally I stumbled into a clearing filled with about 50 people, among them a few wearing white, hooded robes. There were no blazing bonfires; no people dancing naked under the moon. The only devil these people worshipped was hate, and it hung thick in the air like the scent of skunk. Yet speakers made regular references to Christianity, God and Jesus. An application for membership, handed to listeners at the rally, promotes the Klan in the name of Christianity.

For anyone who might believe that, and has nevertheless read this far, the teachings of Christ, stress peace and love.

The Klan and other groups of their ilk know nothing of these things. They cower under hoods and darkness, waiting to catch us off guard. They are the proverbial wolf in sheep’s wool, and we must not fall prey to their tricks.

Who are these hate-mongers?

Aside from members of a local motorcycle gang, whose clubhouse was the site of the “rally” and who “have nothing to say,” the entire event was organized by people from counties distant from the Bay. Some were from Frederick County, others from Cecil.

Still, locals showed up. Some were curious. Others interested. People came and went at too steady a clip. Young and old, men and women. All white. Our neighbors, perhaps. Maybe our children. Some even spoke to the crowd, trying to stoke the hate in their own community.

But down the road a much greater show of numbers—hundreds of silent, candle-holding protesters, made up of young and old, men and women, blacks and whites—refused to let the hate fester unchecked.

Similarly, we must all take a stand.

Here along the Bay, prejudice still abounds, but we have learned to live together more or less in peace. The local histories of blacks and whites are entwined together, and perhaps this shared history has increased our tolerance.

There are exceptions, of course. For instance, according to the independent Klan monitoring group Klanwatch, there’s a Klan chapter right in Edgewater. But on a large scale the Klan has not appealed to Baysiders. Most people here have long since rejected the hate and violence the Klan represents.

Yes, we know what you’re about, and we urge everyone to take a stand. Prejudices and differences aside, let’s not give these people an excuse to come back. Don’t fall for hate.

to the top

Happily Puzzled

Dear New Bay Times:
I look forward eagerly each week to your excellent paper for a variety of reasons, one of which is the cleverness of your word puzzles. As a lifelong puzzle fan, I find those with cryptic clues as well as dictionary definitions to be especially challenging and satisfying.

They are far more diverting than the excessively easy ones in the Washington Post and are easily worth the cost of my subscription. Please keep them coming and don’t be tempted to make them any simpler or easier.

The harder, the better.

— E.B. Smith, Fairhaven Cliffs Md.

NAFTA Backers Speak Out

Dear New Bay Times:
Your editorial opposing NAFTA (The North American Free Trade Agreement) is not well thought out. Of course environmental protection and labor laws in Mexico are not up to U.S. standards. But then neither are those of China, Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand, where low-skill jobs are headed without NAFTA. Unfortunately, those countries buy their high-tech parts, machine tools, product design and research-and-development from Japan, not from the U.S., as Mexico and Latin America do.

Today, economic developing in Mexico is artificially crammed into narrow strips opposite U.S. border towns. Workers from the interior of Mexico are displaced to this border and find it easy to make the last few steps into the U.S. after learning basic skills and saving a little cash in the maquiladoras.

Your newspaper knows all about the consequences of too much development in too small a space along the Chesapeake. It is no wonder that the Mexican border is falling behind on basic infrastructure. We do not believe our society has “progressed” to the point where we will build a Great Wall of North America and shoot them as they try to cross. We have no choice but to encourage economic development in our neighbors to the South. NAFTA will do just that.

All the Mexican horror stories cited by treaty opponents took place without NAFTA. Establishing commissions, rules and guidelines will bring these issues into the sunshine easier and sooner than happens today. No, it is not a panacea. Mexico will not get the AFL-CIO Award of Merit or the League of Conservation Voters Country of the Year Award if NAFTA passes. But it would come closer to these labor and environmental goals than it does today or will tomorrow without NAFTA.

We must admit that some supporters damn the thing with faint praise by treating it like a good dose of cod liver oil that will help us in the “long run.” Horse manure.

In today’s lightning-fast economy, we will spot the long run on a watch, not a calendar. The signal we send to Mexico, Latin America and the rest of the developing world that we care and are willing to let trade, not aid, guide their development is in our best interest now as well as later.

— Jim Caldwell and Jan McFarland, Fairhaven, Md.

Editor’s note: Good points. If things move so quickly, why not fast-forward to NAFTA II, and get an agreement that does more to help displaced U.S. workers and has a bigger hammer to force Mexico to curb its human rights abuses?

Faraway Fans

Dear New Bay Times:
Greetings! While on our R&R this August, Kim and Wayne Langford, and Kathy Gramp and Scott Smith gave us copies of your newspaper. After reading the August issues several times, we were so homesick.

So, we decided to subscribe to New Bay Times to fill us in on “hometown” news.

— Margaret Knight, U.S. Embassy, Bucharest, Romania

From Lusby to Dover, Read All Over

Dear New Bay Times:
We have a summer home in Lusby, Md., and really enjoy this paper. Thanks.

Please send us a two-year subscription.

Ken and Vonnie Zeigler, Dover, Penn.

to the top

Practice Earth Control
by Kevin Mackessy

Protecting the environment takes more than slogans and banners. It takes action! We can’t continue to throw everything away and expect that someone in the future will clean our mess. We need to practice Earth Control. How? Simple: reduce, reuse, recycle and react. Cutting down on trash starts at home.

Reduce Waste
Become a selective shopper. Try to avoid products with excess packaging. packaging makes up approximately one-third of the average household’s garbage and accounts for 13 percent of the price you pay for food. Buy in bulk where possible. Buy refillable items like razors and pens. Try to buy products made from or packaged with recycled material. Choose materials that are convenient for you to recycle. Reducing waste saves resources, energy, landfill space and money.

Buy Reusable Products
Glass jars can be used for many things at home. Glass is also easily recycled. Repair, resell or donate your used items whenever you can. Have a yard sale. Call a charity; many will pick up items from your home. Try renting items you use infrequently. You’ll save money and your garage—and our landfills—won’t be filled with unwanted items. Be concerned. Avoid products harmful to your health or environment.

Recycle All That You Can
Twenty to fifty percent of what we throw away is recyclable. Drop-off centers abound; curbside pick-up is spreading throughout the state. If you’re like most of us, you get tons of junk mail. Please don’t throw it away. More than 40 percent of the waste material in our landfills is paper. Reuse yours. Blank backs can be cut, even glued, into scratch pads. After you’ve reused your paper, save it up in brown paper grocery bags for recycling. Mixed paper, which is refused at most recycling centers, is accepted at Aid to Retarded Citizens’ center on Spa Road in Annapolis.

Recycling your grass clippings and other yard wastes through composting helps reduce your contributions to our landfills. Using a mulching mower also helps. Many models are now available, including nonpolluting electric mowers. Composting is a natural and safe way to convert yard and vegetable waste into rich organic humus. Humus can then be used on your garden to improve the soil and help retain water. When you feed your soil, it’s less likely to need chemicals—which almost always have harmful side-effects. Don’t have room to compost? Many counties and towns run large-scale composting facilities and supply you with stickers to label your organic wastes so they can be added to the pile. Either way, you’ll reduce the trash you discard another 15 to 20 percent.

Get Involved
Write to manufacturers of over-packaged, non-recyclable or environmentally harmful products. Contact your state, county and local representatives about your environmental concerns. Support your community recycling effort. Ask for recycled paper when you buy paper or printing services.

My family of four recycles and reuses virtually everything. We throw away only one 30-gallon container every two weeks. You too can make a difference. Give your trash a second chance. Please practice earth control.

Kevin Mackessy of Columbia writes on Southeast Asian affairs as well as environmentally sound living.

to the top

Fata Morgana
by Bruce Bauer

If you go by way of Morgan le Fay, it’s not so long a way as you might think from the Chesapeake Bay to King Arthur’s Camelot court.

Morgan le Fay was one of King Arthur’s less affectionate sisters—in fact, a formidable adversary, for she was a bad-seed student of the wizard Merlin. Morgan became an accomplished sorceress. Her great potency was unhampered by social conscience. Three times she plotted to kill her king-brother, perhaps motivated by his overbearing goody-goodness and maddening forgiveness toward everybody—including herself. He was, however, wise enough to be cautious when his mean little sister was in town—up from Calabria in southern Italy where she reportedly lived in a castle nestled at the bottom of a deep lake.

Morgan la Fay’s bad reputation is summed up in her name. “Fata”—from the Latin fatalis,—means fatal, deadly or destiny. In Italian, it means fairy, elf or deeds done by such spirits. In English, Morgan la Fay translates to Morgan the Sorceress or Witch.

You’ll hear her name and see her power right here on our Chesapeake Bay, where she makes mirages appear.

Relating the elegant evil lady to a mirage was probably the work of superstitious fishermen in the Straits of Messina, between the island of Sicily and the top of the toe of the Italian boot. Calabria, there on the mainland where Morgan lives, is a moody land with brooding mountains.

Some days, the fishermen working in the Straits saw strange distortions of the land. To navigate to good fishing spots, they had studied the features of the coast; some days seemingly familiar features were weirdly aberrant. The fishermen thought they were seeing spells cast by Morgana from her underwater castle, so they named the spectacle “Fata Morgana” in her honor.

On windless autumn days, Morgan’s spells appear on the Chesapeake. The Eastern Shore seen from Herring Bay—a distance of nine or ten miles—is usually a thin and discontinuous line formed by the very top of the trees. But on Morgana’s days, the shore looks bold, thickened and magnified. Nearer islands—such as Coach’s, south of Poplar—seem elevated and notched on the ends like arrow nocks.

Ships coming up the Bay in the channel are grotesquely stretched in the vertical so that they appear to be towering above the horizon. (“Towering,” in fact, is another name for the illusion.) Through binoculars, the image can be seen to be composed of the regular imaged topped by an inverted mirror image. Colors are startlingly intensified. The atmosphere near the surface of the earth seems to shimmer like heat waves rising from a hot highway. But the day is not hot; it is autumn and the sky is clear and the air crisp.

If not Morgan le Fay, what is producing these illusions?

The key condition is a sharp and significant difference in temperature between warm water and cold air. There must be no wind. Then air warmed by contact with the water surface bulges up against the cold air layer, forming a lens that refracts some of the light rays reaching the eye from the distant shore. Other rays from the same objects pass under the lens unrefracted in warmer air. Think of the lens as an inverted glass saucer looked through edgewise.

I saw my first Fata Morgana from the bridge of the destroyer USS Ingraham (DD 694), approaching the Straits of Messina. The Ingraham was my first ship since as I had been commissioned as an ensign. There the mountainous coast makes the illusion much more dramatic than on a low shoreline. I had been reading, during a dull watch, the instructions for keeping the ship’s deck log. They included a long list of phenomena which should be mentioned if seen. Fata Morgana was included but not defined. I looked up the term in Bowditch.

On the very next watch, I was amazed to see great mountains shimmering upside down in the distant early morning sky. I duly (and smugly) logged in the sighting, trying to make my handwriting clearer than usual. Later the executive officer, who reviewed the logs, called me in his cabin to ask—facetiously, I hoped—“Who is this Fats Morgan you logged in off Messina?”

Three images may appear during severe refraction conditions—a lower one right side up, an inverted image on top of it, and a third on top, right side up, high in the air. That’s what Bowditch says, but I’ve never seen it.

If you do when you’re gazing off at the Eastern Shore one day, please photograph it and let me know.

Bruce Bauer is a retired Navy destroyer commander and a captain in the Merchant Marine.

to the top

Who Needs the Bombers? We’ve Got the Bay
Ah, come on. Do you really, really care whether Baltimore gets a football team?

And, no, this question is not suggesting that we’re switching to a sports column; it’s just a matter of priorities. We’ll get back to a more appropriate subject—fishing—a bit farther on, but first let’s clear the air on a few things associated with all the hullabaloo: the moaning and the groaning about how the Baltimore Bombers bombed.

It was about at the same time the National Football League decreed a nearly month-long extension on deciding on Baltimore’s bid to house the Bombers that the Department of Natural Resources granted an extension of its own. It stretched the recreational rockfish season by two weeks, pushing back the close from Nov. 7 to 21.

Curiously, the biggest participation sport in Maryland didn’t get much timely media coverage on this. Newspaper space and precious radio and TV minutes were diverted to the post-mortems of Baltimore’s apparently losing bid to once again field an NFL team. You’d have thought the skies were falling not only on Chicken Little but also on all the football fans between Philadelphia and Washington.

A Chesapeake Bay oil spill the likes of Exxon’s Valdez disaster would have been back page news in the press—a 10-second blip on the electronic media. How could the NFL’s sanctimonious brethren even force Gov. William Donald Schaefer, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke, Herb Belgrad, Boogie Weinglass, Malcolm Glazer, and all those many thousands of football fans (who didn’t support the Colts when they had them) to wait nearly another month before learning whether the Bombers would have a landing strip in Baltimore?

So Charlotte got one of the teams. So what? So, the delay probably means Baltimore won’t get the remaining slot. So what? Philadelphia and Washington aren’t such long drives for the fan who prefers being in a stadium to taking in the action couch-potato style.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve nothing against football; it’s one of the few things I watch on the tube. I played it in high school and on scrub teams at Goddard College; some of my favorite fishing companions were Weeb Ewbank, Eddie Block, Charlie Winner, John Unitas, Billy Ray Smith, Freddie Miller and so on. But aren’t we carrying all of this too far?

Don’t you—as do I—get the impression that the media and a large (excessively large) segment of the general public consider the most important contemporary issue is whether the quarterback for the Baltimore Bombers gets to toss the bomb half a length of a football field in Baltimore, which isn’t far from the Martin Co. that produced the B-26 Bomber?

Never mind that Martin’s B-26 wasn’t that much of a decisive factor in World War II—the B-24s and B-27s were the effective workhorses. The Ravens would have been a better moniker. Not only are they associated with Edgar Allan Poe’s best known literary effort, they’re also an exceptionally smart and enduring bird. Even the suggested Rhinos would have been more appropriate. Bombers!!!

But forget about names, even forget about the media overlooking the extension of the rockfish season—which incidentally will affect enough anglers to fill a football stadium. But don’t forget for a minute the more deep-rooted implications of contemporary priorities.

The Chesapeake Bay is in more trouble than Baltimore without a football team. The Bay contributes more to Maryland’s economy than a football team—never mind its recreational opportunities. More than a million people fish the Chesapeake in the course of a year; hundreds of thousands crab in it; countless others sail, boat, waterski or whatever in it. Millions of dollars are made—or at least were—by its commercial fishermen.

And don’t give me that old line about the role the Bombers would play in publicizing Maryland across the nation. Go to, say, Salt Lake City, and announce your Maryland origin. Would they ask you about the Bombers?

If you know the answer it isn’t a question. They’d ask you about the salty Chesapeake Bay oyster. Go to Kalamazoo; they’d ask you about the Maryland blue crab. Boston, they’d ask about the Chesapeake Bay shad.

Yet, when it came to the anticipated closing hours of NFL deliberations in Rosemont, Ill. (where’s that?), there were Gov. Schaefer and his crew, presumably at state expense, pacing the floor like will-be daddies outside a delivery room.

If only the Chesapeake … well not only the Chesapeake, but all of Maryland’s natural resources could get that kind of attention, effort and financial considerations. Our efforts on behalf of our resources are bush league by comparison. Are not our priorities skewered?

Again, if you know the answer …

Interest from bond issues to finance a football stadium construction—as with the Orioles’ home diamond—would operate the entire state parks system annually. Yet we have early closings and late openings of state parks because of lack of funding. We have state parks operated partially by volunteers because there’s no money to pay salaries to full-timers.

Hey, ask a left tackle, never mind a star quarterback, to donate a Sunday’s pay to help finance a stadium! You can’t even get a free autograph from a sports luminary at a card signing these days. With some, the going price is $8—in the range of a Chesapeake Bay fishing license with a rockfish permit to boot.

And when we build a stadium, who are we doing it for? We’re doing it for an owner whose prime consideration—forget all the hometown hoopla—is to make money. When the team loses, as all teams do at some time or other—and so-called loyal fans stay home, that owner’s team is history. The Baltimore Bombers could be the Chepachet, R.I. Bombers.

Remember, Bob Irsay was only one of several who did it, and I’ve no argument with that. It was his money; he owned the team. The fans chose not to support him, so why should he support them?

Remember, too, that we don’t have to worry about someone moving the Chesapeake Bay, or, say, Rocky Gap State Park, which brings up another sore point in the neglect of our recreational and natural resources.

Today, the dollar is almighty. So at Rocky Gap, Gov. Schaefer—always on the alert for reaping financial harvests for Maryland—has successfully pushed for constructing a professional golf course, ala Jack Nicholas. Do we—who find healthy and stimulating recreational pursuits at state parks—think for a minute that a place like Rocky Gap will continue to be a campers’, boaters’, fishermen’s, hikers’ paradise once hordes of golfers parade to the tees?

Golf will bring in the money, the publicity, and a grand park in Allegheny County will become just another money-making tourist trap. The original concept of the park will be secondary. Forgotten. What park, what project will be next?

What funds will be next. The governor and the General Assembly continually search out ways to dip into Open Spaces and other dedicated funds to relieve us of moneys originally destined to benefit the outdoors oriented. It’s a constant chipping away of our due.

Talk about the community or statewide “dribble down” financial benefits of a major sports team all you want, but what about the same with those who hunt, fish, camp, hike, birdwatch, picnic? They spend money, too. Lots of it. A couple decades back, a national campers association encouraged campers to use silver dollars as currency on their jaunts to enlighten local businesses about their economic impact.

It worked. Maybe we should consider that.

Maybe, no, certainly, the powers that be should be cognizant there are healthy, wholesome—and economic benefits—beyond stadiums and multi-million-dollar athletes and owners who wouldn’t know an oil spill from a martini polluted with too much vermouth.

Think I’m upset? I am. Money will not buy the pleasures I—and probably you, too—get from our natural resources. What we learn and what we do in our outdoor pursuits are important aspects of our lives, even our well-being. Humans must have affordable, wholesome, healthy and soul-cleansing relief from today’s madness of today if society is to endure.

Many paragraphs back was the news the recreational season for rockfish has been extended, even though as far back as last spring DNR and the Striped Bass Advisory Board warned the regulations would be set in stone. The change was called for: recreational fishermen, because of rockfish migratory patterns, water temperatures and too many windy days, caught only half of what was anticipated. Give them a chance to catch up, to meet their quota.

Though the weather is now less predictable, days on the water are usually colder and more blustery, the rockfish are there and will remain through the extension. Charterboaters will find the same in their season scheduled through Nov. 21 from the beginning.

Allow me to tell you what it’s like out there on the water. I have just returned from a chumming trip aboard Capt. Bruce Scheible’s Ellen S out of Scheible's Fishing Center at Ridge—a trip that was among my best ever on the Chesapeake.

Though the legal minimum size for rock is 18 inches, we imposed a voluntary 24-inch minimum, and promptly released all fish of less than that. Yet in two hours, the seven anglers aboard had their limit of two each. We had released more than 100 fish—all of which would have met the 18-inch legal minimum.

Nearby and also chumming was the headboat Bay King with 40 aboard. In two and a half hours each fisherman had two fish of 18 inches or more. The previous Sunday, 80 anglers on the Bay King got their limit.

It’s the same in the mid-Chesapeake for boats chumming at the Stone Rock area. From the Rod & Reel Docks at Chesapeake Beach, the headboat Tom Hooker also carries parties to their limits almost every time out.

Fishing like this is expected through the remainder of the season. Don’t miss it.

to the top

Don Shomette: This Underwater Adventurer’s a Historian
by Eli Flam

Some 40 years ago, marine archeologist Don Shomette—who grew up near the Patuxent River—was transfixed by a pulp-fiction tale. A cataclysm in “the not-too-distant future” tore a hole in the Marianas Trench, at six miles down the deepest underwater point in the world, and sucked in all ocean waters.

What intrigued him was the revelation of what lay on the bottom: ancient cities, continents, lost lands like Atlantis. Relics of forgotten civilizations, hundreds of thousands of shipwrecks—Roman triremes, Spanish Galleons, majestic ocean liners…

“In the 40 years since,” Shomette says, “all these things have been revealed to us through marine archeology.

“Now we can go to the depths of the Marianas, and I’ve participated in this evolution.”

What would we see if the waters of the Chesapeake Bay were rolled back, as in the pulp story of his youth?

Up to 10,000 shipwrecks, Shomette estimates. In his book Shipwrecks on the Chesapeake (Tidewater Publishers) he documents more than 1,800 sunken vessels, recounting the stories of dozens of those disasters.

Historians examine documents. Archeologists go to the “physical remnants created by men and women,” Shomette explains. “Each vessel that sinks may become … a vast storehouse of the technology and culture of its day,” he writes in Shipwrecks.

The Chesapeake preserves its own history.

Even before the English came, the Spaniards had explored the Patuxent river. But the British staged the river’s “prime event.” During the War of 1812, British forces sailed to Bladensburg, then a deepwater port, from there marching to sack Washington.

Even earlier, Royal Navy forces raided and pillaged up and down the Bay, in that time “virtually a British lake.” Operating from a fortified base on Tangier Island, they harassed commerce throughout the Tidewater. Marylander Capt. Joshua Barney, a Revolutionary War hero, planned to stop them.

He organized a “flotilla” of 27 sailing and rowing craft. They sparred with the British, holding them off for months in what Shomette describes as the only major U.S. military incident in the Bay area. Finally Barney’s grab-bag flotilla was locked into St. Leonard’s Creek. To avoid capture, the Marylanders sunk their own vessels.

“Barney couldn’t even get reimbursed [by the U.S. Navy] for his clothes,” Shomette recounts. “The attitude was, ‘You lost.’” In time he died from his wounds. The sunken hulks, salvaged in part after the British withdrew from the Patuxent, were largely forgotten, although watermen lost nets on the uncharted remains.

Then, in 1979, the Calvert Marine Museum and Shomette’s Nautical Archeological Associates found the fleet. The discovery waited for a remote-sensing survey. Underwater visibility is only a foot or so: the river gets some 286 tons of silt per year per square mile.

“Pay dirt,” says Shomette, “was four and one-half feet below the bottom.”

In arduous 12-hour days of diving inside a 4 x 4 x 8 foot wooden cofferdam, ceramics, cannon balls and pipes were recovered. Each item found, including a “tooth key” for extractions, was numbered to create a “mosaic of day-to-day life.” The expedition was one of the first to be videotaped; slides also made formed part of an exhibit that ran for 10 years at Calvert Marine Museum.

The ship they found was carefully crafted, unlike most of Barney’s hastily built fleet. “From all evidence,” Shomette deduced it was the flagship USS Scorpion. When the expedition ran out of money, the ship’s hold was filled in with sediment to assure the site’s continued preservation.

However, Shomette says, “our survey team was permitted to leave a memento of their own, a plastic milk jug, tightly sealed, containing the names of the last persons to visit.”

Another venture led Shomette out of Chesapeake Beach to the middle of the Bay with fishing boat Capt. Varice Henry, in search of the wooden propeller steam packet New Jersey, sunk in 1870 after a fire at sea.

Though visibility below was less than one foot, Capt. Henry, who “had never donned a wet suit in his life,” guided them right to the spot. “Just go down the anchor line, boys,” Shomette quoted in Shipwrecks, “and head due west. Turn right at the first mudbank and you can’t miss her.”

The New Jersey was a regular, hauling merchandise and produce on the Baltimore-Norfolk run. For her discoverers more than a century later, she was “a frozen moment in time.”

Shomette has located Civil War prison camp building foundations a half-mile offshore at Pt. Lookout and searched for original 17th-century settlements of Kent Island. His latest book, just out, is The Hunt for HMS De Braak: Legend and Legacy (Carolina Academic Press). The battered warship, thought to contain up to $500 million in Spanish treasure, was recovered with bitter controversy in 1986 in Delaware Bay. (One of his earlier books, Pirates on the Chesapeake, is in its third Tidewater printing.)

His latest project takes him to Mallows Bay, on the Potomac below Indian Head. He first visited this remote, rugged stretch of river in childhood visits with his father. Now, with Mike Humphrey, director of the Potomac River-St. Clement’s Island Museum, Shomette has identified more than a hundred “sites” ranging from prehistoric Native American log canoes to sunken freighter fleets from World Wars I and II.

It’s not just adventure and the lure of exploring such sunken “time capsules” that drives Donald Shomette. He sees his mission as sharing an underwater heritage endangered by our headlong ways. We’re literally burying a rich part of our past in accretions of underwater mud. And, he complains, we’re doing too little to exhume it.

He holds out hope for action from the U.S. Senate, where a bill has been discussed to fund historical marine archeology by income from breaking up mothballed, still afloat World War II merchant ships for scrap.

“Then again,” he considers, “some people consider them historic, and 50 years from now …”

Donald Shomette lives in Calvert County. Eli Flam, his profiler, is a retired foreign service officer who lives in Port Tobacco, in Charles County.

to the top

Get ‘Em while You Can
Deale’s VFD Serves All the Oysters You Can Eat
by Sandra Martin

Oysters outnumber eaters by dozens to one at a Chesapeake Bay ritual oyster roast. Roasts like this are feast days up and down the Bay, tributes to the good ol’ days when oysters were harvested in such plenty that roads were paved in their discarded shells. Nowadays oysters are few but oyster fanciers’ appetites remain undiminished.

Deale boasts the biggest appetite of all. Tommy “Muskrat” Greene used to worry the firefighters. “We don’t make any money on Muskrat,” former fire chief Ray Mudd would say.

Muskrat can consume 288 oysters in a gulp. That’s an authenticated world-championship rate. But Muskrat’s style has been cramped now that Guinness has expunged feats of gluttony from its Book of world records. Now Muskrat, former world record holder in both oyster slurping and snail snacking, stays home on his houseboat and the firefighters make money.

Even so, Deale firefighters are preparing for hearty appetites. Heading their shopping list are 30 bushels of oysters in the shell and 36 gallons of shucked oysters. That’s some 9000 oysters, according to the reckoning of fishmonger Charlie Smith of Martin Seafood in Jessup.

Throw in another 1200 clams for variety, as the firefighters do, and that’s a heap of eating—all for the fair price of $18 for all you can eat with all the beer or soda you can drink thrown in. For this weekend’s season-opening oyster roast, the firefighters don’t scrimp. Because oyster eating is seasonal—in Maryland the mollusk isn’t harvested between March 31 and October 15—feasters won’t yet have dulled the edge of their appetites.

On Roast Saturday, the firehouse is stuffed with folks stuffing themselves with oysters. Whatever the weather, it’s shirtsleeve warm inside. In the egalitarian mass, tattooed forearms brush against pink polo shirts. Gnarled watermen, Bayside locals and some of the thousands of weekend sailors who dock their pleasure boats at Deale stand in the same lines and feast at common tables. Bikers and yuppies get along.

This afternoon of the oyster is dedicated to eating. Anybody not squared off against a heaping plate of raw oysters, steamed oysters, fried oysters or oyster puffs is likely lined up for seconds. The long line for the blue-plate special—fried oysters with ham, bread, baked beans and salads—moves steadily. Frying is fast when tray upon tray of “patted” oysters—double-breaded oysters dipped in egg and milk—wait in neat rows for the hot fat.

But like Muskrat, real oyster eaters like ‘em raw best of all. So the line for oysters on the half shell lingers. The shuckers are pros—Deale natives and watermen—who work at their own pace. The firefighters’ roasts are marathons, not sprints. Endurance counts in a contest waged against hundreds of razor-edged, tight-lipped, mud-slicked bivalves. Fortified by free-flowing beer, the shuckers take each shellfish as a new challenge.

Wedge in the blade, pry open the shell, discard the shallow half. Now carefully—avoiding chips of shell, globs of mud, the occasional marine worm, spilling as little liquor as possible—slice the soft gray flesh free from its mother-of-pearl bed. It takes a while to shuck an oyster, certainly longer than it takes to slide the sweet softness down an eager throat.

For most of the roast’s four hours, the crowd feasts as though oysters were endless.

They aren’t, anymore.

We’ve know that for over a century. The mid-1880s were oysters’ great days. The whopping 12 million bushels scraped from the Chesapeake in 1883 fed the nation. Since that heyday, harvests have plummeted: seven million at the turn of the century, two to four million bushels from 1940 to 1980 and still falling. In the 1984-1985 season, Maryland oystermen took only about 1.1 million bushels from the Bay. The past two seasons’ catches have fallen farther still, to a little over 120,000 bushels a year. Why has the Bay’s oyster crop crashed? Overfishing, disease and pollution.

Scientists, fishery managers and watermen are working frantically and spending millions to revive what was once Maryland’s premier fishing industry. To cut down on fishing pressures, weeks continue to be trimmed off the season. Oystering used to be limited to the “R” months, September through April. Now, instead of September 1, oystering begins on October 15—the latest ever—and ends March 31.

To grow more oysters, the state pays oystermen to drop old oyster shells to make new oyster beds, then “seed” them from oysters spawned elsewhere—in nurseries or troubled beds.

But like all the other best-laid plans of regulators and replenishers, seeding hasn’t worked very well. That’s because oysters are as vulnerable to acts of nature as to acts of man. When the going gets tough, the poor little things can’t get up and go.

Eating them where they lie are two voracious diseases: MSX and Dermo. Whether safe nursery seed is planted in infected beds or seed is removed from diseased to safer waters, the infestations continue; so far, they have no cure. While they don’t transfer to humans, they sure do get oysters.

“The race is to see who gets there first, the oystermen or the disease,” says DNR’s Ron Klauda.

No wonder Deale feasters eat as though there were no tomorrow.

Feast at the Deale VFD on Drum Point Road, on November 7 from 1-5pm. $18.

to the top

In the Air
Birds I: Swans Arrive

Nov. 2—On the morning of the first frost, a noisy squadron of swans proclaimed their seasonal arrival to a pair of Bay joggers. This airborne gaggle of five strapping Tundra swans glided low over our neighborhood marsh, drained by the low tide.

Soon, 50 or more of these stately birds will be landing here regularly like Concords dropping from the sky. Until March, all over the Bay, they will be part of our lives. But on this day, our squadron only circles the wetlands, banks to the east above the joggers and then heads north along the Bay.

Scouts, no doubt, seeing what a summer and fall hath wrought on their favorite haunts. Checking what the Great Blizzard of ‘93 and then the drought that followed did to the old Chesapeake, their winter splashing ground.

For some of our friends, the new season begins after the World Series. For others, at Halloween. For still others, not until after Thanksgiving.

But for us, these travelers from the Far North soaring in precise formation on a crisp morning just after the Hunter’s Moon signaled the turn of autumn to a new time of year.

I spotted an odd sparrow at the feeder. Chubby. Fluffy. Same color as the others. Slightly different markings, but who keeps track of sparrows? There are so many and, frankly, we’re tired of them since this feisty flock of over twenty chased most of our regulars away. Still I wondered about the chubby one.

Later my neighbor pointed out some birds popping up and down while they hopped busily around her garden. Plump. Grey with white belly. Short pale beak, dark eyes. My guess was juncos, confirmed by the bird book. As a bonus, there was a picture of my feeder visitor—a female junco.

Juncos, members of the sparrow clan, will winter over most of the U.S. after breeding in the mountains perhaps as near as Virginia or as far north as Newfoundland and Alaska.

In the Water
The lower the water temperature drops, the more the rockfish school. For anglers in the last of the striped bass season—amateur and pro alike— this schooling makes the hunt more pleasurable.

For the amateur report, we consult Farley Peters of Fairhaven, who fished on the Vigilante II out of Deale. Her report is short and as sweet as the rockfish meat: three fat rockfish for herself and her chums, all in the 30-35 inch range.

Capt. George Prenant, who runs Stormy Petrel charter out of Deale, is the pro. He says that fishing has been excellent up and down the Western Shore.

“They’re finally starting to school, and the best action is at 38-65 feet depths. Best baits are spoons and parachutes,” Capt. Prenant says.

For fishing folks not as swift as charter captains, the fish are easier to find now that they are schooling, breaking and being marked by gulls.

Seize the day.

(For an updated report or to book a charter, call Capt. Prenant at 301/261/9075.)

to the top

Sandy Point Spruce Job
If you’ve been to Sandy Point State Park lately, you’ve probably noticed the improvements. A new bathhouse, picnic shelters, restrooms and ball fields were recently built to help you have a better time at the Bay park.

You can thank Uncle Sam for making Sandy Point a nicer place to visit. The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund has awarded a $1.5 million grant to the park. That money will help pay for the renovations which also include upgrading parking, landscaping and utilities.

Sandy Point has a history of winning federal money. Since 1966, five grants have been used at the park for buying land and developing facilities.

Park Service Signs Up
Restoring the Chesapeake Bay is such a popular mission all kinds of federal agencies want to be involved. The National Park Service is the 12th and latest agency to sign on as a partner in the Chesapeake Bay Program.

“We offer ourselves to the Bay ecosystem and the people and the culture of the Bay area to take advantage of anything we may have to offer from the 100 years of managing national parks and programs associated with the protection of America’s resources,” said John Reynolds Jr., Deputy Director of the Park Service. Recently, Reynolds signed a formal agreement to assist other Bay Program groups with conserving and interpreting the Bay’s natural and cultural resources. The agreement was blessed by Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt during ceremonies at Sandy Point State Park.

Specifically, the NPS will provide technical assistance, enhance interpretive programs, help local communities with heritage planning and provide support for local conservation efforts. Working close to the Bay is not new to the Park Service: it currently manages 35 parks in the Bay watershed.

William Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, praised the move to add people-oriented park rangers to the Bay Program. “The National Park Service helps provide public access to the Bay and broadens the constituency of those who want to save the Bay,” said Baker.

The newest recruit joins civic groups, private organizations and state, local and federal governments as part of the Chesapeake Bay Program. The cooperative effort is staffed and coordinated by the Environmental Protection Agency office in Annapolis.

Babbit Fears Bird Loss
The recent fires which burned up homes in California also destroyed wildlife habitat. Before leaving to inspect the damage, Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt told New Bay Times he’s concerned about one particular bird, the California Gnatcatcher.

The Orange County fires were in that endangered bird’s habitat. “That’s a particular concern because it’s a very imperiled species. There are examples of birds which have been pushed into small corners and then wiped out by fires,” explained Babbitt. According to the Secretary, that’s what happened to the Heathhen of Martha’s Vineyard at the turn of the century.

The California firestorm of 15 different blazes burned an estimated 160,00 acres.

Activist River Rats
So you live near a river, you have a kinship with the water and you don’t want it polluted or destroyed. You’re not alone.

There are 48 citizen river and watershed groups in the Chesapeake Bay watershed. These folks aren’t just sitting by the dock of the Bay watching the tide and their natural neighbor roll away. They’re organizing and monitoring and cleaning up their community rivers and streams.

The Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay has listed the community groups in a new guide. It gives the contact person, mission statement, publications and activities for 160 citizen and watershed organizations in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Maryland groups include the Plum Point Environmental Land Trust in Chesapeake Beach, the Rock Creek Environmental Commission in Pasadena and the Weems Creek Conservancy in Annapolis. The list is continuously updated and expanded.

If you’d like to learn more about your neighborhood organization or add one to the list, contact the Alliance office in Baltimore at 410/377-6270. Ask for the “Renewing Their Rivers” guide.

to the top

Harvesting at The Moon

Laughing Gourmet is bubbling over with mirth this week because we had such fun at The Moon, the three-month-old international cafe a short walk and some ages removed from the Annapolis City Dock.

It’s the coffee house of college days—exotic, encouraging, its own place— smack in the historical district. Now this corner of Randall and George Streets is a free trade zone. Students from St. Johns—there’s naturally a copy of the Iliad under an arm—order cappuccino and brie sandwiches. Mids discourse over mortadella and espresso. Locals and visitors strayed from the hubbub of City Dock linger over newspapers and magazines with meaty or vegetarian lunches.

Floral teas scent the air, and heady human energy is palpable. Or maybe it’s another kind of energy we’re feeling.

Australian owner—tan, blond, chatty Gavin Buckley—and his Coloradan partner Dennis Boyd talked each other into this joint venture while berthed in adjoining slips at City Dock. From lamenting the town’s lack of an international newspaper and coffee house, they somehow found themselves filling the need. “We looked all over Annapolis for one. We couldn’t find such a coffee house, so we just built one,” explains the sailor from Down Under. Now this cozy spot boasts Oscar Wilde’s affirmation in silver stenciled letters over a tiny stage: “Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can find his way by moonlight, and see the dawn before the rest of the world.”

They’ve also adopted Oscar’s flowers: on the counter blazes a sunflower-painted vase filled with sunflowers and carnations.

At a recent lunch, three gourmets tittered their ways through much of The Moon’s eclectic menu—from soup to dessert, with lots green in between. All food is made from scratch so we had time to visit with Buckley, appreciate the distinctive touches adding dash and comfort, and remember times and dreams past over cappuccino in generous glass mugs for two and an unusually fragrant tea specially iced for our Southern belle. “In the South, all tea is iced,” she informed us.

While debating cultures and cuisines, we learned the story of the place. Buckley and Boyd did all the work with the help of local volunteers. They sponge-painted dark colors over glints of light on the walls and gave the counter a faux wood front. They painstakingly stenciled the floor—not, alas, counting on the wear that’s quickly given it the look of ‘40s’ linoleum. They raised a stage where tables sit by day and poets or musicians flourish by night.

All the furnishings are second hand, with tableware and some plates coming from Goodwill. The table cloths might be recycled pieces of flowered drapes with fringe and tassels at two ends. A sofa with extra cushions invites you to sit tete-a-tete or borrow from the news and magazine racks or ever-filling book case. There are even throw pillows in the windows to cozy up the view as well as help you sit a spell. All together, the effect’s that of a place that’s been there for years. It makes you want to stay a while, too.

At The Moon, you can entertain yourself or be entertained. Sunday afternoons you can have your “eggs over jazz” when local musicians gather to jam. Sunday nights you can have your palm or tarot cards read. Monday is open mike for singers—no karaoke here. Tuesday poets take the stage. Fridays and Saturdays are reserved for sanctuary—respite from anywhere else in town.

Decor and entertainment are fine but not enough for lunch, so we’re glad to report the Moon has good food. The most ethereal of our party rejoiced in real vegetarian food—not just split pea soup with the ham bone pulled out. The Moon’s meatless food is not only real but attractive enough that all three gourmets—not the vegetarian only—chose to eat green.

Our veggie quiche presented a mellow center over rich, crumbly crust. Our bread eater liked the dark multi-grain loaf served up with fresh vegetable and bean soup. Crusty outside, soft inside, this goodness baked by Vera Port of Arnold (whose homebaked bread also brings a continental touch to Pat’s Country Bakery in Churchton on weekends) was yet another reason to linger. The vegetable pita was full of standard stuffing but also had a few twists, like the artichoke hearts and crisp green beans. A dollop of yogurt with a fresh strawberry complemented the fresh, light fare. Spinach salad was nicely dressed up with melt-in-the mouth tidbits of salmon.

Then there were the desserts. Rich, creamy, white chocolate mousse cake was our choice. It was a difficult decision but a fine one. Host Gavin fancied it up with a high-toned presentation of swirled white and dark chocolates with bright red strawberries. It looked good enough to eat. It was!

If you long for an international interlude but can’t leave the country, drop by The Moon. It’s an escape to a different time and a somewhat funkier space—a long way from Annapolis. When you return to the real world, you can even bring a souvenir with you: a T-shirt or cap, sporting a neat logo from your journey.

The Moon, 137 Prince George Street, at City Dock: 410/280-1956. Open 7am till midnight.

to the top