Volume 1 Issue 5 1993

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).

Black Watermen of the Chesapeake Bay
by Fred B.Scott

If you thrive on first hand discovery,then early one morning, well before the rooster crows, sit quietly on the Bay or one of its tributaries. Look deeply into the last shadows of darkness before break of summer's day. You may hear, before you actually see, the labor of a solitary waterman working his crab lines.

Through the quiet darkness you may hear an oar softly meeting water, as a skiff glides slowly from marker to marker. As did the father of the crabber, and his father's father, he methodically lifts a trotline with one hand while the other hand scoops up a feeding blue crab. This has happened millions of times before, so watching can make you at peace with the world as the sun finally burns away the last traces of night. It can make your day.

He's big, and he's strong, this third-generation waterman, so his appearance never fails to make an impression. But he greets you with a broad smile, so you understand that in spite of the hard labor he performs, he's a gentle man.

Captain Ben Dennis has been a waterman of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries since his childhood. Members of his family have labored as waterman as far as memories can trace.

Black watermen and waterwomen, along with white watermen, are a strong and independent breed of people, proud of their long association with the world's largest estuary— the two-hundred-mile Chesapeake.

Captain Dennis learned his craft from his father who rewarded him for his youthful labors with quarters. The practice gave Dennis the nickname “Quarter Boy”during his apprenticeship days.

These days, however, Captain Ben is a waterman-of-all-trades. He's a crabber, fisherman, and mechanic. He skippers his own workboat. Most of his family are in business for themselves and are well known and established in the Shadyside area.

Deeply rooted in the history of the Chesapeake Bay, blacks have worked as watermen since well before emancipation. Some of their skills may have antedated slavery, having been imported from Africa.

Folklorist John Valach wrote that African influences shaped the boat building and boat handling techniques of slaves working and living around the Chesapeake Bay.

Ivan Van Sertima supports Valach’s opinion in his book, They Came Before Columbus. Sertima makes reference to Norwegian explorer/writer Thor Heyerdahl, who dramatically demonstrated the seaworthiness of boats of African design. So,Valach may just be correct in stating that some African slaves brought continuities of seamanship with them to America—and passed it on.

A very notable black waterman of Maryland was Matthew A. Henson. He went to sea at age 12, as a cabin boy. Later, Henson became a talented navigator and seaman who linked up with no less than Admiral Robert E. Peary. Henson and Peary co-discovered the North Pole in 1909.

Another notable black waterman of Maryland was Frederick Douglass. A waterman during his boyhood, Douglass worked as a boat caulker in Baltimore harbor. Exposed to seamen of many nations around the busy Baltimore port, Douglass eventually boarded a train disguised as a sailor to escape his enslavement. As a freeman, Douglass later became a great orator, educator, and abolitionist.

A good number of slaves worked alongside their masters or in boats by themselves in the bay area.

"Almost 40 percent of the rivermen on the Potomac," were ex-slaves following the Civil War, write George W. McDaniel in Hearth and Home. He names William Jordan, a former slave, as one post-Civil War black waterman.

After emancipation, Jordan was able to buy a sailing ship and establish a hauling business between Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and other Maryland ports. Eventually, his trade expanded to far-away Haiti.

Mathias de Sousa, credited by The Johns Hopkins University Press publication, Maryland: A History of Its People, as Maryland's first black resident, followed the water.

De Sousa, of mixed parents, African and European, was the indentured servant of a Maryland-bound Jesuit aboard the ship, Ark. When he gained his freedom, he became skipper of a boat that traded with the Indians.

The number and importance of black watermen has been impressive. The Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay enumerates black watermen during the season 1869 - 1870. There were 563 licensed oyster-dredging vessels in Maryland, and of the people who worked these ships, 2,107 were white and 1,453 were black. Another 3,325 watermen, black and white, were employed on smaller boats. During the same period, about 10,000 persons, black and white, were involved in the land operations of the industry.

Urban sprawl and industrial pollution has reduced much of the oystering and fishing in the Bay, but there are still plenty of people working these waters. The Bay remains the highest producer of Atlantic blue crabs.

Chesapeake watermen are a strong and positive reflection of American grit. Look offshore to the shallows around the Governor Harry W. Nice Bridge in Charles County, or gaze out at Parrish Creek near the mouth of West River: they are still out there, working the water in the crispness of dawn or shaded sunsets.

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When the current plays tricks, and so does the mind: A first-person account of competing in this year's Great Chesapeake Bay Swim
by George Kerchner

So here I am on Sunday morning June 13 on the shore of Sandy Point State Park with 520 other swimmers, thinking hard about the 11th annual Bay swim that’s about to begin. I’m staring at the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and I’m thinking that a frozen margarita would taste mighty good.

I was thinking about something more, too. Had I trained sufficiently for this event, a 4.4-mile swim that has proved absolutely harrowing in the past? I’ve entered triathlons for eight years and I’ve dedicated untold hours to swimming, biking and running. I even was fortunate enough to win the Tuckahoe Triathlon last fall on the Eastern Shore.

But you’re never really sure that you’re ready to compete and never before have I swum this far. Always, the butterflies and the self-doubt show up for an event, just like the contestants.

The Bay swim is no exception. Most swimmers look to be better prepared than me, and the open Bay seems like an insurmountable distance on this day. And, since this is my second attempt at challenging the wind, waves and tides of the Bay, I wonder whether I’ll finish.

My first attempt, in 1991, turned into more a challenge for the volunteers and the Coast Guard than for us swimmers. Of the 884 swimmers who started, over 700 had to be pulled from the water. After fighting a ripping ebb tide for two hours and thirty-five minutes, I was yanked from the Bay when the race was suspended. It was like swimming up Niagara Falls.

Last year’s crop of swimmers endured ferocious tides once more and the vast majority couldn’t finish.

As I prepare for this year's crossing, sliding into my wetsuit and slapping on Vaseline to prevent chafing, I study human behavior. Some swimmers look tense and nervous; others joke with their friends and seem absolutely undaunted by the challenge ahead.

And then there’s the recognizable look on the face of many:

It says: “What have I gotten myself into?”

Why am I doing this, you ask? I suppose that it comes down to being a personal challenge. I’ve driven across this bridge a hundred times. But never have I succeeded in swimming the Bay.

It’s like a mountain to me; it’s there.

The Splash
At 9:05 am, the woman from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) assures us that we don’t need to fret today about the tides. Indeed, we’re told that there’s an opportune period of slack tide for this crossing, and that we won’t be facing the ordeal of the last two years.

Race director Robert Vigorito adds that conditions today are ideal, and that he expects 99 percent of us to finish.

At 9:15, I rush into the water with the first of two groups of swimmers. The splashing and flailing arms are a familiar sight. As I look around, it reminds me of a school of bluefish hitting the surface in a feeding frenzy. Not a particularly pleasant thought as we make our way into bluefish territory.

And so the journey across the Bay begins, and I make my way to the Bay Bridge. The kayakers seem to be everywhere, a reassuring sight since they’re so maneuverable. We can reach them in a hurry if necessary.

Swimmers are required to stay between the bridge spans during most of the swim so that the rescue boats can monitor us more easily. If a swimmer can’t avoid being swept by the current outside the span, then he or she is disqualified and pulled from the water by one of the rescue boats.

Once we reach the spans, the race truly begins. In a long swim such as this, settling into comfortable breathing and rhythmic stroking is the trick. Wind and waves are coming at me, although conditions aren’t bad. Most swimmers stay as near as possible to the north span to avoid any ebb tide.

I am hoping that NOAA’s computer-generated charts and graphs promising a smooth swim are accurate.

I see my buddy Steve Klose in the water and ask him a question.

“Have you seen the margarita boat?”

Feeling Small, Tired
Each mile of the swim is marked by a bright, orange buoy, the first of which seems to arrive swiftly. The sights and sounds of the Bay are everywhere: the boats in their many shapes, the surprisingly loud noise from traffic way up on the bridge.

The orange-capped swimmers bobbing and slicing through the water must be a sight. Seagulls overhead have to be perplexed at this strange school migrating east across the Bay.

Pilings help mark my progress, and it occurs to me that the water is much clearer than two years ago.

Mile Two marker arrives, and I’m one hour into the swim. I pass through the first shipping channel, navigating the current. Thankfully, NOAA seems to have been right about the current.

In the channel, the water temperature seems to have dropped a few degrees. Cooler waters from deep down are forced to the surface by upwelling currents. I pause behind one of the huge pillars in the channel to rest a moment and to gauge the progress of some of the swimmers nearby.

I feel quite small as I gaze up at the bridge. Those engineers do some amazing things.

As I head toward the Mile Three buoy battling the waves, my arms begin to feel tired. I assure myself that since the tides won’t be a problem, neither will fatigue.

But after navigating the second shipping channel and finally hitting that three-mile point, I realize that the swim is taking its toll. Not only do my arms ache, I feel queasiness in my stomach.

The swim is becoming more difficult than I expected. But as I look ahead, I can see swimmers leaving the shadow of the bridge and turning toward the finish line. I tell myself that the end is near. My mind takes over and a second wind kicks in.

Orders From the Brain
During long-distance events like this, the mind wanders in a thousand directions. I’ve come to believe that training for endurance events is roughly 70 percent physical and 30 percent psychological. The thousands of miles of swimming, biking and running I’ve done over the years have enabled me to understand how the mind allows the body to make adjustments to endure the pain the comes with long and hard exercise.

Finally, I get to the point where swimmers are leaving the confines of the bridge. Up ahead, the finish line is within sight. I figure that I have just over a mile to go and that victory is near.

Suddenly, tricky currents appear out of nowhere and the queasiness is back. Cars up above are screaming now and swimmers are passing me. I don’t feel too good, and that self-doubt starts nagging at me once more. I try to block out negative thoughts.

“I wonder if my family and friends are waiting for me on the beach?” I say to myself.

It occurs to me that I’ve got to finish so that that I can write this story. If I don’t make it, I’ll have to write a piece called “I Almost Swam the Bay.”

Where the hell is Margaritaville, anyway?

Margaritaville on the Horizon
Without warning, the finish line appears just two hundred yards away. The crowd on the beach in front of Hemingway’s looks so friendly, so inviting as the sun peeks through the clouds. Fatigue in my arms disappears, as does the queasiness. The mind can do wonderful things.

I hit the beach after two hours, 13 minutes and 12 seconds. I place 220th of the 505 who finished. I am not disappointed, even though the winner, Kris Rutford, a Nebraskan, completes his crossing in just over an hour and a-half. I hear cheers. Are they for me?

I discover that a swimmer with one leg has finished just behind me and is getting a deserved and heroic reception as he makes his way up the beach.

I’m greeted warmly by my own family and friends. Sandra, of New Bay Times, is there, too. She is relieved to see me. Now I can write the article she wanted.

Swimmers I spoke with afterward were grateful that the race had been so well-organized. Some of us compare our times: Steve Klose-2:14; Jeff Buck-2:15; Bob Phillips-2:25; Cindy Lecourt 2:59; Meredith Lecourt-3:07. NOAA, we thank you for right-on predictions and your help.

At 2:30 pm, I was on my first margarita. Later, I would need a 90-minute nap to recover. But now, the pain and queasiness is gone, and I’m feeling exhilarated after completing the Bay Bridge Swim. I know I’ll be back next year. I hope that Robert Vigorito, Andy Marsh, Chuck Nesbit and their gang of volunteers comes back next year, too. They did a great job.

I almost forgot to mention something quite important: the race raised about $10,000 for the March of Dimes Campaign for Healthier Babies.

The race was a success, but our sense of satisfaction was short-lived. We learned afterward of the death of one of our fellow swimmers, Stanley Richards, apparently after suffering a heart attack shortly into the race.

Richards, 65, of Laurel, was an accomplished swimmer who was believed to be in excellent shape.

On behalf of all of us swimmers, I want to convey our sympathy and our sense of loss to Mr. Richards’ family and friends.

(Kerchner, 33, is a legal assistant from Catonsville. An Edgewater native, he will be competing in several triathlons this summer.)

Prowling Kayakers Keep Order, Spot Tragedy
Kayaker Greg Welker saw trouble first. Shortly after the beginning of the Great Chesapeake Bay Swim, the arms of one of the participants barely moved. The orange-capped head didn’t seem to be coming up for air.

Welker darted across the water. The swimmer had stopped moving by now and floated face down in the water. Welker tapped him with his paddle.

“Nothing happened, so I grabbed him and tried to lift his head out of the water. His eyes were closed,” said Welker, 32, of Bowie.

Soon, two more kayakers were alongside to steady Welker’s Current Designs Pisces. A woman who had jumped from a powerboat tried to resuscitate the swimmer as Welker held him out of the water.

The swimmer, Stanley Richards, 65, had suffered an apparent heart attack. Despite the swift rescue effort, it was too late to save him.

Richards’ death was a tragic moment in an otherwise successful Bay swim in which kayakers are playing an increasingly important role.

About 40 kayakers, many of them members of the Chesapeake Paddlers Association, took part in this year’s swim. They kept an eye out for trouble and shared their bottles of water. Tired swimmers had kayaks to grab on to.

The sturdy sea kayaks scoot swiftly through the water to tend to swimmers’ needs. Unlike power boats, they can maneuver among swimmers without adding to the dangers or producing fumes.

Welker’s ability to swiftly trigger a rescue operation shows the value of the kayaks even though in this case it was too late.

Next Bay swim, the kayakers will be back.

“We have really come to enjoy it because it is one of the true civic things we can do,” observed Ron Casterline, who operates Annapolis Coastal Kayaking.

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Leapin’ Lizards ‘n Jumpin’ Macho Men: A Summer Film Preview
By Matt Zoller
Original to AlterNet

Unless you’re crawling out of a cave, you’ve probably heard all about Jurrasic Park and all those dinosaurs. And you probably couldn’t help seeing Sylvester Stallone on your television, falling into an icy abyss in the promo for Cliffhanger.

You might even have read about how Columbia Pictures persuaded the mayor of New York to shut down Times Square to film The Last Action Hero.

With the summer’s movies stomping and soaring and bullying their way toward us, it’s time to sort through the hype of some of the films on their way and already here.

Jurassic Park
Premise: Dinosaur theme park with dinosaurs trying to eat guests, including Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Richard Attenborough.)

The buzz: This one is the summer release to beat, a much-hyped Steven Spielberg film that is living up to its billing as a blockbuster. The DNA-manipulation theme of Jurassic Park in which these extinct beasts come to life is a concept that is producing a hit, not to mention a likely marketing bonanza. As in Spielberg’s Jaws, what you’ve got here are stomach-tightening shocks and hair-raising chase sequences, plus the most innovative special effects since Terminator 2.

Wild cards: Word on the streets was that Spielberg insisted that the script be altered to create “friendly” dinosaurs for E.T.-styled merchandising.

Nothing short of the No. 1 hit of the summer.

Premise: Sly Stallone as super-macho mountain-climber battling criminals among the icy peaks. Rambo meets K-2.

The buzz: It’s been called the most exciting pure action movie since the original Die-Hard even though it’s basically a dumb movie and Stallone can’t act.

Wild cards: Another of those hyper-budgeted, all-or-nothing gambles.

Prediction: No. 4 film of the summer, but may have trouble breaking even.

Made in America
Premise: Romantic comedy about a black woman (Whoopi Goldberg) whose teenaged daughter discovers that her sperm-donor dad was (gasp) a nerdy white guy (Ted Danson).

The buzz: Kinda funny, kinda sweet.

Wild cards: Does anybody but The National Enquirer even care about the real-life Ted-Whoopi thing?

Prediction: A modest Top 10 hit, if only because there aren’t many other big-name comedy films coming out during the hot months.

The Last Action Hero
Premise: Arnie (Terminator) Schwarzenegger’s latest adventure offering. This picture’s concept is both intellectual and rock ‘em, sock’em: a combination of The Purple Rose of Cairo and Commando about a fatherless child who joins his favorite screen action hero (Arnold, of course) inside a mystical world of movie logic. Director John McTiernan (Die Hard) claims that the script offers both suspense and film-within-a-film brain-twisters.

The buzz: Mixed ratings, at best. Early test screenings that produced low audience approval ratings threw Columbia Pictures into a panic. We’ll see what happens in real life.

Wild card: Kindergarten Cop problem—too violent for very young but not violent enough for the frat-boy contingent.

Prediction: A hit because Schwarzenegger’s in it—probably the No. 3 film of the summer, but maybe not enough of a hit to offset the film’s $100 million price tag.

Super Mario Bros
Premise: A $70 million fantasy high-tech adventure based on the Nintendo video game, starring Bob Hoskins and John Leguziamo as the heroic plumbers, and Dennis Hopper as the bad guy.

The buzz: The film tested well with the very young and/or sheltered children and adults who have no lives, but its makers worry that it might not be interesting enough to find a big adult audience.

Wild cards: Guest appearance by pop singer Mojo Nixon.

Prediction: A dud relative to cost, but it will make some of its money back overseas and on video.

Sleepless in Seattle (June 25)
Premise: Romance in the media age starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. The Hanks character’s daughter phones a national singles radio show and describes her lonely dad. Ryan’s character is listening in, becomes intrigued and decides to fly to the Rainy City to meet him.

Advanced buzz: Adequate, sometimes inspired, cute romance.

Wild card: Tom Hanks hasn’t had an unqualified smash since Big except A League of Their Own, which doesn’t really count because it was an ensemble piece.

Prediction: A sleeper hit; the only major star-driven release this summer where nothing gets shot, eaten or blown up.

The Firm (July 2)
Premise: Adaptation of the John Grisham bestseller about a callow young hotshot lawyer (Tom Cruise) who joins a powerful, mysterious Memphis law firm that retains its attorneys for life. Top-notch supporting cast, including Gene Hackman, Hal Holbrook and Jean Tripplehorn positions this one as a teenybopper/adult crossover movie.

Advanced buzz: Predictable, but very spooky and suspenseful with strong performances.

Wild card: Director Sidney Pollack, whose last couple of films (Out of Africa, Havana) were long and slow enough to put the Tasmanian Devil in a deep sleep.

Prediction: No. 5 film of the summer.

In the Line of Fire (July 9)
A wizened Secret Service veteran (Clint Eastwood), still wracked with guilt over not saving JFK 30 years ago, must stop a brilliant assassin (John Malkovich) from carrying out another such tragedy.

Advanced buzz: Director Wolfgang Petersen’s last movie, Shattered, was awful, but the script for this one is supposed to be taut, packed with wit and suspense. Computerized effects that put a young Eastwood in the crowd when Kennedy was shot, plus the curiosity value of seeing the legendary, newly-Oscared stone face act should ensure big box-office for at least a couple of weeks.

Wild card: What wild card?

Prediction: No. 2 film of the summer.

Rookie of the Year (July 9)
Premise: Directorial debut of actor and “Wonder Years” voice-over king Daniel Stern. It’s about a ten year-old kid who can pitch a fastball 100 m.p.h. Farfetched? Yea, but so was Field of Dreams.

\Advanced buzz: A breakout hit that will appeal to both kids and adult baseball fans.

Wild card: Who cares?

Prediction: It’ll do okay—maybe even become a hit.

Free Willy (July 16)
Premise: Big Screen update of Flipper—a sweet-natured aquatic adventure about heroic attempts to free an imprisoned killer whale.

Advanced buzz: Ridiculously good. Many otherwise curmudgeonly insiders are picking it as a surprise hit of the summer.

Wild card: If the current international furor over whaling restrictions continues, this harmless kidflick could get a fortuitous boost.

Prediction: A sleeper.

The Coneheads (July 16)
Premise: Dan Aykroyd and Jane Curtin reprise their roles from the famous “Saturday Night Live” skit, hoping for an Addams Family type of success.

Advanced buzz: Ain’t heard nothin’, but seriously, how good could this be?

Wild card: Is the old Saturday Night Live schtick still magic?

Prediction: Nobody in Hollywood will have an original idea.

Poetic Justice (July 23)
Premise: Writer-director John Singleton’s first film since Boyz N the Hood is a multi-character comedy-romance about the black twenty-something generation. The cast includes singer Janet Jackson as a struggling poet. (Fortunately, her verse was written by none other than Maya Angelou). Her blue-collar lover, rapper Tupac Skakur of Digital Underground, turned in a chilling performance in Juice.

Advanced buzz: Definitely mixed, but somewhat qualified. The film isn’t quite the knockout that Boyz was, but that is to be expected considering the drastic change of pace.

Wild card: Jackson, who has never acted before.

Prediction: A critical disappointment, but a modest financial success.

Rising Sun (July 30)
Premise: Adaptation of the Japan-bashing, paranoid adventure by novelist Michael Chrichton, starring Sean Connery and Wesley Snipes.

Advanced buzz: An interesting, contradictory and even thought-provoking suspense picture, but not smash material. Too crude to satisfy critics, too brooding and intellectual for action fans. Crichton was outraged when director Phil Kaufman rewrote the story and changed things around

Wild card: Does anybody really still believe that Japan is responsible for America’s financial problems? Also, rumor has it that 20th Century Fox might delay the picture until fall because of the crowded field.

Prediction: Big opening weekend, but precious little after that—whenever it comes out.

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Bay Boardings on the Rise?
Its not like California, where fishermen call the Coast Guard “marine Gestapo.”

But there’s tension on the Chesapeake Bay because of the Coast Guard’s ongoing boardings of fishing vessels.

Operation Full Court Press—39 one day last month from the Bay Bridge to Solomons—turned up no problems, with the “vast majority” of boats, the Coast Guard reported last week.

Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources took part in the operation, aimed primarily at “six-packs”—charter boats licensed to carry no more than six passengers.

Expired flares and failure to post emergency check lists were the most common violations.

If that’s the extent of the problems, why the elaborate boarding operation, charter captains ask?

“It’s harrassment, pure and simple. And it’s embarrassing as hell when they jump aboard your boat, especially when you have a first-time party,” said one captain who was visited.

Joseph F. Rupp, president of the 300-member Maryland Charter Boat Association, is more diplomatic in his assessment. But he is no less frustrated as he described efforts by charter boat captains to get help from the Coast Guard interpreting a maze of regulations.

“We’ve asked them and asked them to send us rules to follow in plain English. But we haven’t heard back,” said Rupp, who operates a boat out of Rose Haven.

Rupp would like to understand, for instance, why the Coast Guard sometimes interprets the rules differently. Why is it, he wonders, that some six-packs get in trouble for failing to have orange life rings on board when the regulations seem to permit any color?

And like most captains, Rupp is puzzled as to why the Coast Guard refuses to do its inspections dockside, skipping the spectacles and interrupting fishing trips.

Lt.(J.G.) Kyle McAvoy, of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office, says the Guard will take calls from captains with questions about rules. But moving inspections to the dock, he says, would cancel one of the reasons for the boarding: to see if six-packs are taking out more than their allotted passengers.

“What the Coast Guard is looking for, ultimately, is the safety of the passengers,” he says.

McAvoy added that the Coast Guard is considering ways to better coordinate with fishing captains. And Rupp said that Maryland’s charter boat operators will do what it takes to get along with the Coast Guard.

“We always looked on the Coast Guard as our friends and that’s the way it should be,” Rupp said.

Playing Tag with Rockfish
What happens if you catch a rockfish sporting an orange “spaghetti tag?”

Don’t panic.

Fishery managers and biologists from North Carolina to Massachusetts want to learn how to increase the rockfish population. They’ve tagged more than 130,000 fish since 1985. If you catch a tagged fish here’s what they want from you: the tag number, and date, location, and method of capture. Save the tag if you can’t write the information down and fish at the same time. Then call to report a tagged rockfish: 1/800/448-8322.

Why put yourself out? If you want to have fewer restrictions on catching rockfish, you’ll help. The tags give information on where the fish are numerous, how old they are, their size and migration patterns. Tags are the most important source of information for making changes in fishing regulations.

Even if you catch a striped bass—as rockfish are more precisely called—out of season or one too small to keep, record the tag information before tossing it back. Your reward: Continued attention to restoration of the rockfish population and a cap printed with the logo “Participant, Striped Bass Restoration,” or five dollars per tag for more than four tags.

Facts learned so far by the tagging program:

  • Rockfish sometimes leave the safety of bays and estuaries to forage along the coastline.
  • Fish released in the Bay have migrated over 1,000 miles, as far north as New Brunswick, Canada.
  • Ten to 20 percent of adult wild striped bass die each year from causes other than fishing.

Reptile Pardon Program?
Beat the rush. Free your pet lizard now.

In government’s never-ending drive to regulate, Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources has proposed regulations on how many slimy and crawling creatures you may call your own.

In fact, DNR is holding a public meeting on June 17 to tell you more about it. If you’re worried about parting with that salamander named Fred, you’d better head up to Hickory Ridge Community Center in Columbia at 7 pm to protest.

Or get in touch with the DNR by June 22, the end of the public comment period. Otherwise, prepare to open your cage.

Under the state’s plan, you won’t be able to have over four native snakes, lizards, salamanders or turtles. But you can keep up to 25 frogs, toads or newts without a permit. Whew, what a relief.

Of course, you can squirrel away a few more creatures if you ante up $25 to the state for a permit. But there’s a catch. Instead of finding your creatures in the woods, you have to buy them from a pet store.

You guessed it: pet stores will have to get permits, too.

There are exceptions, if you’re up to them. One of them is keeping reptiles for food. In other words, if you plead fondness for lizard pie, the state might give you a break.

Then again, you may need a license to eat it.

Dust off those old verses. Better yet, take a pen to the beach for the awakening of one of these long, glorious days around the solstice.

For up the road in Maryland, they’re about ready to judge the North American Open Poetry Contest. Deadline is June 30. Over 250 skilled or aspiring poets will share $12,000 in prizes and many will be published in coming anthologies.

What do judges want? First of all, keep it under 20 lines. Put your name and address at the top of the page, and hope you make the first cut into the top 25 per cent of what could be thousands of entries.

Beyond that, the critics will be seeking different qualities.

“I look for language, the way it flows,” said Caroline Sullivan, one of the three main judges.

Another is partial to poetic form, while a third puts a premium on creativity.

Sullivan cautions that there’s no way to predict the winners. But she notes a trend in submissions.

“This year, a lot of people are moving away from traditional poetic forms toward free verse, which might be a reflection of society,” she said.

It may or may not be a good omen that the last two grand prize winners came from Maryland: most recently, Auburn J. Lamb of Silver Spring and, before that, Roger F. Powell, of Bethesda.

And if you aren’t a winner this time, don’t despair: A new contest begins soon.

(Send entries to the National Library of Poetry, 11419 Cronidge Dr., PO Box 704-XZ, Owings Mills, MD 21117. Phone 410/356-2000.)

Way Downstream...Fish researchers studying tiny otoliths—inner ear stones—are learning incredible things about the lives and habits of our scaly friends. They can know which polluted waters a fish swam in months before it was caught.

Bet they didn’t know that a fish can be Smokey the Bear. Forest Service officials in Montana think they might be able to predict forest fires in the Northern Rockies by the patterns of fish hundreds of miles west in the Pacific Ocean.

The farther north barracuda and tuna swim, the more likely that late spring and summer rains will diminish the threat of fires, according to a report in the the Billings Gazette...

In Florida, a new study may not bode well for Chesapeake Bay waterfront dwellers. Or perhaps their great grandchildren.

The study predicts that Florida’s sea level will rise two feet in the next century because of global warming—caused by a build-up of pollution in the upper atmosphere.

The study by the Tampa Bay Regional Planning Council and the Mote Marine Laboratory predicts flooded condos, messed-up water supplies and disappearing beaches.

It fails to note the windfall for people who stand to become waterfront property owners...

This week’s creature feature comes to us all the way from Australia, home of a worm 10 feet long and as thick as a sausage. The tale of the endangered Gippsland Earthworm comes to us courtesy of the Wall Street Journal, whose stuffy readers may not fully appreciate it.

As the story goes, two towns have waged combat for tourists drawn by the lure of the world’s biggest worm. A town 20 miles away from where the worm actually lives somehow has won by building a giant concrete replica of the worm.

Now, rather than seeing the real thing, tourists pay $5 to walk through the concrete worm, listen to its recorded murmers and smell its essense. This weird tour is billed as a means to get a worm’s eye view of the world.

Somebody needs to point out that worms don’t have eyes.

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Like most of you, we cringe at the thought of losing freedoms. But signs abound in the Bay that crabs are seriously threatened because of overharvesting. Clearly, a remedy is needed, and Gov. William Donald Schaefer has moved wisely in proposing restrictions.

Schaefer’s plan is as broad as the Bay itself, encompassing everyone from weekend chicken-neckers to full-fledged watermen to commercial crabbers pretending they’re not.

The 300-pot limit and the 5 pm crabbing cutoff might prove to be important curbs on watermen on a Bay where the number of pots has doubled in 10 years. Likewise, the one- or two-bushel limits and the 500-foot limitation on trot line length could reel in greedy “recreational” crabbers.

But the real issue here is licensing, and we need to be prepared for the direction in which we’re heading. One of the most far-reaching of the governor’s initial proposals would eliminate over 13,000 of the so-called non-commercial licenses.

Many of these crabbers partake of the Bay’s bounty and sell their catch in an extra-legal way.

This change would serve to protect watermen, who are headed toward monumental licensing shifts of their own.

By freezing the number of commercial licenses at 3,000, as Schaefer proposes, the state would be telling people that they no longer can aspire to a time-honored way of life. The key here is tightening a system in which three times that number of licenses may exist in one form or another.

What we’re really talking about here is moving boldly into a new Era of Limits, where licenses skyrocket in value and the once wide-open Bay resembles the closely regulated fisheries of Alaska and the Northwest.

Losing freedom is no fun, but the alternative is worse.

He needs no introduction. Nevertheless, we are happy to announce that with this issue, Bill Burton joins New Bay Times to bring you the finest outdoors column on the Chesapeake Bay.

As you know, for many years Bill was a front-running columnist for the Baltimore Evening Sun and The Sun. He’s a master of magazine writing, not to mention radio and television.

For New Bay Times, Bill will go beyond sharing his well-honed skills when it comes to fishing, hunting and Bay sports.

In these pages starting this week, he will display some of his broader wisdom about the outdoors and the environment. Expect him to be provocative.

Bringing Bill Burton on board is yet another step in our mission to give you with a newspaper brimming with fine journalism and tips for quality living along the Chesapeake.

We Baysiders are a community of interest; we have common goals to preserve the Bay for recreation and business. At New Bay Times, our aim is to forge unity along the Bay rather than highlight divisions between people and towns.

Many of you have told us and shown us that you agree. We thank you once again—readers, subscribers and advertisers—for the outpouring of support in the months since New Bay Times began.

And we reward you with the one and only Bill Burton.

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Sorely Needed Stimulus
Dear New Bay Times:
As president of the Maryland Geological Society and editor of its quarterly newsletter, “The Rostrum,” I would like to take this opportunity to welcome you and the staff of the New Bay Times and in some small sense to herald the birth of a much-needed periodical.

Life and events in the Chesapeake Bay and tidewater areas have always been of concern to me. Indeed, I spend much of my spare time collecting fossils along the Bay. I have occasion to meet many people with differing interests in a variety of milieus. I also frequent quite a few Southern Maryland restaurants and shops.

One of the thrills of collecting along the Bay is that it allows me to interact with fairly unique and diversified groups of people.

Since I am interested in the perpetuation of this “special flavor” in what I do, I endorse the newspaper committed to its presentation—New Bay Times.

The editorial focus on recreation activities in the Bay area— together with environmental, agricultural and maritime issues—is sorely needed. A newspaper of this caliber can be nothing but a beneficial stimulus and incentive to the region it serves.

I intend to subscribe and I hope that many others do as well.

Richard W. Grier Jr., Baltimore

Licensed to be Rude?
Dear New Bay Times:
Bravo. Your article on rude people at the MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) hit the nail on the head. We finally quit going to the Largo office because people were grumpy and short with us. We’d rather drive an extra half-hour than put up with it.

We pay their salaries so the MVA people work for us. But you wouldn’t know it by the way they act.

D. Phillips, Prince Georges County

In-Touch in a Kayak
Dear New Bay Times:
I’ve really enjoyed your kayaking articles. I think they’re right on the money for pointing out the new way to enjoy the Bay.

The open Bay water can be dangerous; inexperienced paddlers should not attempt it. But near shore, kayaking and canoeing are wonderful ways to get close up with the shoreline, birds, wildlife, and underwater grasses. Nothing else puts you so immediately in touch with the resource.

Billy Mills, Bayscapes Program Manager, Chesapeake Bay Alliance, Richmond, Virginia

Lively Coverage
Dear New Bay Times:
On behalf of the Southern Anne Arundel Chamber membership and South County Festival Steering Committee, I want to warmly thank you and your staff for its welcome support and enthusiasm for our pilot effort in presenting a Southern Maryland cultural smorgasbord with our 1993 festival.

Your article in New Bay Times two days prior to the festival was lively and credited some of the key people whose personal and professional style made the process so worthwhile.

Bob Besse

Good for the Chesapeake
Dear New Bay Times:
Your new creation is perfect! New Bay Times will be good for the Chesapeake. Wonderful story on the Bay and tomatoes-just the sort of journalism I love. I'm enclosing a check for a one-year subscription.

Sue Eslinger, Bonita Springs, FLA

Chuckle Time
Dear New Bay Times:
As a working mother of young children, I seldom get a minute to myself. But tonight my husband is working and the girls went to bed early, so I stole a moment to read your paper. I want you to know I smiled and chuckled all the way through it. It’s wonderful.

Gail Martinez, Fairhaven, Maryland

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Revive a Tradition: Let the Summer Solstice Warm Your Heart
by Donna Henes
Original to AlterNet

Since the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year, the sun has been inching its way back into our lives. Rising slightly earlier each morning and setting a minute or two later every night, it graces us with light gradually gained. The change, the shift, is at first imperceptibly slow. But it is steady, and soon the minute-by-minute accumulation of daylight asserts itself in measures of hours.

By the half-way point in the annual solar swing, the spring equinox, the days have become about three hours longer in most of the United States.

That’s about 15 hours on the Chesapeake. In Sweden, this is indeed the season of the midnight sun. At the North Pole, the sun doesn’t set at all.

The seasonal ascendence of light and temperature is not—despite popular belief—due to our distance from the sun, but to the degree of directness of its rays. It would be logical, on the face of it, to assume that in the summer the earth approaches closest to the sun, and that we are farthest away in the cold, dark of winter. Wrong! The earth reaches the point on our orbit that is closest to the sun, in winter (January 3, 1993). Conversely, during summer we attain the farthest reach of our range from the sun (July 4, 1993).

Though the distance from the sun is greatest in the summer, it is at the summer solstice that the sun sits highest in the sky. Its steep path is angled directly overhead. Vertical. Its energy aimed arrowlike straight down on us.

For days before beginning its descent, the sun stands sentinel at dawn. It seems to stand stark still in the sky, which is what solstice means: sun stands still.

In earlier times, people built structures to track the course of the sun. These solar observatories were designed to precisely determine the days of the solstices: the two days, opposite in the year, which are the times of greatest extreme. The summer’s longest day had to be noticed so preparations could be made for survival during the coming cold.

Indigenous Europeans, predating the Druids who usually get the credit, build many such sun shrines. Stonehenge, the most famous standing stone circle, has its main axis in perfect alignment with the summer solstice sunrise.

Strikingly similar monuments to the movements of the heavens were built by the ancestors of the tribes of the Great Plains of the northern United States and Canada. There are more than 50 known medicine wheels, some dating back 2500 years. These sunburstlike designs—wheels with 28 spokes—were laid out in rock on the grasslands. They, too, were positioned in exact orientation to the solstice sunrise.

The Aztecs of Mexico, the Meso-American Maya, the Inca of Peru, the Chinese and the Egyptians all left architectural testimony to their astronomical sophistication and solstice supplication.

The summer solstice is also a lover’s holiday. Age-old customs and myths encourage a summer mating season to ensure successful procreation. The Roman poet Ovid was advised to delay his daughter’s wedding “until the Ides of June.” In England, the solstice is called Midsummer, and Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream unites two pairs of lovers. June weddings remain in style, though brides may not know why.

Even today, much of the world revers the rising sun. Throughout Europe, Catholic Canada, Central and South America, many stay awake this shortest night of the year to watch the solstice sunrise. And to this day, the people of the Taos Pueblo race up the mountain to welcome the rising solstice sun.

Some people feel even stronger ties to the sun. To fulfill vows made at times of deep stress or danger, famine or battle, Native North Americans dance for up to four days facing the sun, suspended from a pole in the center of a circle by cords threaded through their skin. Sun dancers sacrifice their flesh, thirst and hunger, their pain and their power to transcend pain, not for themselves alone but so that the tribe shall thrive.

If more of us who hide from the sun felt the warming of this summer’s solstice, our whole world might thrive.

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By Sonia Linebaugh

Thursday. 5:45 am. Light filters up the sky pulling dawn behind it. Sitting on the deck with my second cup of coffee I feel myself falling onto a featherbed of silence. A chorus of insects sparkles along its edge. From the house the refrigerator hums. The drone of an early boat drives across my mind to the sweet, sad co-o-o-coo of a mourning dove. The shush of the Bay lies beneath the morning twitters, trills, and chirps of the worm-hunters. A car crunches on gravel. Above all—beneath all—lies silence. Enough silence to sustain me through another day. Later a visitor asks, “Is it always this quiet here?” I laugh. “Come back on the weekend.”

Saturday. 8:58. I drink my coffee late beneath a high, bright, already hot sun. The rush of the surf hovers just above the silence. The first chain saw of the weekend begins—far enough away to pass for a mechanical insect.

9:08. A second chain saw starts up right next door. Between our houses, a mulberry tree generous with shade, short-cake complementing berries, and purple stains gives up branches to tidiness. The birds continue to sing and whistle. A child calls to a dog. A distant car mumbles. A screen door slams. A ladder clanks. A wood bee bumbles by. The sun slides higher.

9:22. The chain saw moves further away. A mulcher takes its place. An airplane drones to the northeast. Cars crunch on gravel. The Bay again inserts its shush. The mulcher falls silent. A lawn mower begins. Then another. My Saturday visitor asks, “Is it always this quiet?” I laugh. “Yes. It's always this quiet.”

Another week.
Wednesday. 8:15 pm. My daughter and I flop on separate sofas, sticky with the August heat of this June evening. The black and white cat claims the wisp of breeze at the window. Thunder growls low and continuously from the west.

8:20. My husband calls us to the deck where we delight in the menace of the sky. A long rolling prong of pink-orange clouds defined by a white edge that looks handdrawn pushes aggressively across the low gray sky. The back yard darkens suddenly, then the front.

8:30. Lightning attacks begin to the northwest moving with appropriate lightning speed to the southeast—close. We retreat inside to watch the show now in front of the house and out into the Bay. We ooh and aah as if at a fireworks display. One, two, three sometimes four or five crooked arrows throw their light shafts down the sky. One forked stroke sizzles close enough to make us jump and wonder why the lights haven’t gone out.

8:45. The sky, dark now with an inky blue on the edges of the storm, gives up its rain at last. We rush to close windows just as the air finally cools enough to breathe—the fresh smell mixed with the scent of honeysuckle and flowering privet hedge.

8:58. The rain has has followed the lightning across the Bay leaving deliciously cool air in its wake. The windows are open. Diffuse sheet lightning fluctuates afar on the Eastern Shore.

9:00. Plug the t.v. back in. It’s time for Home Improvement.

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Siren Sounds of a Coming Crab War
by Bill Burton

Pardon me, William Butler Yeats, but though he isn’t young like the hero in “The Land of Heart’s Desire,” Gov. William Donald Schaefer has chosen to tread a way none trod before. With much fanfare, Maryland’s outspoken and oft controversial boss waded into the Bay to tinker with our special relationship with our prized crustacean, the blue crab of the Chesapeake.

It is appropriate the governor chose to get his feet wet on the issue of man’s insatiable appetite for crabs before our beloved tidewater creatures join shad, rockfish, canvasbacks, Canada geese and even yellow perch on a list of endangered, threatened or even troubled species.

Much fanfare accompanied the recent Annapolis press conference, promptly followed by a widespread mix of gripes and blessings. It was obvious this was just the first shot in what promises to be second only to the rockfish moratorium in controversy. But this is nothing new for the battle-scarred guv who has alternately roused our ire and our support for his various whims, brainstorms and sometimes downright logical paths of action.

Contrary to his usual swashbuckling approach, he opened this battle on a conservative note with assurances crabs are not yet in trouble, but could or would be unless we promptly implement some severe restrictions, a few of which could come this year.

Immediately following announcement of his plans, researched and mapped out by the Department of Natural Resources, crab catchers took sides. Alas, it was the same tired old story; commercial versus recreational (who thought of the crabs?). Each side figured the other should make the sacrifices. No one wanted to bite the bullet; lead has a bitter taste.

When it finally sank in that curtailments would be endured equally, there were many on both sides who suddenly concluded that maybe crabs aren’t threatened after all. Same old story; this time a new species involved. Thankfully the governor doesn’t let go when he has a tiger by the tail.

His proposals:

  • Require recreational crabbers be licensed, either under the $7 tidewater fishing license program or a crabbing license such as one the General Assembly rejected earlier this year. DNR claims it needs licensing to get a handle on the number of sports crabbers.

  • Cap commercial licenses at about the 3,000 active ones now in use, while eliminating the approximately 13,500 so-called non-commercial licenses purchased by sports crabbers who want to catch more than their limit—some of whom are accused of selling their catches, which means competition for commercial crabbers. Another sore point.

  • Limit the number of crab pots to 300 per license; no limit now with some crabbers working more than 1,000.

  • Impose a 3 am to 5 pm time limit for commercial crabbing; sunrise to sunset for recreational crabbers. Currently, no time limits.

  • Require pots to be modified to allow undersized crabs to escape. With “sports” potters an escape mechanism incorporated to allow turtles, muskrats, ducks and other water-oriented creatures to escape from from pots set out on private property and not tended on a regular basis.

  • Allow 150 feet between traps and trotlines. Currently it’s 50 feet.

  • Restrict recreational catches to one bushel a day, two to the boat. Currently, in some instances it can be more.

  • Impose a limit of five bushels a person; some so-called recreational crabbers are now exempt.

  • Limit to two the number of pots recreational potters can use on their property. Some counties now specify four.

Whew, that’s a big order that would affect just about all crabbers. Tidewater fisheries administrator Pete Jensen said once the ramifications were evaluated, support began to materialize. “It’s generally conceded that something has to be done.”

It’s more down the road that the proposals are directed, said Jensen. Crabs already are the most important and profitable Bay resource, and possibly the most single popular catch. He figures one in seven Marylanders go crabbing.

Jensen is concerned about the ongoing rapid expansion of not just catching pressure but also crabbing business. Consumer demand for soft crabs has spread world-wide in recent years, it’s a profitable business, which prompts fears of overfishing to satisfy increasing commercial crab shedding operations.

Worse still is the increasing number of crab pots worked in the Bay. As finfish and other shellfish catches plummet, watermen turn to the one resource that so far has avoided the drastic declines—averaging about 47 million pounds for commercial crabbers annually until last year’s catch of 30 million, second lowest on record.

Where 300 pots were sufficient for many potters several years ago, many use more.

Danny Beck, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, admits putting out 1,200 to 1,600 pots in the upper bay. Those of us who cruise that area need not be reminded. Boating has become an obstacle course; one wonders how a crab can avoid being caught.

But Beck is a typical waterman trying to stay in business. He’s also effective and outspoken. During a rockfish hearing nine years ago, he mooned a DNR panel in disgust to cap an impassionate plea for less restrictions. He will be a big thorn in the Schaefer program, and Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, will be watched closely.

Simns admits something has to be done, but is skeptical about the 300-pot and time limits. Capt. Buddy Harrison, who combines a charterboat fleet, country inn and oyster business at Tilghman Island and has a close relationship with the governor, complained that cutbacks on crabs mean cutbacks also for both the life style and livelihood of watermen. Schaefer will certainly hear his arguments.

Charlie Schnaitman, who operates Wye Landing on Wye River, is ready to fight sports licensing; he already has started his letter-writing campaign. His is the state’s largest facility catering to sports crabbers, and he fears a $7 license is too much to ask of one who crabs once or twice a year.

“I've got 100 boat rentals, and most of them will stay at the pier if it costs that much,” griped Schnaitman who concedes something must be done. “But they’re going overboard.”

Sports crabber Peter Ramscutt stopped me in Baltimore to complain about the license. “It’s just adding more money to Schaefer’s pockets,” he said. “We pay for boats and fishing licenses and they [the politicians] find a way to raid our funds. I’m fighting this until I am assured the funds will help crabs.”

William C. Baker, president of Chesapeake Bay Foundation, lauded the plan as very bold and needed. He expressed hopes that the usual foot-dragging Virginia will follow suit. The “foot-dragging” I added because Virginia’s record is wait to the last minute, then do as little as possible.

Virginia is just now looking at the issue. Marylanders have long complained of Virginia’s crab-dredging, which primarily affects female crabs wintering there. In the past, we’ve been told those catches don’t affect our populations and spawning success much because females spawn only once in a lifetime.

However, Jensen said it is not improbable that many “pregnant” crabs that have not completed their mission are dredged in Virginia. He looks for Virginia to make a move soon as part of a previous management agreement with Maryland.

Most of the Schaefer plan involves General Assembly action, an ominous sign in view of that body’s traditional reluctance to impose restrictions on watermen. The environment usually loses in trade-offs with legislators from other districts.

Possible this year by DNR administrative action alone are crabbing hour restrictions.

Get ready for a fight; it’s coming. Regrettably, it will probably come down to that old issue of a choice between conservation and the economy. Those involved should heed the advice of the late Adlai Stevenson who in so many words cautioned us more than 40 years ago that repairing a troubled economy could be easier than a troubled natural resource.

Enough said.

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Even Laughing Gourmet wondered about the wisdom of dining in a strip mall. But answering the call of friends, and not wanting to come across as the Elitist Gourmet Police, I joined in a recent luncheon at Calvert House Restaurant in Annapolis on Rt. 2

I almost ate before I got there, just to be sure I wouldn’t go hungry. What great luck that I didn’t.

This place is a find, a little jewel, a solid restaurant with a great attitude that’s been carefully created and nurtured for seven years.

When Farhad Salimi and his two brothers arrived from Iran in 1976, they had no plans to stay and become restauranteurs. “We came to go to college,” says Farhad, owner, manager and chef of Calvert House.

“Then came the revolution. We couldn’t go home. We’d worked our way through college in restaurants, and we knew how to run them. So we bought a chicken place in Riverdale,” he recalls.

That chicken place became Calvert House. It had a nice, local ring to it, so the name stayed. But everything else went and in came a new menu. Five years later, Farhad opened Calvert House in Annapolis because, as they say, it’s a nice place to live and raise a family.

Farhad has made Calvert House a great place to dine even though he hasn’t quite reached the other goals.

The menu is nicely balanced with many tasty dishes. Try the cream of salmon soup, for instance. Sometimes, cream soups get lumpy. Not at Calvert House. Mine was not overwhelmingly rich and had chunks of fresh salmon.

Regular features are Dishes Momma Used To Make: stuffed grape leaves and spinach pie. Momma still makes them back in the Middle East. But the brunt of the menu at Calvert House is traditional American, with strong emphasis on freshness and health.

“I’m very health conscious,” Farhad says. “Everything is fresh. We get daily vegetable deliveries and we don’t keep stuff around. I cook low-fat and low-cholesterol.”

Among the specialties are crab cakes and fine, lightly treated fish. Very fresh fish, I might add.

Farhad is not only the owner but the kitchen genius. Every day of the week. Does he grow tired of it?

“This is a happy business,” he says. “We have good people, some of whom have been here since we opened in 1987. My kitchen staff is extremely reliable and conscientious.”

In a business where turnover can be a nightmare, the loyal, happy staff at Calvert House is not only enviable but adds much to the restaurant’s overall quality.

Even good restaurants have bad nights. Calvert House had such a night recently, through no fault of its own.

A plane had crashed at Lee Airport nearby, downing power lines. It was dusk, a hot summer night. At the peak of business, Calvert House was plunged into darkness.

“We cooked by candlelight,” Farhad recalls. “Everyone knew there was a problem, but I have great clients, and they all stayed and enjoyed their dinners. We brought in dry ice to keep the refrigerated stuff cool...It was an exhausting night, but we pulled it off.”

Even on that challenging night, Farhad kept a positive attitude. It must be catching. I’m thinking positively about the prospect of dining at this strip mall again.

Calvert House, just south of Forest Drive on Rt. 2 (2444 Solomons Island road). Open Monday through Friday, 11:30 am till 10 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 5 pm till 10 pm. 9:45 diners are not normally turned away. Groups by reservation. 410/266-9210.

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Mulberry Shortcake
Here are two recipes to sample. The first and larger one makes a biscuitlike shortcake. Expect it to make 8 servings—not to feed 8 people—because many will want seconds.

The second recipe is halfway between cake and biscuit. Fanny Farmer, from whose wonderful cookbook it comes, called it Cottage Pudding. Use it for cobblers, too, baking the fruit under the pudding. Mulberries cook up a bit too soft to make the best cobbler; they’re better in shortcake. This recipe makes six servings.

Both cakes will be thick and slightly crumbly.

Biscuit Shortcake
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/4 cups milk
4 C sifted flour
2 tbs sugar
2 beaten eggs
6 tsps baking powder
1 cup shorting or butter

Sift dry ingredients. Cut in shortening with pastry blender or two knives. Add milk and eggs. Knead lightly and pat into shape to fit the pan. Spray pan with Pam. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes.

Cottage Pudding Shortcake

1 1/2 C sifted flour
1/2 C milk
1/2 C sugar
1 beaten egg
pinch of salt
melted butter

Sift dry ingredients. Mix wet ingredients and stir into dry, lightly. Spray with Pam cake pan or cupcake tins. Spoon thick batter into pans. Bake at 400° for 20 minutes.

Put warm slices (or cupcakes) in individual bowls. Top with plenty of milk, cream, whipped cream, or ice cream, and sugared berries you’ve let stand to make them juicy. Sigh when full.

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In the Garden
The parsleyworm has come visiting, dressed in fluorescent yellow-green set off with a yellow-dotted black band on each segment.

If you find this showy caterpillar nibbling on the greens of your parsley, carrots, celery, dill, parsnips, or fennel, please don't kill it. Improbable as it seems, you’re seeing the black swallowtail butterfly in one of its early incarnations. The parsleyworm will spin a tan cocoon and emerge as this beautiful butterfly to delight you with its attention to blooms and butterfly bushes.

To see more of this strange creature’s wonders, try poking your parsleyworm gently. It will emit a strong, sweet odor and project two orange horns from its head.

The parsleyworm population is usually small, with two to four generations per year. If there’s not enough parsley for you and the caterpillars, handpick the worms early in the day and set them on a carrot top or another plant you won’t be eating.

On the trees
Mulberries are staining roadways and yards. Pick them quickly in their plump purple-red fullness. They can be savored right off the tree or served with milk and sugar as a simple dessert or over cereal as a breakfast delight. Try them with sliced peaches as a fruit salad. Make mulberry wine, mulberry jam, mulberry sherbert, mulberry pancakes and mulberry shortcake.

Looking Forward
You can expect the first Silverado corn and early cantaloups to start piling up at roadside stands by the first weekend in July, according to Mason Schoenfeldt of Perry’s Produce on Route 261.

In the Air
In this season of brooding, hatching and fledging when birds are as likely to be down as up, we humans gain grace in tenderness.

One new mother we’ve heard of hadn’t the heart to evict a mallard mother-to-be from the nest she’d built on a pontoon boat. Neither, however, did the human mother want to give up her Sunday outing. So the two mothers, eggs, and children went boating together.

A grandfather we know apologized that a bluejay had made him late. The fledgling had fallen into his yard and had to be shooed to the shelter of a low-branched holly tree before the human’s conscience would let him leave.

In the Water
In the Middle Bay, anglers pine for the arrival of bluefish, now scattered in the Lower Bay.

For now and not much longer, the black drum is king. Schools with drum as hefty as 80 pounds have been found from James Island to Poplar Island. Some captains have spotted them even farther north. Boats drifing in 15 to 25 feet of water with crab baits report the best results.

Perch are plentiful in many spots, particularly at the mouth of rivers. One captain loaded up on perch 10 and 11 inches a few miles up the Choptank.

Flounder are showing up strong down South near Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. A Deale captain was surprised to snare two 17-inchers in Herring Bay recently.

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Creature Feature

The Rays of Summer
Rays of an unusual order announce Chesapeake summer

Exploring the Chesapeake, Captain John Smith encountered the business end of a ray and thought it would kill him.

Come with me to the water.

Don’t stop to answer the phone, turn the page or put your packages away.

What’s waiting for you, you may never see the likes of again.

The Bay’s silver screen ripples with life; lobes like wings pierce its limpid surface. Hundreds, maybe a thousand brown, flat bodies, stacked in shifting layers, glide, soar, and gyre. They flap, cruise, chase, leap and bang into one another.

“The only way I can describe it is playing,” says Bob Lunsford, director of fresh water fisheries at Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources.

The scene on the Bay last week was almost stranger than fiction, this close encounter of the Bay kind wherein two worlds meet.

Our Bay visitors are stingrays, and you’re live, front row center for their summer mating ballet. Through the water they fly like water herons, with strong, deep strokes. Their undulating wings—actually broad, triangular pectoral fins fused with the body so that the ray resembles a pair of boomerangs set tip to tip—rise and fall. They stir the sediment of the shallows on the falling stroke and break the surface on the rise.

Every summer, into the Bay from southern Atlantic waters swim flotillas of these strange flapping kites with whiplike tails, radarlike sensors and voracious, gourmet appetites. These Rhinopterae, familiarly known as cownose rays, graze the Bay all summer long, mating and giving birth.

“Shark,” your eyes say and heart responds with a thump of terror, for the first sign of the rays’ coming is those dark wing tips knifing through the water. Rays have been behind more than one Bay shark scare.

In fact, our visitors are the shark’s second cousin; the devilfish is their first cousin. And the ray looks demonic indeed if you discover it unsuspectedly swimming or, perhaps, hugging your anchor line.

“Sharks with flattened bodies adapted to bottom dwelling,” is how rays and skates—another first cousin—are described in Fishes and Their Ways.

Cownose rays are indeed flattened. Up to 70 pounds of fish spread side to side in a disk propelled by a pair of horizontal pectoral fins nearly twice as wide as the fish is long. They may reach seven feet, but more common are wingspreads of three to five feet.

Seen face to face, round bovine eyes and a lobed nose after which it’s named give this ray an unexpected familiarity—almost a gentleness.

But the underside of the ray has a look to breed superstition. Whitish and vulnerable, it is featured with a ghostly face formed by eyelike nostrils, a slit mouth and whiskerlike gills.

That whiplike tail looks wicked, too, but it’s not a sword. The cownose ray is, however, armed. A finger-sized spike lurking at the base of tail and body is the real danger. Step on it, and the pain excruciating and likely followed by infection.

Exploring the Chesapeake, Captain John Smith encountered the business end of a ray and thought it would kill him.

In 1986, a 12-year-old Wye River boy was “hit” in the foot by a stingray. “We spent most of August in the hospital with him. There were days we thought we may not have a foot, or a boy.” his mother recalled.

If you can avoid stepping on a ray’s spike or shuddering at its otherworldly looks, you might grow to love them. Windsurfers credit them with a dolphinlike curiosity, claiming they follow just for fun. Divers court their company, using treats to invite closer encounters.

“I sit quietly on the bottom, enjoying the acrobatic maneuvers of these graceful creatures. Small rays sail around me, seeking bits of food. A small ray’s bump is no bother, but if Ma or Pa happens along, it’s more thump than bump. I’m thankful that being bumped is a rare occurrence,” says John Rue of St. Leonard, who dives with rays in the clear shallow waters near the mouth of the St. Mary’s river in early autumn.

Some like rays for dinner. But the Chesapeake Bay ray hasn’t the following of its European cousins. Our family cooked one once and found it carplike and unsatisfactory. If, however, you’d like to try, say, curried cownose or baked devilfish, ask the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences to send Marine Resources Advisory No. 18.

Rays are gourmets in their own right, voraciously devouring soft-shelled clams and oysters, which they crush between the grinding plates that substitute for teeth..

The herds settle down on sandy or muddy bottoms to “hydraulically mine” those delicacies, according to Frank Schwartz, formerly of the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory in Solomons. They leave behind big ray-shaped depressions—but not much else.

Rays continue to have a bad reputation among watermen, who insist on calling them “skates.” In fact, skates are cousins that also inhabit Chesapeake waters, but they favor the Bay’s saltier southern reaches. Skates have more angles and fewer curves, thinner and flatter bodies, and shorter sturdier tails, without spikes. What’s more, skates lay eggs, while rays give birth to miniatures of themselves.

Ray or skate, many watermen think the only good one is a dead one. “When the watermen first notice the rays, they know they’re in for a terrible battle, and each waterman feels the nuisance differently,” says Thomas Wigginton, writing of the Wicomico River. Burrowing rays bury crabpots in sand, raid pound nets to steal baitfish, and ransack oysterbeds. In return, fishermen club, spear, and harpoon marauding rays.

Fishermen have their own ray troubles. Anglers routinely cut their lines when they feel the heavy tug of a ray—“it feels like a ‘57 Chevy’s attached to the other end,” says Wigginton, deciding it’s a better bargain to lose the lure than catch a ray. Some fishermen who prefer to save their lures cut them out of the tough mouth, club the ray, and toss it overboard.

But to other Baysiders, the cownose ray is a promise kept.

Though not so celebrated as the return of the swallows to Capistrano or buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the cownoses’ annual June arrival in the Chesapeake is a sign of the same order.

If such winged creatures keep their appointments, then surely the world isn’t completely topsy-turvy. Our Chesapeake Bay, befouled as it sometimes is with trash, toxics and supernutrients, still lures the marvels of the ocean to our doors.

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Sun Facts
Over a year’s time, the sun blazes across the 12 well-known constellations of the zodiac, taking about a month to traverse each one. On June 15, it started its journey through Gemini, the Twins. Of course in the daytime sky, the brilliance of the sun obscures the constellation and any daytime stars or planets, except the moon.

As a symbol, the sun has been used to represent God, king, father, government, soul, ego, Sunday, power, ambition and gold.

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Governor’s Youth Fishing Derby

A hazy and overcast Saturday morning did not keep some 70 kids and their parents from enjoying the 1993 Governor’s Youth Fishing Derby at North Beach Town Pier in Calvert County. As a part of this annual 23-location event, the North Beach gathering featured a drawing for prizes, lunch, and plenty of fun with the rod and reel.

“Fishing is a pastime that can last a lifetime. I want to give children the opportunity to get hooked on fishing and not on drugs,” Gov. William Donald Schaefer said in a press release. Judy Lundmark of the cosponsoring Calvert Alliance Against Substance Abuse, Inc., agreed with the need to show kids how to have “alcohol and drug free fun,” as she distributed information to the kids and parents who came to North Beach.

The kids had no time to think about drugs as they busied themselves with hooks and bait. Some, like six-year-old Corey Brookman, were angling for the first time. Although the fishing was slow, her mother Faye was high spirited and said: “We’re definitely enjoying it. She [Corey] got a nibble.” The other Brookmans, eight-year-old Adam and his father Brent, sighted barnacles under the pier. “They attach themselves to boats and other things in the water,” instructed Mr. Brookman as they stared through the planks.

Nearby, 11-year-old Joey Sullivan cast his line. “This is my second year fishing here,” he said, securing his fluorescent-orange sunglasses after the swing. “He only fishes on these special occasions,” added his grandmother Elizabeth.

Other kids, like nine-year-old Kim McGowan, were experienced in the ways of the water. According to her mother Phyllis, she began fishing four or five years ago and has fished in the Derby for the past three years. She likes eating fish as well as catching them, especially “when grandma cooks it,” she explained as she felt for the proper tension on her line. Six-year-old brother Danny likes to cast most, as he displayed with an enthusiastic but wild swing of the rod.

Statewide, poor weather decreased attendance from what was expected, according to Cindy Groves from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, a cosponsor of the event since its advent in 1990. Actual numbers were not yet available.

The Derby culminates with an awards ceremony June 23 at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Winners will be chosen in a random drawing of names of winners from each site, said Groves, “because we want to keep this as a non-competitive event as much as possible.” The prizes include weekend packages to Ocean City and personal computers.

Although the catch at North Beach was a mere couple of horseshoe crabs, a good time was had by all. A striking sense of excitement and togetherness had come over the kids by the time the Derby closed with the prize drawing. They moaned and cheered as gifts donated by local businesses were raffled off.

Happily toting away a popular water game, one lucky boy sang, “I won the boogie board, I won the boogie board.”

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Beach Sculpture
by Nat Knoll

Do you have a bucket, plaster of Paris, a beach with plenty of shells, sand and water? Then you’re prepared to make your own shell sculpture.

Which is just what six students from the Maharishi School in Wheaton, did on their field trip to Fairhaven Cliffs’ beach.

Here’s how to prepare for sculpting at the beach. First, pick a nice, sunny day. Next, gather your equipment: plaster of Paris, a bucket and whatever else you like to take to the beach. Now set out for your favorite beach.

At the beach, gather rocks, stones, pine cones, crab shells, oyster shells, and other natural wonders you think would look nice for your sculpture.

You’re ready to be a sculptor!

  1. Find something to dig with (your hands or a thick stick make an excellent shovel.)
  2. Dig a hole about one foot deep in the sand.
  3. Pour plaster of Paris into your bucket and mix with water (Bay water will work fine.)
  4. Stir plaster with a stick until it is thick like pudding.
  5. Gather up your shells and ornaments and stick them all around the sides and bottom of your hole.
  6. Pour in plaster up to the top.
  7. With a stick, write your name in the plaster so everyone will know your creation.
  8. Plan to take your bucket home to knock out any dried plaster. Please don’t rinse it in the Bay.

While waiting for the plaster to harden, you can take a swim, have some lunch, or just lie in the sand. Whatever you do, make it last at least one half hour so the plaster will have time to set.

Once the half hour is up, you’re ready to unearth your sculpture. Pull it out of the hole, being careful not to drop it. See how nicely the shells have stuck to the plaster. Blow the sand off … and there you have it, your very own seaside sculpture.

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Where The Sidewalk Ends
Shel Silverstein
Harper and Row, 1974

A wonderful collection of over 50 poems that capture the imaginings, curiosities, joys, difficulties and adventures of being a kid, Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein is a book that never grows old.

Young readers are certain to have their own personal favorites, but all are sure to identify with little Peggy in “Sick,” the woefully funny poem about a young girl who seems to have contracted every disease in the book—until she finds out that it’s Saturday. Realizing that she needs no excuses to stay home from school on a Saturday, she bounds out of bed, all of her illness miraculously cured. “Ma and God” is another poem sure to evoke a giggle or two from everyone who was ever caught with a finger up their nose—Silverstein proves that it can be quite a sticky situation!

This engaging collection of poems vary in length from a short four or five lines long, to several pages (seemingly epic in proportion). They are about lots of different things—garbage, peanut butter, flying shoes, love and war, the dirtiest man in the world, and who could forget, fear of the dark! All of the poems are enhanced by creative black and white line drawings, illustrations that seem to bring even more life and spark to the already energetic words that call these pages home.

If you haven't already been treated to Silverstein's playful poetry, might I suggest a trip to your local bookstore or library? And for all of you out there who already know the characters of Where The Sidewalk Ends as old friends—maybe it's time for another visit!

Test Your Energy IQ!

  1. What is energy from the sun called?
  2. There are three types of renewable (they never run out) energy sources. What are they?
  3. What are the three types of non-renewable energy sources most commonly used? (HINT: they are also called fossil fuels).
  4. Why is it important to conserve non-renewable energy forms?
  5. List five ways that you can help to save energy.


  1. Solar energy
  2. Solar energy, hydropower energy, wind energy
  3. Oil, natural gas, coal
  4. It has taken millions of years for the earth to create the fossil fuels that we have now. If we use all of the non-renewable fuels now, there wont be any left to serve as the energy sources we need in the future, so it is important to conserve it. There is a lot of oil in other countries, but they charge the United States a lot of money to purchase it.
  5. 1. Turn off lights, TVs, computers, stereos, etc. when not being used.
    2. Don’t stand in front of an open refrigerator trying to decide what you want to eat. Only open it once, and make it quick!
    3. Take short showers instead of baths, which use much more water.
    4. Don't leave faucets dripping.
    5. Wear clothes that will save you from turning up the heat or air- conditioning in your home. Layer your clothes in the winter and wear cool clothes in the summer.
    6. When the heat or air-conditioning is on in your home or car, keep the windows (and doors) shut.
    7. Bike or walk instead of driving a car whenever possible.

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Sudsy Salute?
Gov. William Donald Schaefer is telling us to hoist one for the good of the Bay.

Maryland has teamed up once again with Anheuser-Busch in a fund-raising scheme selling Budweiser beer steins adorned with a Bay scene watercolor from Tilghman Island.

For each $15 stein sold, $2 will be returned to the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which sponsors education and clean-up around the Bay. The first such program two years ago brought in $13,000. Distributors hawk the mugs at various Bay events.

Maryland officials say that they devoted a good bit of thought before going into cahoots with a brewery. But they became convinced that Anheuser-Busch is sufficiently sensitive about the environment.

“We satisfied ourselves that they didn’t just say that the environment is important but acted like the environment is important,” said Tom Burke, spokesman for the governor’s Bay office.

Burke said it made no difference that Anheuser-Busch has raised the ire of some conservationists by working to defeat bottle-ban bills in legislatures. Anheuser-Busch has shown its commitment to the Bay in many ways, he asserted.

Nor, Burke added, was Schaefer encouraging consumption of alcohol by standing with beer brewers to trumpet the program.

“We are not promoting drinking. We are not promoting beer. We are promoting environmental policy,” Burke said.

Gypsy Search
The devastating gypsy moth may not be so much a problem this year, the state Agriculture Department tells us. But since we’re not out of the woods yet, we’d better worry about protecting our trees. Especially our oaks, of which they’re particularly fond.

First, know what these little devils look like. Gypsy caterpillars have rows of five blue dots and six red ones. This time of year, when they’re about three inches long, they’re about ready for their pupae stage, when they’ll transform into smooth and brown cocoons.

Next month, adults will emerge, and then females will lay their eggs. These tan masses, about an inch and a half wide, will turn into more caterpillars next spring than you want to think about.

What do you do? A popular option is slapping a burlap trap on trees about four or five feet from the ground. Just tie on the burlap strip to form two flaps about six inches wide. Here’s what happens next, in the words of Robert H. Tichenor Jr., the department’s chief of pest management.

“The larger caterpillars that crawl down from the leaves during the day to hide and rest will crawl under the burlap band for shelter. Homeowners should check under the burlap flap at least once each day, destroying any caterpillars found under the band.”

Trusting Gestures
The science club at the Chesapeake Bay Middle school received $557 to paint “Don’t Dump: Chesapeake Bay Drainage” on 250 storm drains.

Calvert County’s Board of Education took home $2,500 for training teachers in Bay-related matters.

But Maryland Save Our Streams made the biggest score: $18,740 for its “Be Part of Something Big” program, which teaches teachers to get their hands dirty cleaning up the Bay.

The source of all these awards is the Chesapeake Bay Trust, which announced another 41 grants last week totalling $110,000 to help the Bay.

The Trust also announced that it had received its 1,000th grant request since opening its doors eight years ago. The Trust has given money, often a fraction of what was sought, to 71 percent of applicants.

Gary Furhman, chairman of the Trust’s board of trustees, observed that tax checkoff donations and proceeds from Bay license plates make the program tick.

Here is a selection of some of the new awards:

  • Chesapeake Bay Foundation—$4,800 for six canoes for students to explore streams;
  • Severna Park Rotary Club—$3,500 for an oyster improvement plan;
  • Magothy River Association—$3,478 to monitor water quality;
  • South River High School SAVE club—$600 to build an outdoor environmental classroom and wildlife habitat.

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