Volume 2 Issue 8 1994

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).

Eco-House: The Stuff of Earth-Day Dreams Reflection
Who Stole Chief Seattle’s Voice? Who's Here
Comment Laughing Gourmet
Dock of the Bay Burton On The Bay
Editorial Bay Life
Letters To The Editor Diversions and Excursions

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Eco-House: The Stuff of Earth-Day Dreams
by Sandra Martin

A new, two-story home taking shape on the south bank of the West River is catching eyes.

“People are walking by, stopping in, saying they’re curious,” says Richard Crenshaw, builder and owner. “They like the looks of what they see.”

They may like what they see, but there’s quite a lot they don’t see.

Richard Crenshaw’s house has a secret, you might say.

“It doesn’t show. People won’t know,” he observes.

What people don’t know is that they’re looking at an “eco-house.”

“This house is an emotional thing with me, something I need to do that’s been there a long time,” Crenshaw says.

Roots and Visions
In middle-class America, we project our dreams onto our houses, materializing them in form and substance, skin and frame. Crenshaw is both an architect and a landscape architect, schooled under teachers who gave shape to the environmental movement, among them Paolo Soleri and Ian McHarg.

“A lot of people don’t find their life’s basic question. I found mine: self-sufficiency,” he says.

Crenshaw says that his philosophy of home-building has taken shape from three visions:

Vision 1. The idea occurred to me on the first Earth Day, in 1970, when I was an architecture student at the University of Pennsylvania. If people could live in space, self-sufficiently without pollution, I though, why not on earth?”

To bring Crenshaw’s dream to earth, his eco-house must be self-sufficient. “To be ecologically responsible, we must leave almost no impact on the environment. The basic idea,” he says, “is to cut the energy off.”

No furnace or baseboard heaters. No oil, electricity, kerosene or gas.

But how will he stay warm on cold winter nights?

Crenshaw is relying on the sun itself. Old Sol’s energy will be captured in two ways. On the south, water-facing side are lots of windows plus “thermal mass,” water — as in the 55-gallon drums painted black to act as hotwater bottles — stone or brick. The north side will have few windows and superinsulation — R30 in walls and R40 in the roof, sandwiched between plywood on both sides.

Windows, of course, are part of a sophisticated eco-heating plant. A specially coated window controls entering energy waves, letting in short and reflecting long, so a house’s heat is thrown back indoors and summer’s heat kept out. This window was developed at Lawrence Berkeley Labs, at the University of California, one of Crenshaw’s professional stops on his route to living his philosophy.

The fireplace Crenshaw is designing will be, he says “more for watching than for warmth.” Basing his estimate on a friend’s Montana eco-house that uses only two cords of wood a year, Crenshaw hope to burn as little as a cord, mostly for cooking. “Heating a house is not so difficult,” he says.

Cooking Is Harder
What’s hard is cooking, where a much higher temperature is needed. But Crenshaw is confident that a family can have its eco-house and eat, too. One must-have appliance for every eco-house is a solar cooker like the one Crenshaw uses on his eco-boat — which is another story.

On sea or land, reflectors around a pot bring the cooking temperature to about 100 degrees for slow, all-day cooking on the crock pot principle. “On my boat, I set one on the front in the morning and my stew or rice is ready when I am in the evening — and it’s never burned.”

The wood stove beloved by our grandmothers and great-grandmothers guarantee higher temperatures. It takes a while to guarantee constant temperature on one of these stately edifices, but other returns are high: radiant warmth to tame winter’s chill and specially made compartments to keep food deliciously warm.

Slightly less confident is Crenshaw’s wife, Maggie Sansone, Celtic musician and owner of an independent label and recording production company, Maggie’s Music. Maggie, it seems, is used to the urban life of Annapolis and doesn’t like to cook, anyway.

“It’ll take a while to convince her wood stoves are as wonderful as they seem to our friends in Lancaster and to my aunt, who puts in one stick of wood to cook a meal,” Crenshaw concedes.

Let There Be Light
Solar power is quite up to replacing electricity, Crenshaw says. Photovoltaics, which stores up solar energy and converts its to use, will light the house. In our climate, enough power can be stored that lights won’t fail even on dreary days and long winter nights.

Solar power converted in photovoltaic cells will even allow you to use your computer. Crenshaw uses a solar power computer on board his boat — but usually at night, on stored energy, to avoid high daytime spikes that could burn a computer out.
Speaking of the sun, what about those visions of his?

Vision 2. “Plants do their whole thing without polluting. Why can’t we blossom without all this trash?”

A garden grows at every eco-house. Crenshaw has a productive vegetable garden at his house in Annapolis; so will his new home.

A second food source is permaculture, where landscaping includes plants that provide food. “I think of perennials,” says Crenshaw, like those that grow in the Davis, Calif. development called Solar Village, where almond trees grow in public spaces and vineyards are planted at intersections.

Crenshaw is borrowing no money to build this house, because lenders rules are not hospitable to eco-homes. Building standards can be just as inhospitable.

“Our society is set up to encourage what we do — not what we might do,” says Crenshaw.

For example, you must have flushing toilets, which require heavy use of fresh water and residues of waste water. Even the most innovative composting toilets, like the new “Sunmar” drying toilet which uses a light bulb and produces dry fertilizer— won’t meet code. Crenshaw plans on installing a regular toilet as well as an ecologically friendly one.

Grandmother washed dainty linens first, whites second, and heavy clothes third — all in the same water. Many of us use a dish pan and throw the left-over water on our gardens. Other “graywater” systems are demonstrated in Los Angeles’ Eco-Village —a kind of them park that’s good for you — where about 10 homes have graywater systems.

Most building codes, on the other hand, abhor any technology to reuse graywater, insisting it go right down the drain. Code writers are certainly not going to tolerate such interesting technologies as biowaste treatment by water hyacinths, or fish and crawfish working as biological filters.

Crenshaw will save water by using an old-fashioned rain barrel, collecting water off the roof with a spout and running it into a pool for garden use.

The House That Richard Built

Vision 3. “For spiritual development, humans need challenges. We seem to be hooked on stress, So why not simplicity, which is a bit of a stress?”

Richard Crenshaw’s long-dreamed house started stirring a little more than a year ago when he bought this south-facing plot, one of the last on this bank of the West River. A friend from childhood and new neighbor found the land. Public sewers, which Crenshaw hopes to make little use of, allowed him to build.

First Crenshaw drew his house; then, last fall, the foundations were laid. You know what happened then: the Great Winter of ‘94 hit.

But February came and, in a single weekend, the timber frame was raised by friends and family from as far away as North Carolina and New York.

“We provided food the weekend while Maggie’s crew played music and everybody joked and laughed,” says Crenshaw. “It was just like an old-fashioned barn raising,” says fellow organic gardener Pat Bramhall, of Lothian.

The entire 2,000-square foot, post-and-beam construction house went up in two weeks.

Onto the timber frame — designed by Crenshaw; cut and made to order by Timberframe Systems of Rehoboth, Del. — a crane hoisted the pre-prepared insulated panels. They were nailed in a day. Window frames cut in at the factory were filled in time for a cherry blossom party this month. Siding will be vinyl because, Crenshaw allows, it’s low maintenance.

In eco circles, materials are hotly debated. Some progressive builders preach the importance of safe building materials; others advocate energy savings as the greatest goal. And sometimes the twain don’t meet.

For Crenshaw, the debate is simply resolved. Correct design? “The real issue is the effort, not right or wrong. Any effort is worth the while,” he says. “The eco-house is nothing you can sell; what matters is not technology, but attitude.”

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Who Stole Chief Seattle’s Voice?
A Mystery
by Sonia Linebaugh

How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us.

Thus begin the memorable words many of us know as Chief Seattle’s speech in answer to government offers to buy his tribe’s lands in 1854.

Words so memorable that they’re quoted by Vice President Al Gore in his green book, Earth in the Balance. Words so memorable that Chief Seattle is called “one of the last spokesmen for the Paleolithic moral order” by Joseph Campbell, author and editor of more than 20 books on the power of myth. Words so memorable that nearly every adult I asked remembered something of it.

The Making of a Legend
Much translated words so memorable that we want to believe them — even if Chief Seattle didn’t speak them, as the National Archives says.

Inundated by requests from all over the world for copies of the original, Archives’ staffer Jerry L. Clark has looked beyond anthologies of American Indian literature and oratory to a 1932 pamphlet published by John M. Rich.

Rich cited an 1887 Seattle Sunday Times article by Dr. Henry A. Smith, a sometimes translator for Chief Seattle and other Indians and government agents. Still researcher Clark can find no evidence that Chief Seattle said or wrote these words.

Lately things have really gotten muddled.

In 1991 the children’s book, Brother Eagle, Sister Sky: A Message from Chief Seattle, with paintings by Susan Jeffers, hit the public with wonderful force. It became an immediate best seller for its harmony of words and pictures. [Take a look in this issue’s “Not Just for Kids.”] Then, on its front page, the New York Times denounced the speech as a myth.

The Times story says that on April 22, 1970, a young professor of film at the first Earth Day celebration at University of Texas at Austin heard a speech of Chief Seattle’s read by a William Arrowsmith. Arrowsmith later admitted to polishing up Rich’s 1932 version.

Are you keeping up with the plot? That professor, Ted Perry, now admits to polishing up the Arrowsmith version, extending the environmental leanings. His version of Chief Seattle’s speech was written into a 1971 film about ecology, produced by the Southern Baptist Radio and Television Commission and later shown on network TV.

Response to the show was so great that the speech showed up everywhere, from ministers’ pulpits to class rooms to environmental manifestos. When Brother Eagle, Sister Sky , Perry wrote to Dial Books, explaining. Dial’s lawyers were unmoved.

To summarize: Perry’s version of the speech — the one most of us know and love — seems to have been adapted from Arrowsmith, who polished up Rich’s version, who had it from Clark B. Belnap, who had it from Vivian M. Carkeek who had it from Dr. Smith — who claimed to have it from Chief Seattle.

Still, the words are memorable. Whoever wrote them, the words have a ring of deep truth. Joseph Campbell, myth expert, once wrote, “Myths are not to be judged as true or false, but rather as effective or ineffective.” Read it for yourself. You may find a savage in your own heart.

If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them?

Every part of this Earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory of my people. The sap that courses through the trees carries the memories of the red man.

The white man’s dead forget the country of their birth when they go to walk among the stars. Our dead never forget this beautiful Earth, for it is the mother of the red man. We are part of the Earth and it is part of us. The perfumed flowers are our sisters; the deer, the horse, the great eagle, these are our brothers. The rocky crests, the juices in the meadows, the body heat of the pony, and man — all belong to the same family.

So, when the great chief in Washington sends word that he wishes to buy our land, he asks much of us. The great chief sends word he will reserve us a place so that we can live comfortably to ourselves. He will be our father and we will be his children. So we will consider your offer to buy our land. But it will not be easy. For this land is sacred to us.

This shining water that moves in the streams and rivers is not just water but the blood of our ancestors. If we sell you land, you must remember that it is sacred, and you must teach your children that it is sacred and that each ghostly reflection in the clear waters of the lakes tells of events and memories in the life of my people. The water’s murmur is the voice of my father’s father.

The rivers are our brothers, they quench our thirst. The rivers carry our canoes and feed our children. If we sell you our land, you must remember, and teach your children that the rivers are our brothers, and yours, and you must henceforth give the rivers the kindness you would give any brother.

We know that the white man does not understand our ways. One portion of land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes whatever he needs. The Earth is not his brother, but his enemy and when he has conquered it he moves on. He leaves his fathers’ graves behind, and he does not care. He kidnaps the Earth from his children, and he does not care. His fathers’ graves and his children’s birthright are forgotten. He treats his mother, the Earth, and his brother, the sky, as things to be bought, plundered, sold like sheep or bright beads. His appetite will devour the Earth and leave behind only a desert.

I do not know. Our ways are different from your ways. The sight of your cities pains the red man. But perhaps it is because the red man is a savage and does not understand.

Where is the thicket? Gone. Where is the eagle? Gone. The end of living and the beginning of survival.

This is a shortened version of “Chief Seattle’s speech.”

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Alan Thein Durning Special to New Bay Times

The Seven Sustainable Wonders of the World

I’ve never seen any of the Seven Wonders of the World, and to tell you the truth I wouldn’t really want to. To me, the real wonders are all the little things — little things that work, especially when they do it without hurting the earth. Here’s my list of simple things that, though we take them for granted, are absolute wonders.

1. The bicycle
The most thermodynamically efficient transportation device ever created and the most widely used private vehicle in the world, the bicycle lets you travel three times as far on a plateful of calories as you could walking. And it’s53 times more energy efficient — comparing food calories with gasoline calories — than the typical car. Not to mention the fact it doesn’t don’t pollute the air, lead to oil spills (and oil wars), change the climate, send cities sprawling over the countryside, lock up half of urban space in roadsides and parking lots, or kill a quarter million people in traffic accidents each year.

The world doesn’t yet have enough bikes for everybody to ride, but it’s getting there quickly: Best estimates put the world’s expanding fleet of two-wheelers at 850 million—double the number of autos. We Americans have no excuses on this count: We have more bikes per person than China, where they are the principal vehicle. We just don’t ride them much.

2. The ceiling fan
Appropriate technology’s answer to air conditioning, ceiling fans cools tens of millions of people in Asia and Africa. A fan over your bed brings relief in sweltering climes, as I’ve had plenty of time to reflect on during episodes of digestive turmoil in cheap tropical hotels.

Air conditioning, found in two-thirds of U.S. homes, is a juice hog and the bane of the stratospheric ozone layer because of its CFC coolants. Ceiling fans, on the other hand, are simple, durable, repairable and take little energy to run.

3. The clothesline
A few years ago, I read about an engineering laboratory that claimed it had all but perfected a microwaves clothes dryer. The dryer, the story went, would get the moisture out of the wash with one-third the energy of a conventional unit and cause less wear and tear on the fabric.

I don’t know if they ever got it on the market, but it struck me at the time that if simple wonders had a PR agent, there might have been a news story instead about the perfection of a solar clothes dryer. It takes few materials to manufacture, is safe for kids, requires absolutely no electricity or fuel, and even gets people outdoors where they can talk to their neighbors.

4. The telephone
The greatest innovation in human communications since Guttenberg’s printing press, telephone systems are the only entry on my wonders list invented in this century, and — hype of the information age not-withstanding — I’ll wager that they’ll never lose ground to other communications technologies. Unlike fax machines, personal computers and computer networks, televisions, VCRs and camcorders, CD-ROM, and all the other flotsam and jetsam of the information age, telephones are a simple extension of the most time tested means of human communication: speech.
5. The public library
Public libraries are the most democratic institution yet invented. Think of it! Equal access to information for any citizen who comes inside. A lifetime of learning, all free. Libraries foster community, too, by bringing people of different classes, races and ages together in that endangered form of human habitat: noncommercial public space.

Although conceived without any ecological intention whatsoever, libraries are waste reduction at its best. Each library saves a forestful of trees by making thousands of personal copies of books and periodicals unnecessary. All that paper saving means huge reductions in energy use and water and air pollution, too. In principle, the library concept could be applied to other things — cameras and camcorders, tapes and CDs, cleaning equipment and extra dining chairs — further reducing the number of things our society needs without reducing people’s access to them. The town of Takoma Park, Maryland, for example, has a tool library where people can check out a lawn mower, ratchet set or a sledgehammer.

6. The interdepartmental envelope
I don’t know what they’re really called: those old-fashioned slotted manila envelopes bound with a string and covered with lines for routing papers to one person after another. Whatever they’re called, they put modern recycling to shame.

7. The condom
It’s a remarkable little device: highly effective, inexpensive and portable. A few purist Greens might complain about disposability and excess packaging, but these objections are trivial considering the work the condom has to do — battling the scourge of AIDS and stabilizing the human population at a level the earth can comfortably support.

Alan Thein Durning, formerly of WorldWatch Institute, has recently founded Northwest Environmental Watch in Seattle, where, he laments, it rains too much to use a clothes line.

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Dock of The Bay

A Record Flow And A Crystal Ball

What has the brutal winter done to the Chesapeake and its creatures? Will the fish be jumping and the crabs crawling into the cooker?

Our marvelous, sensitive, willful Bay has a way of making surefire predictions sound foolish down the line. Yet there are some trends out there, mostly linked to the incredible flow of water into the Chesapeake from all the ice, snow and rain.

In March, the U.S. Geological Survey measured192 billion gallons of water pouringdaily into the Chesapeake from the rivers that feed it.

You’ll recall last year people were astounded at the flow after of the Great Blizzard of ‘93. How did it measure up? A mere149 billion gallons a day in March.

“This is the highest on record, the most flow we’ve ever had,” observed Bob James, who heads the Geological Survey’s measurement team in Towson.

What does this mean? First, it tells of a vast influx of unwanted substances; toxic chemicals, pesticides and nutrient run-off from farms, all of which diminish water quality. It also means a tremendous amount of sediment clouding up the water and and gunking up Bay grass plus trash and plastic uglifying the shoreline. The amount of rainfall the remainder of the spring will dictate how long these conditions will persist, experts say.

For fish, the Great Dump of ‘94 carries mixed messages.

Rockfish, you’ll be happy to hear, thrive on high stream-flows and slowly increasing temperatures after cold winters. So do shad, herring and perch with an abundance of food in their midst. In other words, conditions are favorable for uninterrupted rockfish bonanzas in years hence.

Here’s another sliver of good news. Claude Bain, a state of Virginia fisheries expert, reports “a pretty good crop of croaker” moving into the Bay. There’s weakfish (sea trout), too, Bain says, though he’s among the experts who sees problems here with a declining population.

Bluefish? Don’t ask. Bluefish want salinity, and so much freshwater pouring out of the Chesapeake is not an alluring sign for blues heading up the coast.

But hey, nobody knows for sure what’s going on with bluefish and whether they’ll pay us a visit. The big ones haven’t been here en masse since 1988, and we’ve had starkly different weather for three seasons.

Are they fished out? Swimming farther out to sea? Repelled by the Bay’s rockfish resurgence and competition for menhaden?

Who knows. Maybe they’re preparing a mass attack to bite holes in all of our boats.

And the crabs? This much we know: the season is a tad later than usual in the Middle Bay but they’re beginning to show in pots.
We know that the February numbers in the Virginia crab dredging season were down slightly, but that didn’t surprise officials there.

While some forecasts are rosy, the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory hasn’t yet tallied its own dredge samples. Those samples led to estimates that there were somewhere around 653 million catchable crabs in the Bay last year; 440 million the year before that.

William Goldsborough, fisheries expert at the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, observes that because of the heavy fresh-water flow crabs might not be moving as far up into rivers as they might normally.

“My sense is that crabs are not going to be particularly abundant early in the spring,” Goldsborough said.

As usual, we’re left watching the weather wondering if this year will be as bountiful as last.

Crabs are resilient like the Bay itself. They’re just not clever enough to keep out of the cooker. For that and the arrival of warm weather, we’re thankful.

Teak Magic: Caribbean Connections
You don’t have to be a boater to know that one of the wonders of the world is teak.

In the Phillippines, pilings made of teak wood have endured 1,000 years. In Asia, they’re making boards out of teak logs that laid on the bottom of the Burma River for 100 years.

So it comes as no surprise that when Bruce Bachenheimer was looking for something special in life, something satisfying yet saner than life as a bond trader in New York, he turned to teak.

Bachenheimer is the founder of Annapolis Maritime Corp., which has begun importing teak to the Chesapeake Bay. From his shop on Lincoln Drive in Annapolis, Bachenheimer has begun selling his wood at a price he says is lower than what boaters usually see.

There are stories in Bachenheimer’s arrival and his wood’s. Bachenheimer, 32, a New York native, grew up in the high-finance world of bond-trading and foreign exchange with a speciality in Japanese curency. On an average day, he might handle $2 billion in yen.

But like many people these days, he longed for a different life. So with the economy going south, so did Bachenheimer — first on a 22-foot sailboat and then on a Pearson 36 Cutter. He stayed two years in the Caribbean and South American ports before arriving in Annapolis last July 4. Why here?

“Annapolis seemed like a good fit, a good place in the middle,” he says.

But how to make a living? Bachenheimer had grown enamored with teak and he had wood skills to boot. With so many boats on the Bay, his plan started taking shape.

Getting rare teak is another story. Malaysia, Burma (now Myanmar) and traditional teak-growing lands have largely been plundered. Bachenheimer worried, too, about the notion that teak clearcutting has sped the destruction of rain forests, a hazardous reputation for a retailer to carry in these times.

He has overcome problems by finding his sources on controlled plantations in Costa Rica and on Caribbean islands that he prefers not to name. In these latitudes, governments have learned that they can sustain a valuable commodity by regulating cuts and overseeing planting.

Locating the wood and shipping it poses more than a few headaches but Bachenheimer’s business is up and running. Besides selling teak for boats, Bachenheimer is crafting tables from his precious raw material and promoting sales of it for the home.

Bachenheimer, who lives on his boat at the Liberty Marina, doesn’t sound like he misses the hustle of New York.

“I wanted to make something,” he observes. “Before, it was just working with numbers.”

On The Bay, Crab Confusion
The first of what promises to be a series of crab wars is over, and there are no winners. Even the crabs — promised increased protection by Gov. William Donald Schaefer in his much publicized Crab Action Plan — lost out.

The crabbing season opened April 1 in the same way the recent session of the General Assembly closed: Everyone was confused. King Crab was indignant, DNR disappointed, commercial crabbers befuddled, and recreational crabbers wary about their chances when the cease-fire ends.

The governor and his DNR could probably have gained the recreational crab license they sought had they not tried to jam it down the throats of people at the same time they were cutting back on opportunity and catches. In effect, they were asking crabbers to pay for a license to catch less — and it didn’t work.

The General Assembly passed a watered-down commercial crab license bill that freezes the number of commercial licenses but does nothing to spare crabs or lessen pressure on the resource. One boat can still work 900 pots.

As things now stand, it seems no one other than commercial watermen needs a license to harvest crabs whether from shore or boat — including about 10,000 non-commercial (licensed) crabbers who previously paid $10 a year ($20 for non-residents) for the right to take more crabs and use more gear to catch crustaceans for their personal use only.

Recreational crabbers lost their early and late hours by a DNR mandate restricting boat crabbers to 5:30am to sunset hours— long after commercial crabbers can begin their day. Recreational crabbers had no time restrictions,.

Other changes by DNR edict allow 1,000 feet of trotline per person, 2,000 to a boat, and up to 25 traps and rings to a boat, 10 to a person crabbing from piers and bridges. The number of crab pots set from private property by landowners was reduced to two.

— Bill Burton

Well-Placed Warnings

In an unusual step, the Environmental Protection Agency has advised people who installed new brass pumps in their water wells in the past year to immediately switch to bottled water until the wells are tested for lead.

Over 11 million families get water from wells, among them many along the Chesapeake Bay. EPA officials said that lead used in making the brass can leach into the water in dangerous levels, posing special threats to children.

EPA officials said that the main problem occurs during the first year of the brass pump. Plastic and stainless steel pumps aren’t a problem. Tests cost around $25, and are recommended for all brass pump owners.

“If they know they have a brass pump they should follow our advice and test,” said Peter Cook, director of EPA’s water office, which has opened a hotline to answr questions. Call 800/426-4791.

And if you’re in the market for a new pump, insist on one that’s lead-free.

Bird Disease Declared Past Tense
The outbreak of avian cholera that struck Chesapeake Bay waterfowl appears to have run its course in Maryland and Virginia, where 35,000 dead ducks were recovered after being washed ashore. Another 1,000 came ashore in North Carolina.

DNR reports that nearly all mortality was confined to the Chesapeake, though a tundra swan was found inland in Dorchester County and an osprey in Talbot. Many sea gulls were also reported to have perished from this highly contagious disease first detected in late February.

DNR waterfowl leader Larry Hindman said the outbreak could be among the worst ever to hit North America. The carcasses recovered, he said, represent only a percentage of the actual mortality. Most of the fowl involved were old squaws and buffleheads, though there were some scoters, goldeneyes, swans, loons and grebes.

“The disease is typically a winter and springtime phenomenon,” said Hindman. “It is often associated with stress factors such as crowding and severe weather.”

— Bill Burton

Way Downstream ...

Good news from Florida, where a new study at the University of Florida found that the manatee population is holding steady. Those huge, lovable sea-lion looking creatures were headed toward extinction. As a result boating lobbyists contend that speed limits in some waterways aren’t necessary ...

Weird news from Florida: The state Senate passed legislation making it a civil offense to proclaim any local produce local unsafe for human consumption. Careful what you say about those tasteless tomatoes they ship here in winter ...

They wondered last month why fewer swallows showed up in Capistrano, Calif. Surely it couldn’t have been the mariachi band, the folk dancers or the tour buses. Or the new petting zoo. Remarked a San Diego Zoo official: “Too many people and too much commotion.”

In Puerto Rico, the U.S. government is spending $65 million to clean up that January oil spill — two-thirds of the $100 million set aside by Congress this year for such disasters. Another reason for requiring precautions on the Bay ...

Our Creature Feature this week comes to us from zoos and big-tops across America where, we learn, people are lining up with buckets. We were intrigued when dung-hunters turned out with shovels at the elephant pen when the circus was here recently. Is it giant squash they want to grow?

Turns out that several zoos are getting takers now that they offer animal droppings for fertilizer. Last weekend, it went on sale at the Wichita Zoo, like zoos in St. Louis and Memphis.

“We were looking for a way to avoid landfill costs when we hit on this,” said Scot Davies, Wichita zoo spokesman.

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Vanishing Earth Day

In case you missed it, this week marks the 24th anniversary of Earth Day, the awakening that helped turn the corner on some dumb and shortsighted practices on this planet.

You may have missed the celebration because there hasn’t been much of one this year. Advocates say they’re saving steam for a 25th anniversary blowout a year from now.

There’s more to it. The environmental movement — an overworked phrase — has hit some bumps in the road. We saw it in Maryland’s General Assembly with short shrift paid to green bills (and most anything of substance.) We see it in Congress, where green lawmaking is a rear-guard action thanks to “property-rights” forces bankrolled by corporate interests.

This inertia is sobering for those of us along the Chesapeake Bay whose business, pleasure and lives are built on keeping clean surroundings.

This is no time to whine. It is a time to bear down, be smart and know what’s happening — or get slapped by the swinging pendulum.

Obviously, part of what’s going on here is a shakeout in our economy in which frills are getting axed. If that means re-evaluating conservation spending, so be it. We who care have the obligation of making the economic case for Bay programs.

Trend No. 2, also no secret, is a backlash everywhere against government that is big, dumb or both. We agree. But let’s be discerning here. It’s important to praise agencies like the Department of Natural Resources when they push a smart fisheries management bill, as they did in the General Assembly. Or the Maryland Department of the Environment, which strengthened rules to control farm run-off this month when the Assembly had no guts.

The wrong route is to loaf while the other side talks about “environmental extremism.” A danger of disaffection is drift, which means losing the momentum built in saving rockfish and protecting critical areas, to name just two successes.

How to celebrate a somewhat quiet Earth Day? We hesitate to say, because we don’t like being told what to do ourselves. If asked, we’d say let’s put our smarts where our hearts are in two ways:

• Set a shining personal example, perhaps by stopping to snatch an ugly piece of roadside trash — or picking up a whole block or two.

• Get set for Campaign ‘94. Pay attention to legislation; translate those regulations. Know who’s saying — and voting — what. Get ready to hold some feet to the fire.

Making laws is, we’ve always heard, like making sausage: you’re better off not knowing what went into either. But we are better off knowing what laws will do to us, and finding that out is a good reason for a third Earth Day action.

• Join an environmental organization. One of the benefits of groups like the Chesapeake Bay Foundation and Sierra Club is that they keep you in the know.

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Letters to the Editor

Dear New Bay Times:
Time: 1300 GMT Position 14 o 21.2 N, 119o 20.8 W Speed 6–8 knots Course 280 degrees True

We are still sailing. Speed comes and goes as the wind comes and goes and changes direction a little. But we continue to sail. No special events yesterday. No fish. No birds fighting about a place to sit. No fish biting. No radio chatter from nearby boats. No boats sighted. No helicopters.

Maintenance continues. Flying fish still fly by the dozens as we slide by, startling them. Dolphins and porpoise still swim by. Occasionally, we see a new bird, possibly a gannet, that looks similar to the Brown Boobie, but is mostly white. This bird dives like a pelican straight into the water from as high as 100 feet.

The Boobies do not fish the same way. They glide over the water and catch the flying fish as they jump the waves while in flight. These birds have different talents and both require a lot of skill.

— Capt. Jan Miles On Board Pride of Baltimore II en route to Hawaii

Taking Aim at Bill Burton

Dear New Bay Times:
Mr. Burton’s article blasting the National Rifle Association is somewhat confusing. He spends 90 percent of the time blasting the NRA. But he is concerned that “the government is eventually going to get more restrictive on gun control,” and he owns guns and wants to keep them.

Well, you lost me. But I would say that if people want to continue to be allowed to own guns to protect their family from criminals who will always be able to get guns, then people like Mr. Burton should be supporting the Second Amendment and the NRA, which is fighting to protect law-abiding citizens rights to keep and bear arms.

The liberal news media has brainwashed a believing population that disarming law-abiding citizens will reduce crime. The people of this nation had better wake up and realize that the Second Amendment does include the right of the people to keep and bear arms, and that it is that right that up until now that has maintained our freedom.

Misguided gun control advocates are well-meaning, but they fail to reason properly. They think fewer guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens will mean less crime. In fact, without an armed citizenry, anarchy is likely.

Guns maintain our freedom and keep our government from getting more oppressive than it already is. Guns also serve to discourage foreign invaders from mounting an attack on our nation. They are useful in the event that a criminal enters your home. Police can not arrive instantly.

Even if there was no Second Amendment, any intelligent and reasonable person can see that the crime problem is caused by criminals, not their weapons of choice.

Lorena Bobbit never used a gun on John. Nancy Kerrigan’s attacker didn’t use a gun. Knives can kill as easily as guns. Why not ban knives?

Mr. Burton wrote a lot about disarming law-abiding citizens, but not much was said about criminals. If I hadn’t already joined the NRA before reading Mr. Burton’s article. I most certainly would join them today.

—J. Douglas Parran St. Leonard, Md.

Dear New Bay Times:
I am a driving instructor for one of the top ten trucking companies. I don’t usually write to newspapers, but after reading Bill Burton, I felt I had to.

He speaks of “compromising our rights for the benefit of all.” The criminal will continue to use this to his advantage. Gun control is a failure. Just look at New York, New Jersey and California.

Criminal control, on the other hand, works. Just look at Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas. Non-concealed carrying of side arms in Florida has produced a 20 percent to 40 percent drop in violent felonies. The crook knows that the honest citizen will defend himself or herself.

Our founding fathers did not intend for anyone to limit your rights or mine. The results from the FBI and the Justice Department are that violent crime and major felonies are down. Yet the press has tripled their reporting of crime.

Why should the press use its First Amendment right of free speech to limit my Second Amendment right to defend myself?

Bill Burton says that the NRA is hurting our Second Amendment rights. With this logic, it follows that the NAACP hurts blacks; NOW hurts women; and AARP hurts the elderly.

Compromise is what got this country into the mess that it is in today. Compromise is not part of the Bill of Rights.

—Jeffrey A. Gohsman Fowlerville, Mich.

A Blooming Disagreement

Dear New Bay Times:
Several months ago, in the dead of winter, I read a nostalgic article in New Bay Times about winter along the Chesapeake Bay. In the story, the author describes the forsythia blooming in January. Please advise her that it is not forsythia but rather winter jasmine. (They look identical except one is yellow; one is white. One blooms in January, one in April.)

Learn something new every day.

—Judy Bynarsky Chesapeake Beach, Md.

Editor’s note: Commentator Sonia Linebaugh replies that she will look for winter jasmine, but she will be surprised if she finds it on her forsythia bush.

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Bay Reflections

Life Among the Animals
by Aloysia C. Hamalainen

Squeezing my calves against his side, I feel him surge forward. I wiggle my fingers on the reins and sit upward a bit to steady him. We complete our transition from trot to canter. Through his pricked ears, I pick my spot before the white rails of the jump and smoothly we fly over it. My 19-year-old Arabian gelding snorts in anticipation for the next jump, but I slow him by adjusting my weight in the saddle and we go back to the trot and then a walk.

“No more today, D’Orsaz. Your old mother is too tired for this.”

I jump down from the saddle, loosen his girth and we walk back to the barn, his soft, black lips nuzzling my shoulder. As I brush his silky white mane, he rubs his face against my back. Nickering, he stands at the gate to his pasture and watches me walk back to my car and leave.…

I feel his chin on my thigh, and through the gray light of dawn his brown eyes gaze at me earnestly, his lips quivering. “Can’t you wait a few minutes?” I mumble crossly as I move to turn over, but I know he can’t. Heaving myself from my bed and surrounded by whines and barks, I open the back door and they leap out, a flurry of brown and white tails and ears....

Some of the greatest loves of my life have been my animals.With all the different forms of life I have shared time, I have found a consistency, a quality and a value that I cannot imagine living without. I have been moved to see in the past year or so several books written about the intelligence and “secret” lives of dogs.I have experienced the same thing with animals ranging from horses to — and including — fish.
As a child, I was surrounded by cats and one Dalmatian dog.I spent many a hot summer day under the weeping willow with several families of mom cats and kittens sprawled and rolling around me. When I walked to my best friend’s house, which was across the street and up the hill, one by one, with no urgency or sound my calico cats would meander behind me. While I was inside or even playing in the yard, six or seven multi-colored cats would wash themselves, laze or hunch up in the front yard. I passed among them on my walk home and they would slowly, one by one get up, stretch and wander back the same way, their tail-tips crooking back and forth.

Today, my two Siamese, who would much rather slink and climb, carefully keep watch of my daughters as they ride their bikes up and down the sidewalk. My daughters complain that if they bike past the corner, Mommacat will run behind them, meowing loudly that distinctive Siamese yeowl. It embarrasses the girls so much they turn back. I smile gratefully to my gray guardian, and she acknowledges me with an enormous blue-eyed blink.

I spent nine years with a blue parakeet. Cupped in my hands, he was no more than the sum of his feathers and a beating heart, but in his little black eyes shone a spirit of mischief and good humor that I miss to this day. You could probably crush his tiny body with one hand, but his spirit and his position in my house were equal to any other being living there. He could play games with the tennis ball and he would tenderly preen the top of your head. When he heard my husband’s voice through the door, the bird’s trilling joined the general cacophony that greets a family member’s return.

I tend to have two dogs when I have a dog. I remember once, picking out a dog at the pound, being admonished not to stare into his eyes. That was a threat and an invitation for him to jump at my throat. I didn’t agree then, and now as I look deeply into the honest eyes of Cory and Charles I know how much I would miss if I couldn’t visit their souls this way. Time stands still for a breath or two as you are bathed in their feelings.

I feel many times that my understanding of animals is pathetic compared to their understanding of me. My son had an Oscar fish he had raised from the size of a quarter to the size of a pie plate.I usually ignored my son’s assortment of tanks bubbling in his room until I had to feed them while he was away. Then I was transfixed as I approached the Oscar, and he glided to the glass and watched me.As I unfolded the bag of food, he began jumping in and out of the water. After he (or she) finished the pellets, the luminous brown fish continued to stay near the glass. We silently communicated with our eyes for several minutes before I broke away. I had the eerie feeling that although I did not understand him, he sure had my number.

Anyone who has known me for more than, say, 15 minutes knows how I feel about horses. A whole section of my heart is cordoned off for them. Any horse-person knows this and accepts it.I can’t get started writing about my horses because I won’t be able to stop. I can say I have experienced with my horses levels of generosity and benevolence and courage unequaled by any other life force. I cannot conceive of Heaven without horses.

I have been fortunate and blessed by the animals in my life.Whoever designed the scheme of things on this planet was incredibly kind to humans to allow us the privilege of having a “pet.” If we were smart, we would realize that animals are the bigger part of life’s spectrum, and that we learn more about ourselves through reaching out to them.

Aloysia C. Hamalainen’sanimals help her survive her life as a family woman working in Washington.

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Who's Here

On The Trees

Spring blossoms explode like fireworks, bursting open and then cascading in brief, splendid colors. Over in Washington, they adored their cherry blossoms. Along the Bay this time of year, who can single out one thing?

Forsythia, that benchmark of spring, still hangs on in gaudy yellows hedges shaped like Rasta braids. Fruit trees flare in their turn; plum and crabapple are now aflame while cherry and pear have faded. Dogwood dapple the woods; on lawns, domesticated relatives both pink and white speak well of their planters. Redbud is tickled pink.

Now, when your favorite is brilliant in your mind’s eye, is the time head to your neighborhood nursery and invest in next spring’s glory.

In the Woods

Wildflowers are awakening, thrilling us with both looks and names. Have you found Spring Beauty yet? How about Wake Robin, Thoroughwort, Dutchman’s-Breeches, Early Meadow-Rue, Trillium or Old-Field Toadflax?

Carry your field guide with you when you head into the woods. Even better, seek wildflower workshops in New Bay Times’ calendar.

In the garden, delight springs up at every hour. As daffodils and hyacinths fade, tulips and money plants fling their magic into the morning breeze. Dandelions backed by violets are out of control. Some gardeners tear out these wildflowers that refuse to stay in their place.

I can’t bring myself to follow suit. My childhood was spent in a tiny Pennsylvania community called Violet Hill whose main charm was the violets that spread their carpet in early spring. Certain little girls would pick violet bouquets and sell them for a few pennies to soft hearted ladies with violets by their own front door. What little girls haven’t picked bouquets of violets?

On the Fence

It’s billing and cooing time. Seen on a fence rail: two mourning doves sitting wing to wing, rubbing their necks together and pecking at each other’s throats. When one moved away, the other snuggled up and they necked some more. Finally they flew away one after the other.

Even grackles are in the mood. I saw two in a face off. One stood stiffly with tail straight up in the air while the other bent low and ruffled all its feathers.

Blue jays are building a nest in the ivy covered trunk of the maple tree at the back of the yard.

A male flicker has joined the crowd of birds in the yard. This tan-and-gray woodpecker with black markings and red nape tolerates not even the scrappy sparrows when at the feeder. Haven’t seen his mate yet.

All the birds are in their brightest plumage, the goldfinch rivaling the forsythia for brightness and even the brown and black cow bird gleams in the spring light.

The air is a tapestry of sound. Where one twitter leaves off a chorus of chirps moves in. Even the high drone of airplanes in this skyway weave their deep note into the whole.

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Laughing Gourmet

Salad Days are Here
by Jon Traunfeld

Attention American gardeners: It’s time to wake up and smell the vinaigrette. Home-grown salad greens are a hot gardening trend in the 1990s.

Old salad plants — like chard, claytonia, orach and amaranth — are being rediscovered. So-called “yuppie” greens like cress, mache (corn salad), poke and rape seed have long been staples in the gardens tended by Southerners and older transplanted Southerners. Plants once considered weeds — like dandelion, lambsquarters and purslane — are now showing up in high-tone restaurants. For a washed and tossed mix of these greens, you can pay $8 –10 a pound at tony food stores.

As interesting oriental greens and fine European lettuces and chicories appear in U.S. seed catalogs, you can grow your own tasty tossed salad for considerably less.

This is no fad. Growing your own salad greens just makes too much sense. Many of these plants are quite nutritious, can be eaten raw or cooked, are quick-maturing and easy to grow over an extended season. They also add exciting new colors, shapes, textures and flavors to the dinner table. Why grow grass when you can eat minuza, broccoli raab and garlic chives?

The Road to Successful Salading
A favorite gardening slogan of mine is “plan, plant, pray.” The key to successful salad gardening is doing the first thoroughly, the second successively and the last fervently.

The Rodale Research Center staff produces over 100 pounds of salad vegetables (mostly greens) on 50-square-feet demonstration beds. This feat is accomplished by dividing the bed into two-square foot-blocks within and succession-planting each block from April to November. For example, follow radishes with cucumbers with kale; follow lettuce with beets with spinach. Serious salad gardeners sow a new crop every 10 to 14 days.

“Cut and come again” and mesclum (mixture) salad beds are becoming increasingly popular. In either case, a single species or mixture of species is planted thickly and then cut every few days with sharp shears when plants are 4 to 6 inches high. With proper care, the bed may produce for 3 to 4 weeks before plants become tough and bitter.

Most salad plants can be direct sowed or transplanted, will occupy 6 to 12 square inches when mature, and grow well in partial sun. Because they are for the most part fast and low growing and shallow-rooted, they make good companion plants for larger, long-season crops. For example, a slow-bolting leaf lettuce can be sown in the shadow of newly planted tomatoes.

Garden soils should be well amended with organic matter before planting and kept moist throughout the season. Spun-bound polyester row covers are a great help in excluding insects, protecting tender plants from wind and creating a more humid micro-climate. Weekly applications of compost and manure “teas” or dilute fish emulsion will increase yields.

Green Hit Parade
Try the following easy-to-grow greens. They are the hardy, non-fussy plants suitable for cut-and-come-again salad gardening:
Oriental leafy mustards (minuza, mustard spinach, green-in-the-snow): Very hardy, they do equally well under cool and warm conditions. Sow every 2 to 3 weeks from spring through fall. Try young leaves and shoots in raw salads and cook older, sharper flavored leaves in stir fries. Most will resprout after cutting stalk at ground level.

Pac choi, leafy cabbage: Ready in 35 to 45 days from sowing, pac choi is succulent and mild flavored. Can be grown spring through fall and will usually overwinter without protection.

Leaf lettuce: Dozens of new varieties to choose from are slow to bolt and nutritious. Great Rapids, salad bowl and oak leaf types are very dependable. Germination is poor when soil temperature exceeds 75 degrees F. So start seeds indoors for summer plantings.
Swiss chard, perpetual spinach: Nutrient-dense and prolific, these two are indispensable for producing large quantities of summer greens. They’re wonderful raw or cooked. De-string and stir-fry the wide midribs or batter and deep fry them.

Chicory-red, heading chicory (radicchio): Best sown mid-summer. They develop their sharp-flavored heads during cool fall weather. Sow the green, cutting chicory (grumolo and sugar loaf) from spring through fall.

Seed Sources:
The Cook’s Garden: PO Box 535, Londonderry, VT 05148
Johnny’s Selected Seeds: Foss Hill Rd., Albion, ME 04910-9731
Pinetree Garden Seeds: Box 300, New Gloucester, ME 04260
Shepherd’s Garden Seeds: 0 Irene St., Torrington, CT 06790

The Salad Garden by J. Larkcom
The Harrowsmith Salad Garden by T. Forsyth and M. Mohr
The Cook’s Garden by S. and E. Shepherd
The New Organic Grower’s Four Season Harvest by E. Coleman

Jon Traunfeld will answer all your fruit and vegetable questions. Call him toll free at University of Maryland’s Cooperative Extension Service from 8am to 1pm weekdays: 800/342-25507.

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Burton On The Bay

Review the Regs, Tidy up Your Tackle Box,
Read Bill Burton …Catch Rockfish

Think big. Some of the best baits for Maryland’s spring trophy rockfish season will be as big as the legal minimum size for rock a decade ago.

Think big because that old piscatorial adage to the effect that big baits catch big fish can be taken literally. Sure big baits also catch small fish, and small baits also catch the occasional big fish, but why take chances? It’s only natural that a big fish is going to be more interested in a big bait.

Think like a Fish
Big rock targeted for the spring season are lean and mean — and hungry. They have been busy in the tributaries of the Chesapeake, tending to their spawning ritual. Sure, it was a cold and icy winter, but the rockfish turned up on time: they have a built-in biological clock as well as thermometer. They’re anxious to spawn and get on with their carefree lives. Any mother will understand.

Once the eggs are dropped, they want to feed well following the long winter and their near indifference to food during the spawning mission.

After they broadcast their roe, they have another mission: to leave the Chesapeake Bay. They head south to its mouth, then make a turn north up the coast where they will remain until they decide it’s time to spawn again.

If you were a big, hungry and impatient fish with hundreds of miles to travel, wouldn’t you prefer a whole meal in one bite or two? Why have your journey interrupted to chase after scores of smaller morsels when you can be done with just a gulp or two? Now you’re thinking like a fish.

Fish Early and Often
A fisherman’s best chances for success is to be in the right place at the right time. More precisely, to have the right bait in the water at a time when a big fish swims by.

Following spawning, each rockfish is on its own — whether it comes from the upper reaches of the Nanticoke, Choptank, Patuxent, Potomac, upper Bay or its tributaries. They won’t school up in areas where baitfishes and other food is available, as they do in the fall

Not infrequently, these fish travel alone or in a small bunch. They have no time for large schools. Each big female (the males are usually considerably smaller) is impatient to get to the Atlantic.

This pattern makes the trophy rockfish season pretty much a hit-and-miss mission. By the time the season opens on May 1, many rocks will have already left Maryland’s share of the Chesapeake; by mid-May, most will be gone. In the final week or two, pickings of fish of the legal minimum size of 34 inches will be slim indeed.

So, be prepared to do your fishing as early and often as you can.

Rock Rules Are on Your Side
Your chances of catching a legal rock this spring were appreciably increased when the Department of Natural Resources decreased the legal minimum size two inches. Last year, many fishermen lamented taking fish an inch or two shy of the 36-inch minimum. This year they can keep them.

Also this year, Maryland’s quota of fish has been increased from 2,000 to 5,000, which means that once a fellow gets a trophy fish he can try for another. Up with the increased quota went the season’s limit, which for recreational fishermen was previously one a season. This year, they will be allowed one a day, but three for the season.

Charterboat fishermen are allowed one a day for the duration of the season. To insure that fishermen don’t exceed the quota, those who catch keepers are required to report them promptly. Their catch will be added to a daily computer log.

DNR anticipates a catch of possibly 4,000 or more legal fish; last year anglers didn’t quite reach their quota of 2,000. In the previous two seasons, the catch hovered around 1,000.

Look at it this way: in previous years the odds of catching a rock one could take home ranged from one in 100 to one in 300. This year, your chances could be one in 50, possibly slightly better. Those are still big odds, but they give you a chance to go fishing. There also should be some bluefish around — especially later in the season — to spice things up a bit.

How to Catch a Rock
Before I tell you about those big baits for big fish, here’s a rundown on other aspects of fishing for trophy rock.

At this time of year, seldom will the fish be found in shoal waters. They’re taking a direct path down the Chesapeake and will pretty much stay with the ship channel. Look for them along the edges of the channel in waters of 30 feet or more, usually more.

Regardless of water depth, don’t look for rock on the bottom. Many fishermen claim they are within 20 feet of the surface; I find my best fishing within 12 feet of the surface. The trophy I caught last year was within a couple of feet from the top: I was using only a one-ounce sinker. The previous year, I took a keeper on a lure trolled within four feet of the top.

Capt. Ed Darwin, a charterboat friend of mine, claims the big fish cruise the surface to catch a little heat from the sun. He dislikes trolling, but before this year he was obliged to do it because of the real bait ban, and he fished most of lines near the surface. The same goes for Ben Florence, who for years headed rockfish programs for Maryland before switching to hatchery management. Ben catches some rock without any weight on the rig.

So now you have it: fish the deeper water channel edges, but work the trolled baits not too deep. Time of day really isn’t important, but a moving tide in ether direction is preferred.

As for trolling patterns, some fishermen prefer a course up and down the Bay; lately some have switched to a cross-the-Bay course on the assumption that they stand a better chance of encountering fish headed south by working at a right angle. Geometry was one of my poorest subjects, so I can’t comment on that. I just meander about in a wide circular pattern, hoping that a fish and my lure will cross paths.

Many Fish Bite If You’ve Got Good Bait
Unless I change my mind at the last minute, the bait I will start the season off with will be one of the new Parachutes. This line was introduced hereabouts late in last spring’s season and became the hottest rockfish lure ever during the fall season. The Parachute is something akin to a large bucktail with flowing strands not only at the rear of the head but also at the nose.

The strands in the front should be long enough that they flow past the end of the rear strands. Also, look for a Parachute that has a swing hook rather that a stationary one. It will have better action.

New for the spring season are Parachutes with exceptionally large lead heads; the whole bait weighs one and a half pounds. The thinking is that with all that weight little or no sinker will be needed to make it work 10 or more feet below the surface. If you use one of these lures, don’t pay out more than 75 feet of line or it will work below the fish.

I will use a lighter parachute with only a couple ounces of lead that should ride only several feet down. It will be white, though luminous green is the hottest seller. To the Parachute, I will add a large soft plastic Sassy Shad, or a large Twister Tail, which will bring the lure’s length to more than one foot.

As a second bait, I will use a Nick’s Syix soft plastic eel, motor oil in color. It will be rigged with a one ounce sinker at the head of the leader, which should make it work only a couple of feet below the surface. It was this rig that took my trophy last year just off Chesapeake Beach.

An old-time lure made quite a comeback last year, prompting some tackle manufacturers to market a new version of it in brighter colors than the old silver or white. The heavy, wide Bunker Spoon wobbles slowly and doesn’t look like much, but it certainly catches fish — big fish. But the price is also big.

I’m thankful I still have some of the old models made in New Jersey many years ago; new ones cost from $17.50 to $25 each. I like the Equalizer Bunker Spoon made by Reliable in luminous green. Like other bunker type spoons, it has a weight built into it, which means less weight is needed at the head of the leader. You don’t want to troll this one too deep. If it snags bottom you’re out a lot of dough.

Traditional good bets include exceptionally large bucktails in either white or yellow with long Twister Tails, Sassy Shads, or other soft plastic tails added. Or play it old fashioned and add a big strip of pork rind.

Don’t overlook the Big’n Grub, a bucktail-like lure with large lead head and an exceptionally long and thick ringworm-type Twister Tail added. It looks God-awful to me, but fish love it. I prefer it in white with luminous green head.

Traditional Bay spoons — the Huntington, Crippled Alewife, Tony, Cather and Hopkins — are all good bets, especially in white, silver, gold, luminous green or blue. Theoretically, you’re not supposed to add a soft plastic or pork rind tail to a spoon, but I recall some years back when a fisherman won the Pro/Am at Chesapeake Beach trolling a Tony Spoon with pork added.

Now that real baits can be used, it will be interesting to see what develops. Many in the lower Bay will chum with ground up alewives and bait up with chunks of alewives or spot. This technique is popular among those fishing for blues; they often get rockfish as an incidental catch. But is chumming worthwhile at a time when rockfish aren’t schooled up? We’ll see.

Can a decapitated real eel be worked like a live one to attract big rockfish? Don’t laugh. Salted pencil eels added to the hooks of bucktails and spoon were one of the deadliest rigs for rockfish on the Susquehanna River prior to the moratorium.

Who knows? Maybe something entirely different will work out this season, whether with real or artificial baits. Fishermen continually experiment. That’s one of the things that makes it so interesting.

Enough said …

Trophy Rockfish Regulations: 1994
•Season: May 1 through May 31 in all Maryland waters of Chesapeake Bay proper between Chesapeake Bay Bridge and the Virginia boundary, including Tangier and Pocomoke Sounds. All tributaries closed.

•Hours: Fishing allowed 5am to 8pm No fish can be in possession on the water or while fishing between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m.

•Limits: Recreational fishermen: one a day, three for the entire season. Charterboat fishermen: one fish a day.

•Minimum length: Fish kept must measure 34 inches from tip of tail to snout. All other rock must be returned unharmed immediately.

•Permits: All who fish (unless otherwise exempted) —charterboat fishermen and those under 16 years of age — must have a valid tidewater fishing license. In addition, all fishermen other than those aboard charterboats must purchase a $2 striped bass permit with which comes three tags. Save the permit: it will be needed to fish in the fall season.

•Tagging: Immediately upon landing a rock, the angler must affix to its jaw one of the tags provided with the rockfish permit.

•Reporting: Anglers are asked to report to DNR their keepable catch the day it is landed, record the date, tag number affixed, length of fish and where it was caught. Call the toll-free line: 800/999-2800.

•Gaffing: It is illegal to use a gaff in landing a rockfish, regardless of its size.

•Baits: All artificial lures are allowed if they have no more than two hooks (a treble hook counts as one hook). Real baits are also allowed, but they cannot be alive. However, it is illegal to use a whole eel, whether alive or dead.

•Information: For additional information concerning regulations, or for convenient tackle shops where permits can be purchased, call 800/688-FINS.

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Bay Life

Joe Cahill’s new Sam the Crab novel, Crab-gra-la, begins here—

Chapter 1: Storm Before the Calm in which Sam the Crab, the Number One Jimmie of his species, awakens from his winter sleep to pursue his dream: “a world where he’s not just a crab and there are no steam pots …”

Everywhere, water!
A spring Nor’easter came up the Chesapeake Bay late Friday night, sending in massive waves to consume land and beaches.

Sam came out of his winter bed in gale winds. Giant claws held a broken plank while rolling water carried him through the town’s streets until the splintered wood spun over, tumbling Sam into a building.

There he rested on steps leading to humans making resounding pleas as they watched water rush below.

The Nor’easter uprooted trees, bent signs, tore down light signals, pulled off roofs of houses.

At daybreak Sam woke to cloudy skies and dying wind. Humans searched over calm water, picking up parts of their lives.

As he swam down the street, Sam arrived at a blown-down section of boardwalk. There he rested in piles of wood and stared out at the Bay. To Sam it seemed peaceful compared with uproars humans made recovering from this storm.

He spotted a horseshoe crab’s cracked shell and swam to consume bits of meat not washed out. Then Sam rode the tide out and searched among sunken debris. When a row boat came into view, stern dug in the sand, he darted for it.

A little girl was stuck under a seat, her white dress shredded, yellow bonnet pulled down, long blond hair resting on crushed shoulders. Through huge blue eyes was reflected an engaging smile.

Sam’s claws spread as he punctured the doll. Small pieces of tasteless stuff poured out and rose toward gray light above.

When the head came off, more rubber things were evident. Hurriedly, Sam swam from this kind of human.

He found nothing worth stopping for until he came upon a large basket crabbers used to store their catch while still working on the Bay.

Barney’s Bar was packed.
“Anything left?” Barney asked as he got Sam’s drink.

“Not much.”

“Hope the crabbers are gone,” wished a crab sitting near Sam, his claws held in a prayerful gesture.

“No storm’ll ever get rid of those guys,” most of the crabs at Barney’s agreed.

“Won’t be long,” warned another crab, “they’ll be all over.”

Whenever Sam felt he was losing the drive to continue searching for Crab-gra-la, bar talk immediately brought it back.

“You from around here?” an older crab queried.

“No, just passing through.”

“Kind of cold to be traveling,” said Barney.

“I had a winter bed near here. Then that storm hit.”

“Going any special place?” asked the crab with prayerful claws.

Sam started to say, then decided no: too much explaining.

“No, just looking.”

He glanced around and found she crabs paired with jimmies. Soon all the crabs, including Sam, had a whale of a buzz on. Finally, he left Barney’s and came ashore in search of his last winter bed.

Before long, Spring light would fill the air.

The original Sam trilogy, tied in ‘official’ Sam crab line, with sinker, is still available for $10 per set plus $2 handling and first class postage. To order or put your name on the spring announcement list for Book IV, Crab-gra-la, write Joe Cahill, POB 1156, Bethany Beach, DE 19930.

To know more about Sam’s creator, Joe Cahill, send $2 and your request for back copy I:11 to NBT, POB 358, Deale, MD 20751.

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Diversions and Excursions

Diversions and Excursions Up the Lazy River: Paddling the Patuxent
by Sandra Martin

In Maryland’s mild climate, a shore paddler can usually enjoy sport all year long. This year was unusual.

The paddle to ring in the New Year was frozen out. In March we’d had an outing or two on the Bay, but our paddles hadn’t cleaved the water with the freshness that says spring! Once the flowers had gone mad — the dizzy daffodils and shrieking forsythia — the long-delayed decision made itself. This was the year to paddle the Patuxent.

Rising as a little fresh water stream at Mt. Airy, the Patuxent runs 110 miles to Solomon’s Island, where it joins the Chesapeake as a mile-and-half-wide giant. The Bay’s influence is strong; the river runs tidal for 50 miles, all the way northwest to Jug Bay where the sprawling Patuxent River Park has its headquarters. It winds through woods, speeding by fast highways, draining broad cattail marshes and villages that used to be someplace, till it encounters the Bay as a first-rate power. The Patuxent’s so big, down there, that submarines have been hidden in its deep, cold, murky waters.

We didn’t want to try those waters in a kayak.

Someday, we will approach them, paddling into Vera’s White Sands for dinner, savoring the contrast we’d make to this lavish Polynesian-style paradise, wild-eyed and tripping on the wind as we’d be. But Vera’s doesn’t open till May 1. Lusby’s white sands and the Patuxent’s wide reaches — where the river is so meandering that you spend as much time going east – west as north – south — will have to wait.

We put in at Wayson’s Corner, where we knew the river’s lure, having crossed there umpteen times traveling Rt. 4. The view is not so tempting from the new bridge, but the old road gives nice access to the river. Fishermen like that especially, and this time of year, white and yellow perch are spawning — and biting — at least as far upriver as Central Avenue.

Our jaunty yellow kayak, a Current Designs Libra tandem, almost 22-feet long and curved like a Viking ship, is unusual among the hand-carried boats at this put-in — and probably at any other on the Patuxent. Up here, john boats are the craft of choice. You carry them in, crank the motor and away you go.

Putting in a kayak takes more skill. It’s long and today, the river is high, fast and muddy. The ride out, under the bridge, is fast and requires strong, coordinated strokes to learn the current and find a road to ride. Fishing families line the shore, staring. You want to look cool and certainly not to tangle in their lines, which you can just see, when the light hits right, as filaments spearing the water at 45 degrees.

It’s good to float out of the crowd. The sun keeps popping out, but when it’s in, the day is brisk enough that I anchor a blade of my paddle in the thong stretched across the closed bow and slip gratefully into my Gortex jacket, zipping up.

The wind, in our faces, is only a hair less strong than both of us paddling together, determinedly. Level on either side are mud marshes. Last year’s cattails are blown and down. Duck blinds and trash break the monotony.

No rewards this way, today. This is hard work, not the lazy spring paddle on our minds. We turn around and, with the wind at our back, we see a trio of deer bounding through the distant muck, white tails flying.

It is easier now, the boat riding the current. We’ve retraced our way and are well above the Rt. 4 bridge in no time with the current crying Spring! and sending a freshening message up the paddles, through our arms and into our hearts.

Up here just this little way, this moody river is mellow in its winding. The sun is out and the cut-in streams with wildflowers — Spring Beauties — blooming on their banks are inviting: a good spot for lunch, which is packed safe inside our water-tight hatches. And for fishing. Casting a line is like dipping a paddle: the water speaks through it as if it were a telephone line. Now and again a little white perch bites on the proffered bloodworm. Before we know it, more than two hours have passed on this grassy bank …

We resume our paddle with a question. Shall we go back the way we came and call this a lazy day? Or shall we see what lies ahead?

The day is gentler by late afternoon, which just may be the best time for paddling. Warmed up and with a little back wind, we dance with the river, our responses intuitive to its lead. The gracefully turning river is narrower now, and sometimes trees nearly meet over our heads.

Patuxent River Park preserves much of the land upriver from Rt. 4 so the way is pretty natural, except for the inevitable trash we humans can’t keep from discarding wherever we go — even in space. But clearly we’re not the only folks attracted to the river; we’ve left other craft behind, but now and again appears on the bank a derelict folding chair, dragged in and patiently awaiting a fisherman’s return.

No wood duck ever sails into any one of the wooden, predator-proof houses erected for them all along the way, but we get a grand bird show. We seem to be in a game of leapfrog with heron, who’s about as big as Air Force One when he takes off just ahead of us. Treetop-level, osprey soars, lands, watches, takes off, reappears, and does it all again, closer. Finally we realize it’s the same, big, white-headed bird we’re seeing, always with the same half-eaten perch in talon. Bird show? I think they’re having a people show.

The afternoon passes so gently that we hardly notice dusk falling, just about the same time the river speeds up against us. Angles are sharp up here, snags are on the lookout for us, and the wind has shifted, throwing the current right at us.

People we encounter want to know how far the yellow boat has come — and how far we’re going. Now our hello includes a question, and it’s welcome news that the bridge is only four or five miles ahead.

You see, I’ve begun to disbelieve it’s there.

We’re paddling more deliberately now, but not with any real urgency, except at those hair-pin turns where the current is the strongest. Still, reports of diminishing distance — two and a half miles to go — come as a relief. The kayak isn’t rushing in these waters; we’re feeling its full 70-plus pounds.

Twilight has reached that heart-twanging, sad peak when the fellows lighting a campfire over on the north bank tell us that bridge is only 200 yards farther.

But no bridge is around this bend, or the next, though we’re buying every yard. Finally, up a way, we do hear voices and see a span, and the kayak flies, for we’re paddling smartly.

The shape that comes into view is a nice old low bridge, heavily girdered, black against the darkening sky. In the slow motion nostalgic movies love to borrow, folks are up there enjoying themselves, five or six groups of them. Children are running, lines are taut down a long way into the water, two young men talk earnestly, a middle-aged man hauls in a perch trap that folds like a handkerchief as he raises it. Everybody waves and hellos in a neighborly way as we pass underneath.

That’s Queen Anne’s Bridge says the next dusk fisherman, who’s driven in alone in his Dodge Ram pickup.

Now I am certain there is no Central Avenue Bridge. “I do not care what you say,” I tell my partner. There is no moon. We have no matches. No sleeping bag. No more food. No flashlight. No bridge.

Enough light is left to show the big sycamore, downed across the river … the whole river. We know because we explore each end, though brutal eddies block us. “We’ll just have to portage,” he says, and every portage I have ever made drops its weight on my heart, where the darkening sky is already pretty heavy.

We climb the muddy bank, lifting the vessel through the downed branches, above the tree-dam and its sprawling half-circle of accumulated trash.

“You’re as moody as the river,” he says.

“You had better have a contingency plan,” I say.

Imagining bedding down till dawn’s early light on just such a cold mudbank, we keep paddling.

Bonfires are brilliant against the black forest, beneath the blue-black sky. I am imagining sharing a campfire for the night. I hear no traffic and do not notice that one fire has become two has become a half-dozen. Till, at a loggy divide at a spot where the river’s pretty wide, a hailer advises that “you’d better take that other arm.”

And we do. And the welcome noise of traffic sneaks up. And the next hailer — whose fire shows stanchions and an unmistakable bridge — says, “There’s a fellow been looking for you.”

We come out at dark, just as we’d planned to do … if we chose adventure over a lazyday spring paddle.

The Patuxent River winds a long 5 miles northwesterly from the bridge at Rt. 4 to the bridge at Central Avenue. Downstream from Central Ave is the best paddle, according to Patuxent River Park director Greg Lewis: “upward is very difficult, with all the fresh water coming down at you,” he says. We agree.

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