Volume XI, Issue 15 ~ April 10-16, 2003

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Dock of the Bay

Spring Hoists the Start of Sailing Season

A sure sign of change jibes on the water

Winter leaves slowly. Spring advances and retreats. All the while, sailing moves inexorably into Chesapeake Country.

Add competition to sailing and you’ve got racing, which is the traditional sport around the Bay region, not just in Annapolis. Baltimore, Cambridge, Galesville, St. Michaels and Solomons are also avid sailing towns. The races vary from serious competition where national pride and honor are on the line to casual sailing for the pure joy of it.

photo courtesy of Ocean Race Chesapeake
Chesapeake 12 Meter regatta comes to town.
For the most dedicated sailors, at least in Annapolis, the season never really ends. Diehard sailors race from November through March in Annapolis Yacht Club’s Frostbite Series. This series starts when most other sailors winterize their boats, take them south to the Caribbean or just haul them up out of the water.

An intrepid few continue racing no matter what the weather — postponing a race only if the wind becomes too extreme for safety. Some 110 boats raced all last winter.

Still, sailing has a season, and in Chesapeake Country that begins on the spring equinox, when — warm, rain or snow — the sailors continue the winter-socks-burning ritual begun by fishermen and others who ply their trade on the Bay. The socks are sacrificed to demonstrate that a new season is about to commence and past hardships are behind them. This year’s socks were burned at the Eastport Yacht Club on a cold, wet March 20.

The next step to the first races in mid-April is getting the boats in winning condition for a long and successful season. Owners purchase new sails, find slips for the season, polish the teak and launch their vessels. One more thing owners need to compete is crew.

There are two ways of enlisting crew. Word of mouth, the time-honored way, can be time consuming and tedious. In Annapolis, the sailors’ magazine Spinsheet offers an on-line and in-person match-making service known as crew listings. In person, crew and captains met this year at a crew-listing party on Saturday, April 19, at J-World sailing school in Eastport.

The crew-listing party is a laid-back affair. “We get our rum and beer first then go get our name tag that says you are an owner looking for crew or crew looking for a boat,” Ed Seidel, a sailor out of Annapolis. “Its a great place to start making contacts into the sailing community. The people are friendly and this event makes it very easy to find the kind of boat you are looking for.”

With crews and captains matched, the end of the month brings races big and small. In the last days of April and the first of May, Annapolis, West River and Solomons resume their weekly, usually friendly, competitions.

People want to do as well as they can in the races, but they are out there to test their skills against others and enjoy spending time on the water with friends. These races welcome sailors on a variety of boats, from J/105s to Melges 24s, equalized by a system of handicaps.

In Annapolis, two races geared to the competitor and casual racer alike sail every week. Beginning April 30, the Annapolis Yacht Club resumes its Wednesday night races. Open to club members and boats sponsored by members, this is the series to be in if you’re looking for more competition and prestige.

If, however, you’re looking for more fun and less competition, the aptly named Friday night ‘Beer Can’ series may be more your speed. This series is run by the Eastport Yacht Club and starts May 9.

The West River also has weekly races that continue the tradition of small boat racing with Friday evening races for Lasers — two-person daysailors — starting May 9. The West River Sailing Club sponsors this series out of Galesville.

Down in Solomons, the Southern Maryland Sailing Association hosts its Wednesday night races beginning April 23. This Patuxent River racing, too, is open to boats from different fleets.

On the grander scale, regattas and championships begin even earlier in Chesapeake Country this year.

Not until 2005 will the Volvo Ocean Race return to Chesapeake Country on its next race around the globe. Every four years, the race stops at selected nations and cities to restock supplies and repair damages. Last year the race paused for a little over a week in Baltimore and Annapolis — one of only two United States stopovers. In 2005 Baltimore and Annapolis will be the only United States stopover.

To see large boats in action, you will not have to wait until 2005. There’s a regatta this very weekend.

This year’s earliest regatta is the Fourth Annual Hospice Regatta Championship, which comes to Annapolis April 11-13. This early bird unites 18 2002 Hospice Cup winners from around the country, including Annapolis, where the Annapolis Hospice Cup sailed last September 14. J/105s loaned by local boat owners allow for a balanced competition where sailors race head-to-head using nearly identical vessels in their course near the Bay Bridge.

In May come a couple of regattas that bring national attention to the Chesapeake Bay region. Ocean Race Chesapeake, an organization that brings these races to the area, sponsors the America’s Cup 12-Meter Regatta. May 2 and 3, two former America’s Cup champion boats, Courageous and Freedom meet in Chesapeake Bay. Media magnate Ted Turner will be on hand to skipper Courageous for the competition.

“It’s an honor. This is the place to be on the globe,” said Annapolis Mayor Ellen Moyer. “With the Maritime Festival going on too, this is the place to be,” added Moyer, who is also the chairwoman for the Hospice Championship Regatta this weekend.

May also brings the National Offshore One-Design Regatta, on the same weekend as the America’s Cup Regatta. A week later, May 6-10, comes the Etchells North American Championship.

Later in the racing season are many more regattas and championships. The 11th annual Volvo Leukemia Cup Regatta comes to town on June 7. Solomons Island is the finish line for the 23rd Annual Solomons Island Invitational Regatta on July 18. Following is the 11th annual Screwpile Lighthouse Championship on July 20. August 1 marks the 30th anniversary of the St. Mary’s Governor’s Cup race from Annapolis to St. Mary’s City. The late summer offers up Hospice Cup XXII on September 13, with the winner competing in next year’s Hospice Championship Regatta. On September 28 the Rolex International Women’s Keelboat Championship sails on the Bay.

If you are a racing enthusiast, then you have much to see and do this Spring. If you’re a cruiser at heart, you’ll have great racing to watch. And if you’re new to this regional pastime, take heart for there are many sailing schools to teach you everything you need to know so you can become part of the action next year. But that is another story.

— James Clemenko

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State Budget Cuts Walk All over Counties
And another boot may be coming

Maryland lawmakers went home April 7, leaving county executives waiting for the other shoe to fall.

The pair are heavy, ugly shoes, the sort that make the insult Yo mama wears combat boots so rankling.

“We’ve lost just under $18 million and I have every reason to believe the governor will veto the proposed tax increases, which could add another $10 to $12 million in cuts — and I hope that’s all,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Janet Owens, who hosted the 47 senators and 141 delegates from January to April.

Anne Arundel’s $18 million first shoe dropped in February, when Gov. Robert Ehrlich proposed to balance the budget in part by reducing the amount of state money counties get to maintain their roads. The bulk of the first cut, $10 million, came from lost highway-user revenues. Smaller Calvert County lost $1.5 million in highway-user revenues.

Other cuts came in expected education funding, where Anne Arundel lost $2.1 million in Teacher Challenge salary increases promised by former Gov. Parris Glendening. Calvert lost $200,000 in teacher-salary funding, with $250,000 cut from teacher-retirement funding. Those losses, however, are counterbalanced by overall positive funding for education from the state.

Ehrlich gambled on slot machines for another part of his proposed budget. When the House of Delegates said no to slots, the General Assembly had to find other ways to balance the budget as required by state law.

In a year when the slow economy has cost nearly every state in the union expected revenues, the Assembly resorted to a combination of new corporate taxes. HMOs would no longer get preferential tax treatment, other loopholes would be closed and corporations would temporarily pay higher taxes. The combination brings Maryland an expected extra $135 million for fiscal year 2004.

“It’s not as good as it should be, but the economy’s gone south,” said Anne Arundel Del. Virginia Clagett. “We lost everywhere, from the environment to Medicaid. When good things happen, we try to give back, as we did with a 10 percent tax cut for citizens for the last five years. When bad things happen, we have to take away.”

Gov. Ehrlich forswore raising taxes during his campaign. “The last time I talked with the public, they demanded that we get our fiscal house in order,” he said vowing to veto the tax increases as part of his repudiated, Democratic policy of “tax and spend … spend and tax.”

If his veto comes, that’s when the other shoe will drop. What might happen then, said Calvert County Commissioner Wilson Parran, “we won’t know until the dust settles.”

The same dust kept Owens from see where $10 or $12 million in new cuts would hit. “I have no idea,” she said. “Roads, education, teachers — we’ll be tightening everything. I view the net effect as an assault on our quality of life.”

Commuting Calvert County, at least, won’t have its roads stomped full of potholes, Parran promises. “We will not have big potholes. We’re going to try to provide services,” he said.

As to how, “We don’t like to throw around the T-word,” he said, “but one way is increasing taxes.”


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And They’re Off!
Roedown Races herald spring in Chesapeake Country

For the 29th straight year, The Marlborough Hunt Club has pulled off its spring races in style, despite the vagaries of weather.

A welcome sunny day, impressive horses and a throng of revelers made this year’s event memorable.

The race, which opens Anne Arundel County’s outdoors social season, meets at Roedown Farm in Davidsonville, a parcel of lush green farmland nestled in the rolling hills of Southern Maryland.

All who attended made the best of it.

“It was a new experience,” said Ann McGovern, who drove in from Baltimore on a whim. “There were a lot of good people, and it was fun,” she said, toasting the festivities with a glass of wine.

Tailgaters line the hilltop overlooking the racecourse, with celebrations ranging from elaborate hunt brunches served on linen with china, silver and crystal to coolers of beer and sandwiches on picnic blankets. On the high end, caterer Ken Upton of Annapolis laid out a spread including lobster and shrimp salad in the shell and a massive beef Wellington. Norman and Jeanine Ove spread their Hunt Board with wild game: smoked brant, black duck, rabbit, wild boar two ways and venison three. At the starting line rail, John Williams drew up three vintage Rolls Royces, laying out country paté and smoked salmon on the high polish of two of the 70-year-old beauties.

Kids of all ages roamed the farmland playing lacrosse, tossing footballs, chasing each other and getting to know the style and habits of the thoroughbreds to whom the day is dedicated.

Cars played music as people wandered up to Vendor Hill to browse merchandise ranging from cigars to horse feed, cowboy hats to costume jewelry.

Whether strolling or tailgating with friends, high-spirited racegoers found a respite from the realities of work and war.

“It’s a great day,” said first-time racegoer Gov. Robert Ehrlich. His respite was from the second-to-last day of his first time trying to manage Maryland’s General Assembly. “You have danger, you have horse country, you have excitement and you have one of my favorite counties in the Bay.

“And they’re feeding me,” he added between mouthfuls of pasta salad and steamed shrimp.

Amidst all the good times, 10 horse races were run.

The day started with the juniors, riders 15 years old and younger, racing a half-mile flat track. The races ended with a three-mile relay run at dizzying speeds. The highlight was the John Murray Begg Memorial, a three-mile open timber with a $5,000 purse.

But the most exciting race of the day was the third.

After cruising at breakneck speeds to the lead, favorite Hay Jay lifted his head for a split second. Second place Ghost Valley — running a hard race and trailing stoically but being pushed to his limits by jockey Matt McCarron — took advantage of the misstep and charged hard, catching Hay Jay with less than a half-mile to go. As they rounded the bend and headed even down the homestretch, Ghost Valley made his move and pulled away, edging out a stunning victory.

It was that excitement that brought out young and old to stand at the rail or to cheer from the party. And it’s the buzz of camaraderie and competition coupled with the thrill of the known and unknown that will bring them back next year.

As the long day faded a young woman asked a dapper old man how he always seemed to pick a winning horse.

Robert Webster smiled mischievously and pointed with his fedora toward the chalkboard where a bookmaker was posting odds. “If we knew, he wouldn’t be taking bets,” said the retired marine.

— Louis Llovio photos by Cristi Pasquella

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Update:You can have a beer this summer at Galesville’s new crabhouse

When Woodfields returns to its Bay roots as a crabhouse sometime this summer, you’ll be able to order a beer — maybe even get a Marguerita — with your crabs. But you won’t be able to carry a six-pack home, and you’ll have to finish up by 11pm, the Anne Arundel County Liquor Board ruled last week.

In a hearing packed with 100 Galevillians, the board balanced the request of businessman and restaurateur Charles ‘Nick’ Bassford with the objections of the village, where Bassford now controls three liquor licenses.

At Woodfields, a historic Galesville fish market that moved into the ice business when the Bay’s bounty failed, the 65-year-old controller of the village’s Steamboat Landing and Topside Inn — plus Rips in Bowie and Annapolis Seafood Markets in three locations — will have to make do with a Class H licence rather than the more permissive A licence he sought.

“I got just what I wanted,” said William Woodfield, Bassford’s partner in the expanded market and crabhouse.

On the other hand, citizen spokesman Peter Bell said he was “disappointed. This will have a big impact on poor little Galesville.”

— BW

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Way Downstream …

In Washington, the Army Corps of Engineers said it will give final approval for the experiment to grow one million Asian oysters in the Virginia waters of Chesapeake Bay starting this spring. The Corps planned to give the Virginia Seafood Council the permit to test the sterilized oysters — with the requirement that they be removed from the water in June 2004 …

In Annapolis, in case you missed it, compromise was reached on less stringent crab harvest rules for the new season, which opened last week. A main feature will allow crabs as small as five inches to be harvested until July 15. After that, the minimum returns to five-and-a-quarter inches …

In California, Burt Ward, who played sidekick Robin to Batman in the ’60s’ TV series, is in some deep guano. Ward’s Great Dane Rescue Center was cited for contributing heavy amounts of fecal bacteria into a creek that runs into the Santa Ana River. “Holy Dog Poop, Robin,” The Associated Press wrote in beginning its story about the allegations …

Our Creature Feature comes from the front lines in Iraq, where a springer spaniel named Buster proved that some local toughs in the southern Iraqi village of Safwan were telling a bit of a whopper when they said no, we have no guns.

British soldiers couldn’t find any weapons, either, but they sent in brown-eyed Buster before moving out. He led them to a secret stash inside a wall that contained AK47 assault rifles, a pistol, grenades, ammunition and bomb-making equipment. Sgt. Danny Morgan told Sky News: “I trained him by teaching him to fetch weapons like guns and ammunition instead of sticks and balls.”

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Last updated April 9, 2003 @ 3:57pm