From the Bay

From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

What Off Season? Frostbite Racers Sail On

By Molly Winans What Off Season? Frostbite Racers Sail On “We do not consider it the off-season,” says Annapolis frostbite racer Kristen Robinson. “It is a great opportunity to hone your sailing skills, stay sharp, and try new things. Although it seems daunting to go out in freezing cold rain, we view it the opposite. Who would want to miss racing on a 60-degree day in December with eight to 10 knots of breeze? You can always stay home if it rains or is sub-zero temperatures.” Kristen and husband Brian Robinson—both SpinSheet Racing Team and SpinSheet Century Club members—sail as a “family syndicate.” They explain, “Each week we race the J/80 and J/105 out of Eastport Yacht Club with Krissy driving the J/105 and Lizzie Scales (age 11) driving the J/80. We then divide the available crew with Brian Robinson, Tracey Golde, Rob and Shay Sampson, and Pete Deremer primarily crewing on the J/105. John Chiochetti and Ben and Andrew (7) Fransen primarily crewing on the J/80. Bryan Stout and Mary Howser have generously been our floaters to go where needed most.” Chiochetti, who races in said family syndicate, says, “Many of us are missing the big fall/winter regattas, especially the pre-pandemic loss of Key West Race Week, so being able to race this time of year is a real treat… I’ve been racing J/80s in frostbite for years, but these last two seasons have given us a special chance to see the skills and traditions passing to a new generation. Sailing with Lizzy and Andrew is a real treat. We do still drink hot chocolate… sometimes with a little extra warmth!” Bruce Irvin, who races his J/30 Shamrock with Dale Eager and Leon Bloom, says, “Frostbite racing is a distillation of all the great elements of sailboat racing: a nearby course, good breeze, flat…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Charles Lawrance and the Downtown Christmas Tree

By Erik Evans In the spirit of keeping it local, the Downtown Annapolis Partnership has selected local artist Charles Lawrance to design this year’s ornaments for the downtown Annapolis Christmas tree. Charles is known for his nautical-inspired artwork. Many are familiar with his murals that can be found in Baltimore and locally inside Luna Blu Ristorante Italiano and O’Learys Seafood Restaurant. His studio FinArt is located in the Annapolis Design District at ArtFarm. Charles Lawrance is designing the ornaments for the downtown Annapolis Christmas tree with a nautical theme that will reflect his nautical style of art. The 24 foot tall Christmas tree was purchased locally from Diehl’s Produce in Eastport and has was installed by Annapolis-based Garden Girls Landscaping starting on November 22nd. The Grand Illumination of the Christmas Tree was hosted by the Annapolis Jaycees on Sunday evening November 28th on Market Space in downtown Annapolis. The downtown Annapolis Menorah lighting and Menorah Parade of Lights was also held that evening. This year’s Christmas Tree sponsor is the South Annapolis Yacht Centre. They will be at the Christmas tree during all three Midnight Madness events this year (December 2nd, 9th, and 16th) to collect new toys and books for local children. Erik Evans the Executive Director of the Downtown Annapolis Partnership said “The Downtown Annapolis Partnership is excited to work with local artists, kids, and sponsors that are all working together with us to make Annapolis magical for all this holiday season.” Additional sponsors of this year’s downtown holiday decorations include Sheehy Lexus of Annapolis, The City of Annapolis, RBC Wealth Management, Zachary’s Jewelers, and others. The public can meet Charles Lawrance at the Grand Illumination event and on select days at his new exhibit at 49 West Coffeehouse, Winebar and Gallery during the month of December. The exhibit is open throughout December including during all three Midnight Madness events. Ornaments on this year’s Christmas tree will be…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Learn To Sail in Winter?

By Beth Crabtree Learn To Sail in Winter? Yes. You. Can. For many sailors on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries—that means you too, Potomac River lovers—October offered beautiful days on the water. There will no doubt be several days in November, as well, when the air is crisp and clear, fewer powerboats are on the water, and the light, fluky winds of summer have given way to steady breezes. At Halloween, most sailing programs in our area will have stopped running their on-the-water instructional programs, but that doesn’t mean you have to wait until next spring to learn how to sail. Here are a few ways for a mid-Atlantic would-be sailor to continue learning through autumn and winter. Take a ‘Learn to Sail’ Vacation During the winter months, some local sailing schools are in full swing with classes farther south. Sail Solomons, which runs summer classes out of Solomons Island, MD, also offers courses in the Caribbean, such as a flotilla in 2022 in Guadeloupe. Whether you’re looking at a Chesapeake-based school’s satellite program, or a school headquartered down south, such as Offshore Sailing School, look for schools recognized by the American Sailing Association or U.S. Sailing, organizations with high standards for safety and instruction. Visit winter sailboat shows The St. Petersburg Sail and Power Show (January 20-23, 2022) and Chicago Boat Show (January 12-16) are two such shows. (The U.S. Sailboat Show held in Annapolis in October has come and gone but worth plugging into your calendar October 13-17, 2022). Here you’ll find representatives from sailing schools and clubs who can help you get started as well as representatives from charter companies who offer learning vacations. You will also find informative, free seminars. If you’re willing to hire a captain, you could spend a weekend this fall sailing…

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When Leaves Leave: Autumn reveals trees’ true colors!

By Kathy Reshetiloff When Leaves Leave: Autumn reveals trees’ true colors! Autumn always seems to sneak up. Slowly, the heat and humidity of summer is replaced with cooler, drier days. Here and there, autumn colors peek out of the green landscape. Then, before you know it, nature’s festival of color is in full swing. And just as quickly, it seems, the brilliant fall hues are replaced by dismal browns, and leaves carpet our lawns and gardens. Actually, this leaf shedding process, known as abscission, begins before the colors appear. As summer’s heat fades, the cells where the leaf stem is attached to the tree toughen and begin to form a protective waterproof scar. The cells in the leaf stem swell, weaken and degenerate. This interferes with the flow of moisture and nutrients into the leaf, reducing the production of chlorophyll, which gives leaves their green color. The leaf is the food factory for the tree. Chlorophyll in a leaf uses the sun’s energy to convert carbon dioxide and water into sugar, which is food for the tree. As the days shorten, there is less sunlight to manufacture food. Nutrients and minerals are withdrawn from leaves and transported to the permanent parts of trees, such as the trunk, stems and roots. Chlorophyll breaks down. But leaves contain other pigments that give them their fiery fall colors. These colors are hidden in the spring and summer by the abundance of chlorophyll. Leaves reveal their autumn colors as chlorophyll breaks down and other pigments are unmasked. The pigment called xanthophyll gives leaves a yellow color, and carotene produces yellow-orange. Leaves continue to produce sugar during the day, but colder night temperatures prevent trees from withdrawing the food from the leaves. Sunny days and cool nights can produce anthocyanin, a sugar-related pigment that turns…

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‘God’s engineers’

By Tom Horton, Bay Journal News Service   Faithful readers know that I have become a beaver believer. For most of the time that the Chesapeake Bay has existed, beavers by the millions inhabited every nook and cranny of the six-state watershed (and most of North America). By damming, digging and ponding, the rodents controlled the continent’s hydrology and shaped the landscape in ways that delivered profoundly cleaner, clearer water to streams and rivers and estuaries. Their work also created rich habitats for a host of other denizens of the air and swamps. So the premise of a forthcoming Bay Journal film, Water’s Way: Thinking Like A Watershed, is that more beavers — virtually trapped out by the 1750s — could significantly and cost-effectively boost Bay restoration. But humans have expanded their presence in the region since the beavers’ heyday, from an estimated 165,000 Native Americans to some 18 million moderns, and that obviously precludes re-beavering to the max. Still, there is immense potential. Beavers are adapting to even highly developed locales; we have filmed wonderful wetlands complexes they have built behind a Royal Farms in the pavement-clad heart of Baltimore’s White Marsh-Middle River urbanization. And they are relentless, bundles of instinct and compulsion, constantly expanding their projects up and down every stream, always exploring around the next bend, and the next, and the next (kind of like humans). So what ecologists term “carrying capacity” — physical habitat — for beavers to return abounds. The real question is “cultural carrying capacity”: the willingness of landowners and governments to accommodate a critter who chews trees and plugs drainageways and floods landscapes for a living. The Bay Journal film I’m working on with Dave Harp and Sandy Cannon-Brown aims to expand that cultural carrying capacity, to show why we must champion beavers (and emulate them) and to show that there are relatively…

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The Chesapeake’s Sea Glass – A Treasure to Many

By Jeremy Cox The Chesapeake’s Sea Glass – A Treasure to Many Like a stalking predator hearing movement in the bushes, Linda Starling froze, her senses perched on a hair trigger. At first, the only obvious sound along this sandy stretch of shoreline was the dull rumble of jets idling on the runway across the Chesapeake Bay at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. But there it was again, unmistakable this time: a high-pitched tinkling emanating from the soft boundary between land and water. “Did you hear that?” Starling asked, with growing excitement. “You can hear the glass in the water.” Sea glass, as it’s called, whether it’s found in an ocean, bay or river, begins as litter in the water. Then wind, waves and sand intervene, shaping and sculpting, polishing and smoothing. Years, perhaps even decades, pass. On the far side of its journey, the glass morphs into something else, something more than an ordinary shard of silicate. Something collectible. Wherever in the world shells, driftwood or other debris wash up along the edge of the water, it’s a decent bet that sea glass is sprinkled in as well. With more than 11,500 miles of shoreline on the Bay and its tidal tributaries — more than the entire U.S. West Coast — the Bay is like a huge catcher’s mitt for floating detritus like sea glass. And it has a ready supply from a range of sources: junk jettisoned from cargo ships, cast-off glassware from long-shuttered waterfront factories and underwater caches of trash from when the Bay moonlighted as a de facto landfill. In the Bay and its rivers, as opposed to the ocean, glass generally takes longer to transform into sea glass (decades as opposed to years) because of the relatively gentle waves and lower salt content, avid collectors say. But…

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Celebrate Local Lighthouses Throughout St. Mary’s County During National Lighthouse Weekend!

Celebrate Local Lighthouses Throughout St. Mary’s County During National Lighthouse Weekend! Join the St. Mary’s County Museum Division in celebrating some of St. Mary’s County’s most significant lighthouses during National Lighthouse Weekend, Saturday, August 7 through Sunday August 8th at Piney Point Lighthouse in Piney Point and Blackistone Lighthouse on St. Clement’s Island, near Colton’s Point. Special activities and tours will be available at both locations during the entire weekend. In Colton’s Point, check out the St. Clement’s Island Museum before taking a boat ride out to St. Clement’s Island where visitors can experience a free tour of Blackistone Lighthouse (the replica of the original lighthouse that stood near the same location on the island) from the St. Clement’s hundred Blackistone Lighthouse volunteers. Regular museum admission and water taxi fees apply. At Piney Point, visitors can celebrate the oldest lighthouse on the Potomac’s 185th anniversary with tours of the museum. The Potomac River Maritime Exhibit features full-sized workboats, two floors of brand-new exhibits in the main museum building, the Piney Point lighthouse tower, Keeper’s Quarters and grounds. The Keeper’s Quarters and the Lighthouse will offer special tours featuring Light Keeper Yeatman and his wife. The National Capital Radio and Television Museum from Bowie will also be on-site with a special exhibit. For more information about St. Clement’s Island Museum, please call 301-769-2222 or visit Facebook.com/SCIMuseum. For more information about The Piney Point Lighthouse Museum, call 301-9941471 or visit Facebook.com/1836Light.

From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Shifts in Underwater Grasses Impact Humans as well as Wildlife

By Briana M. Yancy Shifts in Underwater Grasses Impact Humans as well as Wildlife Last year, I worked for the Chesapeake Conservation Corps, a team of young adults who gain environmental experience while working for a year at nonprofit organizations and government agencies across the Chesapeake Bay region. During my time with the corps, I soared in my kayak over beds of underwater grasses and stepped carefully among the beds to collect seeds for restoration. I watched fish follow the channels I made as I walked, had clumsy blue crabs brush up against my legs, and strategically avoided sea nettles caught in the grass canopy. The health of the Chesapeake Bay depends on maintaining high levels of biodiversity, and that requires protecting beds of underwater grasses, also called submerged aquatic vegetation. They are one of the Bay’s most valuable resources, supporting an abundance of aquatic life. They also provide many benefits for humans, called ecosystem services, which include healthy fisheries, improved water clarity and shoreline protection. Twenty species of native and non-native underwater vegetation are found in the Chesapeake. Unfortunately, their acreage has been declining for several decades due to human activity, climate change and pollution. Having a mixture of grass species is important for their resilience. But in the southern Chesapeake Bay, where salinity is the highest, only two species coexist: eelgrass and widgeon grass. Eelgrass populations have declined and are expected to keep declining as temperatures, disease and pollution increase. When eelgrass dies off, widgeon grass takes its place, but it is not clear if the ecosystem services provided by widgeon grass will be as beneficial as those provided by eelgrass. What changes in ecosystem services can we expect and what do these shifts mean for life in and around the Bay? Loss of eelgrass The loss of…

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The Verdict on the 2021 Blue Crab Stock….It’s Mixed!

From the Bay By Karl Blankenship  The Verdict on the 2021 Blue Crab Stock….It’s Mixed! The number of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay this winter plummeted to the fourth-lowest on record, driven largely by the worst-ever showing of juvenile crabs since an annual Baywide survey began in 1990. Though the juvenile drop is concerning, fishery managers say the number of adult females remains robust. They hope the females will produce a better crop of juveniles when they breed later this year. This year’s winter dredge survey, which provides an annual snapshot of the health of the blue crab stock, estimated that the Chesapeake had 282 million crabs, the lowest number since 2007. That figure includes just 81 million juveniles, the lowest in the survey’s history. But the number of young crabs naturally varies from year to year. Females release their larvae near the mouth of the Bay in the fall, which then float into the ocean. The number of juvenile crabs that survive and return to the Chesapeake is highly dependent on weather conditions, currents and other variables outside the Bay each winter. Because those conditions cannot be controlled, fishery managers in 2008 adapted a strategy aimed at ensuring enough adult females survive harvest pressure each year to produce a robust crop of eggs. The hope is that the large number of eggs they produce will encounter favorable coastal conditions often enough to keep the overall population healthy. The survey found a healthy population of females: 158 million, the 10th best number since the survey began, and well above the 72.5 million threshold, the minimum number scientists believe is needed to protect the stock. “We’re comfortable with where we are currently with the abundance of females,” said Mike Luisi, director of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources fisheries monitoring…

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Underwater Drones In Chesapeake Oyster’s Future

Underwater Drones In Chesapeake Oyster’s Future By Tim Wheeler People have been farming oysters in the Chesapeake Bay since at least the 1800s, and some of the methods and tools in use today haven’t changed much. Now, some researchers and entrepreneurs are working to bring oyster aquaculture into the 21st century. Just as agriculture increasingly uses new technology such as airborne drones to monitor crop growth and equipment that applies fertilizer more precisely, scientists hope to boost the aquaculture industry’s output and profitability by employing remote sensing, robotics and other cutting-edge technology. Such innovations are important for both oyster growers and the Bay. With the Chesapeake bivalve population suffering from pollution, habitat loss and disease, oyster farming has become a vital complement to the wild fishery. And, if the new efforts succeed, the growth of aquaculture can further ease harvest pressure on ecologically important wild oysters and help restore their abundance in the Chesapeake.  Eyes underwater Working with a $10 million grant from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a group of researchers from the University System of Maryland and other institutions on the Gulf and West coasts is developing a submersible drone that could increase the efficiency of planting and harvesting oysters on the Bay’s bottom. “Basically, what we’re trying to do here is very similar to land-based precision farming,” said Miao Yu, a professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Maryland College Park campus and research team leader. Oyster farmers, especially those who cultivate the mollusks the old-fashioned way — loose on the bottom of creeks and coves — often check on their crop’s progress by pulling some of them out of the water, using scissors-like tongs similar to what watermen wielded in the 1800s and 1900s. Or they may send divers down to inspect the…

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