From the Bay

From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

The Black Diamond Disaster of 1865

By Bob Tagert One of the great treats of living in this area is the huge amount of history that lies at our fingertips. This past month we ventured to Colton Point on the Potomac River near St. Clements Island and visited the St. Clements Island Museum for the wreath laying ceremony dedicated to the men who lost their lives in the Black Diamond Disaster in 1865. Billed as “The forgotten tragedy on the Potomac”, there is an amazing story behind these casualties. Among the other stories of the German submarine that lies in 95 feet of water near Piney Point, Maryland and the ships in Mallows Bay that lie in shallow water near Charles County, Maryland and is regarded as the “largest shipwreck fleet in the Western Hemisphere” and is described as a “ship graveyard”, the Black Diamond is another disaster after the Civil War. In April 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, the Quartermaster Corps sent the barge Black Diamond to the lower Potomac River to stand on picket duty off of St. Clements Island. Her main job was to keep John Wilkes Booth from crossing the Potomac River into Virginia as he was fleeing from the law. About the same time, the side wheel steamer Massachusetts set sail for Fortress Monroe in the Hamptons Road area of the Commonwealth from Alexandria, Virginia. On board were several Federal soldiers who were returning from sick leave as well as some recently paroled prisoners of war. In a huge mishap around midnight, the Massachusetts rammed the Black Diamond on the port side near the boiler, sinking her in a matter of minutes. Although the Massachusetts remained on the scene to pick up survivors until daybreak, eighty seven lives were lost. Despite the damage to her bow, she continued…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Spring Sailboat Show Returns to Historic Downtown Annapolis

By Michaela Watkins The Annapolis Spring Sailboat Show is set to return to historic downtown Annapolis April 29 – May 1. The show will feature new and brokerage boats including catamarans, monohulls, racing boats, family cruisers, daysailers, and inflatables. While climbing aboard an impressive line-up of sailboats is always a major draw, there is so much more to see. Guests are invited to meet with boating clubs and charters companies, shop gear and equipment, and catch up with marine professionals and sailing friends. Novice and seasoned sailors alike are welcome to expand their horizons with a number of educational opportunities: First Sail Workshop allows first-time sailors to learn the basics and experience the joy of sailing in a 45-minute classroom session followed by 90 minutes on the water with American Sailing Association accredited instructors provided by Sailtime. Cruisers University is a classroom-based educational opportunity for bluewater sailors. Its comprehensive curriculum offers a complete range of cruising topics to prepare cruisers to live aboard a boat and begin their boating adventures with confidence. Courses include marine weather forecasting, navigation techniques, diesel maintenance, heavy weather sailing, budgeting, and more. In collaboration with Chesapeake Bay Magazine and Annapolis School of Seamanship, the show also brings a variety of free seminars. Learn from professional captains and experts about a variety of how-to and where-to-go topics including Docking De-Stressed, Get Your Captain’s License, Weekends on the Water – Cruising to towns in the Upper & Middle Bay, Lessons from Sailors Who Log 100 Days on the Water Each Year, and How to Anchor Your Boat. In addition to boarding beautiful sailboats, guests of the Spring Sailboat Show may get behind the wheel on land at the BMW exhibit. Browse the all-new, fully electric iX on display or sign up to test drive the iX, i4,…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Annual Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning

By Timothy Wheeler “Say goodbye to winter, only deck shoes we wear! Though the socks we burn leave a stink in the air!” So reads the poem recited each year as hundreds of Annapolitans and visitors gather around a waterfront bonfire at the Annapolis Maritime Museum to burn their smelliest, winter-worn socks. After a hiatus during the pandemic, the Annapolis Oyster Roast & Sock Burning is back to celebrate the maritime culture of the Annapolis community and all things Chesapeake Bay. Join us on Saturday, March 19th from 12:00-4:00 PM as we burn our socks during the spring equinox. Tickets are now sold out for both General Admission and People’s Choice. Participants will enjoy all-you-can-eat oysters, oyster shucking contests, family activities, and live music by the Eastport Oyster Boys and Naptown Brass Band. Beverages and other food will be available onsite for purchase.  All of this takes place on the Museum’s waterfront campus overlooking the Chesapeake Bay, including complimentary boat rides and skipjack tours. The sock burning tradition was started in the late 1970’s by local Eastport shipwrights who were fed-up with the winter weather. After an exceptionally cold, snowy season, a small group gathered to celebrate the coming of spring by burning their old socks and promising to forgo sock wearing until the cold weather returned. Today, this quirky Annapolis tradition lives on at the Annapolis Maritime Museum at the Annual Oyster Roast & Sock Burning, where guests can take part in this decades-long tradition that welcomes both the spring and the Annapolis boating season. “There is nothing more authentic and unique to Annapolis than the ritual of burning socks, started right here in Annapolis,” said Alice Estrada, President/CEO of the Museum. “This beloved event brings the community together and raises funds for our important environmental education programs, which…

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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

Restoring Oysters in the Bay – Will It Really Clean Up Polluted Waters?

By Timothy Wheeler Can restoring oysters in the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers really help clean up polluted waters? For many engaged in the struggle to save North America’s largest estuary, it’s an article of faith to answer that question with a resounding yes. Maryland, Virginia and the federal government have invested $76 million so far in trying to rebuild and repopulate oyster reefs in just six of the Bay’s tributaries. With oyster populations worldwide much diminished, real-world evidence has been lacking to support the belief that restoring shellfish abundance will greatly benefit water quality — until now. A research team led by the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science has found a place along Florida’s Atlantic coast, near St. Augustine, where oysters grow so thickly that they resemble what Capt. John Smith and other European settlers reported finding in the Chesapeake Bay in the early 1600s. Close analysis of the number and density of oysters in Florida’s Guana, Tolomato and Matanzas rivers and the locations of their reefs indicates that the bivalve population there filters 60% of the water in that small, somewhat protected system in a little less than two weeks’ time, researchers concluded. “If you were to restore oysters to historic levels, this is the affect they would have,” said Matthew Gray, an oyster researcher at UMCES’ Horn Point Laboratory. He is lead author of the study, published in November in the journal Estuaries and Coasts. It’s been more than three decades since Roger Newell, another oyster biologist at Horn Point, now retired, stirred imaginations by estimating that the Bay’s oysters had been so plentiful before 1880 that they could filter all of the estuary’s water in less than a week. His study and other similar ones helped inspire efforts to restore the Chesapeake region’s bivalve population,…

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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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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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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

‘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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From the Bay, From the Bay to the Blue Ridge

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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