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History & Lore

Donald Sheckells: Stuck on oystering

If oystering has been your life for more than 40 years, what do you do when age catches up with you?     If you’re Donald Sheckells, you’re still working.     The Shady Side waterman no longer braves winter on the water to harvest oysters. But he’s still shucking and selling them.

After generations harvesting wild oysters, Chesapeake watermen are learning to raise them

Where have all the nicknames gone?     Once upon a time you had one — Popeye, Spanky, Hambone — if you were an oysterman working the Bay.     Nowadays, oystermen are mostly gone, along with their nicknames. In Anne Arundel and Calvert counties, only about a dozen commercial oystermen still work.

In hatcheries, science works to jumpstart nature

Restoring oysters and an oyster economy in the Chesapeake starts in hatchery labs, where scientists are filling the gap in hopes nature will take over from there.     The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Hatchery in Cambridge — expanded last year to produce up to two billion spat a year — grows the larvae, nursing the tiny babies as they attach to a hard surface — old oyster shell. Other oyster babies are grown in a smaller state hatchery at Piney Point in St. Mary’s County.

It wasn’t so long ago that boating shifted from a way to earn a ­living to a sport and pastime

With sailing the rage all over the Chesapeake, waterfront communities organized sailing clubs, fleets and regattas for sport and competition.     The Annapolis Yacht Club — in our times embarking on a $10 million expansion — reorganized in the late 1930s, after World War I and the Great Depression nearly put the venerable club out of business. The club was founded in 1886 and thrived in the first decade of the new century with races and regattas for small sailboats, canoes and shells.

Three boys in the summer of 1940 try to salvage an abandoned skipjack

Around and about the Sailing Capital of America, pleasure sailing is a way of life.     Yet it’s a recent invention, relatively speaking.     It took hold in one community in the summer of 1940, when Paul McDonald was an admiring 10-year-old summering on the Chesapeake in Fairhaven, way down south in Anne Arundel County. The late McDonald’s memoir, written 69 years later, takes us back to that summer. *   *   *

Dee of St. Mary’s is your one chance on the Western Shore

Shanghaied into labor, two able-bodied passengers grapple a stout line hand over hand to hoist the 2,000-square-foot Dacron mainsail of the skipjack Dee of St. Mary’s up her 72-foot tree-trunk mast. Then First Mate John Fulchiron crawls out on the 19-foot bowsprit to raise the smaller jib. And off Dee goes.

Over just three days, 379 years of Maryland history come to life

On March 25, 1634, voyagers from the ships the Ark and the Dove erected a cross on St. Clement’s Island in the Potomac River and offered prayers for surviving their four-months’ voyage. Thereupon, they took “possession of this Countrey for our Saviour and for our soveraigne Lord the King of England.”     The Piscataway Indians who already lived there likely suggested the colonists go elsewhere, and St. Mary’s City became the seat of Lord Baltimore’s new colony.

Remembering the great blizzards of yore

I love winter. My growing up was Colorado, and cold-side Oregon, and cold and snow are in my blood.     But not in Maryland. Real winter has been missing so long that I fear global warming has turned it into a memory.     My hopes for a last chance at winter 2013 rose with this week’s forecast of snow, lovely deep snow. Rain fell instead, and with it my hopes.     But Beverly Spicknall of Owings remembers real winter.

Ann Widdifield’s Passing Through Shady Side, published with AuthorHouse in 2013 Billy Poe’s African-Americans of Calvert County, published by Acadia House in 2008 James Johnston’s From Slave Ship to Harvard, published by Fordham University Press in 2012 by Sandra Olivetti Martin, Bay Weekly Editor, with Terri Boddorff and Cameron Caswell, Anne Arundel County Public Library; Beverly Izzy and Robbie McGaughran, Calvert County Public Library

A winter’s wind blows water from the Bay, revealing relics from the past

On a cold winter day, with a stiff northwest wind blowing the Chesapeake Bay south toward the Atlantic, 11-year-old twins Cole and Wyatt Greene stumbled on a strange sight as they explored the exposed mudflats of Herring Bay. Buried in the mud appeared to be the remains of an old ship. A really big ship.