Volume XI, Issue 32 ~ August 7-13, 2003

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Dock of the Bay

Wet Start, Quick Finish
30th annual Governor’s Cup Yacht Race shines

Strong winds carried the fleet of boats down the Chesapeake Bay August 1 and 2 in the Governor’s Cup Yacht Race, from Annapolis to St. Mary’s College of Maryland. This year marked the 30th edition of this annual race, which begins at Maryland’s current capital and sails to its original one.

For the first time ever, the boats that covered the 70 miles fastest found a governer on hand to honor them.

photos by James Clemenko
The Chestertown schooner Sultana marks the start line for the 2003 Governor’s Cup Yacht Race from Annapolis to St. Mary’s.

“We’re going to make it a tradition that the governor or I will present the Governor’s Cup trophies as long as we are in office,” said Lt. Gov. Michael Steele.

Javelin, a 52-foot yacht created by Annapolis’ Bruce Farr — who designs the Volvo and America’s Cup ocean racers — claimed three awards from Steele: Javelin won the Joseph Waldschmitt trophy for best-in-fleet honors; the Steven Bickell Memorial trophy for the most improved boat from last year; and a trophy for winning their class.

“We covered our competition and didn’t make any mistakes,” said Larry Bulman, skipper of Javelin.

Javelin finished the race in 10 hours 25 minutes. The fastest boat was the custom-designed 72-foot yacht Donnybrook, which finished in 9:14. Boats straggled in all morning with 15:44 the slowest time.

The best racing conditions in years — “winds between 10 and 20 knots,” according to the college’s Denise Krumenacker — were not the only change over the 30-year history of the longest race on Chesapeake Bay.

“The boats are much faster now. There is a lot more information with weather, and GPS to make it easier,” said the victorious Bulman. “This is a fun and nice race. If you’re lucky enough to win, that’s good.”

Strong winds also made for an exciting spectacle. During the day, the contrast between rain, clouds and sun made a spooky start. At night, a parade of lights blazed down the Bay to St. Mary’s, where a thousand revelers celebrated the 144 boats’ arrival not with trophies but with rum.

— James Clemenko

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Airborne Menace Attacked
Mosquito-control products battle backyard pests

When the mosquito bites, who are you going to call? Today, that bite not only itches but also threatens infection with West Nile Virus. But if you call on a traditional sprayer to keep mosquitos away, you may be poisioning more than just stingers.

Nowdays you can call on SonicWeb, Rodar II, Mosquito Trap, Lectroswat, The Bug Eater, Mosquito Terminator, Backyard Avenger and Mosquito-Magnet.

They’re among 21 mechanical mosquito-control products — using different principles — hawked on the Google Internet directory.

Mosquito-Magnet®, a device manufactured by American Biophysics Corp., is the most popular device in Chesapeake Country.

The device, which looks like a small outboard boat motor on a propane tank, works by emitting tiny amounts of heat, moisture and carbon dioxide, just as humans naturally do when they exhale. It may also use an optional chemical attractant called octenol.

A basic Mosquito-Magnet costs about $300.

The $64,000 question: Does it work?

“We’ve looked at it and talked to a lot of people,” says veternarian Diana Post of the Rachel Carson Council in Silver Spring. “In general, it seems that the Mosquito-Magnet works pretty well. I would not discourage the device, though we also promote integrated pest management.”

Integrated pest management includes emptying outdoor water containers where mosquitoes can breed and putting in houses for bats and purple martins. If you have a home pond, it will breed mosquitoes. Add mosquito fish — little native gambusia — to eat up breeding mosquitos in your pond.

Mosquito-Magnets and similar traps have another advantage over chemical sprays. Sprays are indiscriminate killers wiping out many of the insects that birds need to nourish their young, while carbon-dioxide traps attract a small range of insect types.

In Annapolis, where Mayor Ellen Moyer has declared all-out war against the summer pests, two Mosquito-Magnets are in use at 80-acre Truxtun Park. Each “pro-size” Mosquito-Magnet will kill mosquitoes in a 1.5-acre range.

“We’ve focused our attention on Truxtun because of the adult ball leagues and swimming pool use in early evenings, when mosquitoes generally come out,” park director Lee Ann Plumer says. One magnet traps near Collison and Grisom fields and the other near the pool.

“We’ve had lots of dead female mosquitoes in the magnet nets,” Plumer reports. Still, she says, “It’s hard to judge whether the Mosquito-Magnets are effective or not, but we usually hear if people have complaints. And there have been no complaints from people at ball games.”

photo by Sonia Linebaugh
Hamilton Chaney demonstrates one of two Mosquito-Magnets used at Herrington Harbour North Marina.
There’ve been no complaints at other Annapolis parks, either, but with little evening activity, fewer people have been out to complain. In addition, city workers have been busy eliminating standing water, brushing out puddles so they will dry out more quickly.

Annapolis’ other mosquito control tactics include spraying by the state Department of Agriculture, educating people on how to get rid of residential mosquito breeding sites and erecting purple martin houses in Truxtun Park. Martins, which are large swallows, are reputed to dine voraciously on mosquitoes. Birds have taken up residence in one of the houses, but there’s no word on whether they are purple martins.

In Tracy’s Landing, Herrington Harbour North Marina also has two Mosquito-Magnets at work. At the marina pool, a recent party for 220 people stood for the first real test.

“It seemed to be very effective, says Herrington’s Hamilton Chaney. “Nobody mentioned anything about mosquitoes. That’s a good sign. I was at the party and so was our staff. I didn’t see anyone slapping their ankles. Whether the device worked or whether there were just no mosquitoes, I can’t say for sure.”

At the 60-acre marina abutting many acres of wetlands, it hardly seems possible there would be no mosquitoes. The state sprays across Rockhold Creek in Deale but, according to the county schedule, no spraying has been done in Tracy’s Landing.

Still, there were no morning mosquitoes in the small picnic area by the marina’s second Mosquito-Magnet, the humid day we spoke. On the other hand, “I was in Dorchester County recently and there were mosquitoes everywhere,” Chaney says.

“The traps are a little expensive,” he adds, “but if they make an area usable they’re worth it. Even for an individual homeowner, it would be worthwhile. If you spend $10,000 for a deck, you might as well spend the money for a Mosquito-Magnet so you can enjoy it.”

At Sneade’s Ace Home Center in Owings, store manager Randy Holmes gave the exact cost. For a Mosquito-Magnet that covers up to one-half acre of land, $299.99. For the one-and-a-half acre size, $1249. Most sales have been the three-quarter acre Liberty model for $549. The product is not new, but, Holmes says, this year has seen a boom in sales. He speculates that better packaging has made the difference.

“Everybody who has gotten back to me says they’re very effective,” says Holmes. “We’ve gone through almost our entire stock. We sold 25 and have more on order. If I had $299, I’d buy one in a heart-beat.”

Operating such a trap takes electricity, propane and octenol, at a cost of about 85 cents a day, Holmes estimates. That’s about $25 per month or $100 to $130 for the season.

This year cost doesn’t seem to be the issue.

“Almost anything that says mosquito killer has sold this year,” says Holmes. “West Nile Virus may have something to do with it, but most people want to go out on their deck in the evening.” Other mosquito-control products selling well are affordable sprays, lotions and donuts of the naturally occuring insectide Bt to add to standing water.

Neither the Environmental Protection Agency nor the Rachel Carson Council (which has a well-known record opposing the hazards of air-borne poisons like mosquito-cides) could find any fault with the Mosquito-Magnet. But with positive evidence mostly anecdotal, they’re approval remains cautious.

Other buyers offered a single complaint: A slight mechanical hum that contradicts the manufacturer’s “silent” claim and may bother the most noise sensitive.

Still, early reports on carbon-dioxide mosquito traps are the most attractive mosquito news we’ve heard all year.

— Sonia Linebaugh

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You’re Never too Young
Gov. Ehrlich, Sen. Astle win young votes on the Bay

“Just because you’re not 18 yet doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference,” Sen. John Astle tells 40 campers, all under 18, who’ve traveled from the Bay to the Statehouse to share one kind of knowledge and gain another.

The six- to 11-year-olds in Shady Side Rural Heritage Society’s Be a Bay Neighbor summer program have spent a week studying the Bay, testing its waters and exploring its mysteries.

“We took a boat ride on the West River,” exclaims Cari Erikson. “We saw a bald eagle and a great blue heron.”

Touring the West River with Discovery Village and Captain Kerry Muse, campers saw life on the Bay firsthand, learning about the balance of plants, water and animals that makes the Bay a healthy home.

But they also made their mark on the land. “We planted our state flower, the black-eyed susan, and zebra grass in the museum’s yard,” said Kelly Radle. “They’re native to Maryland.”

These kids know they can make a difference. They’ve learned the workings of the Bay inside out and are eager to share their knowledge.

photo by Theresa M. Troescher
Gov. Robert Ehrlich, with state Sen. John Astle to his right, paid a surprise visit to campers from Shady Side Rural Heritage Society’s Be a Bay Neighbor on their visit to the state capitol.

But first, they’ve got to penetrate another kind of mystery: How decisions that could save the Bay get made.

Mud they can understand, but politics is murky.

“There are 47 districts in Maryland,” camp director Ann Widdifield, a retired school teacher, explains. “There is one senator for each district and three delegates. Democratic Sen. John Astle comes from District 30.”

“What is a senator?” a young camper wonders.

They find out when Astle joins them and their parents in the very chamber where the House of Delegates deliberates and votes.

“You shouldn’t catch too many oysters,” Kassie Brant warns the senator. “They clean our waters.”

“The whistling swan is native and doesn’t hurt the Bay,” contributes Louis Fratino. “But the mute swan isn’t native and it hurts the Bay because they rip up the grasses from the root when they eat.”

One after another, the young people walk toward the senator to show him the Bay-saving posters they have drawn. Words of wisdom about littering and over-harvesting of Bay creatures earn his undivided attention. He learns from these students what it means to Be a Bay Neighbor.

Their posters are clever and show talent, and Astle promises to display them for the other senators and delegates to admire.

But it’s neither senators nor delegates but another kind of politician who’s first in line to admire the skill and knowledge of these Bay Neighbors.

“Would you mind if I joined you?” asks Gov. Robert Ehrlich, stepping in for a surprise visit. Everybody, campers and parents alike, know who this politician is. He admires their posters, stands for pictures and passes out pins enameled with the seal of the state.

From the small shore to the big pond, from the animals to the policy makers, these campers have traversed Bay shores.

“I only hope that these kids can one day connect what they learned here with something later in life,” says Widdifield of her campers who met the governor.

— Theresa M. Troescher

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Way Downstream …

In Delaware, a state official has been placed on leave after the discovery of 17 buried containers of a banned chemical at the state Department of Natural Resource’s beach-preservation site near Lewes. The chemical is believed to be the wood preservative commonly known as penta. Tests are being run to see if they’ve polluted the area …

In Portugal, cork farmers are fighting to survive amid the trend of those plastic corks vintners are stuffing in their wine bottles. Portugal, the world’s biggest supplier of cork, has lost a chunk of its market already, and conservationists warn that there could be a bigger price if cork forests are cut down for more profitable crops: habitat for endangered species like the Iberian lynx and the Spanish imperial eagle

In Antarctica, a marine biologist was killed last month by a seal, the first such death on the icebound continent. Kirsty Brown, 28, a skilled diver, was snorkeling when a leopard seal attacked her and dragged her into deep water…

Our Creature Feature this week comes from Australia, where those lovable koalas have been, well, too lovable. So lovable, in fact, that 3,000 females in the state of Victoria are being put on the pill because the koala population has mushroomed to the point where there’s too few manna gum trees, their favorite food, to support them.

“The forest is continuing to decline as the animals just keep eating and breeding,” Parks Victoria research manager Sally Troy told Reuters. Koalas can live to about 18 years of age; they start breeding at two and produce about 10 offspring in their lifetimes. The contraceptives will be injected under their skin.

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© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.
Last updated August 7, 2003 @ 12:49am