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Volume 13, Issue 20 ~ May19 - 25, 2005
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Dr. Gouin's Bay Gardener
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Bill Burton
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Around-the-World Race Headed for Annapolis
Our sailing capital remains on the Volvo map
by Carrie Steele

The million-dollar, break-neck-speed sailboats won’t hoist their sails until early November. They won’t spot Annapolis on the horizon until April 19 of 2006. But our self-styled sailing capital of the world remains on the map.

“We’re not going to host the Olympics any time soon,” said Gary Jacobson, spokesman for the Volvo Ocean Race. “And we’re not having the World Cup here. But racing around the world is the third leg of the triangle, and we have it here.”

The eight-month race covers 31,000 nautical miles, four seas and five continents. As well as Baltimore and Annapolis, captains and sailors crewing the seven racing boats will also see Cape Town, South Africa; Melbourne, Australia; Portsmouth, England; and Rotterdam, The Netherlands, before the race concludes in Goteborg, Sweden, on June 15, 2006.

This May 2006 will mark the third time the race has stopped in Annapolis. Volvo racers sailed into our harbor in 2002, and also in 1998, under the banner of the Whitbread Round-the-World Race, before naming rights were bought by Volvo.

“It enhances our reputation as an international sailing mecca,” said Annapolis city spokeswoman Jan Hardesty.

That styling is more than wishful thinking.

Four of the racing yachts in the fleet of seven were designed by Bruce Farr in Eastport. Farr’s boats will be raced by Swedish team Ericsson; Brazil’s Brasil 1; Spain’s Movistar; and Team Pirate, a Disney boat from the United States. In addition, racing yachts are driven by sails from Annapolis’ North Sails.

“These are big boats: they’re compelling characters, unbelievably fast,” Jacobson said of the seven racing boats that will circumnavigate the world. “These are on average $10-million boats.”

The fleet fills out with Abn Amro boats 1 and 2 from the Netherlands and Premier Challenge from Australia.

“The presence of an American boat will glamorize the race here and we’ll be a hometown to root for it,” adds Hardesty of Team Pirate.

Each boat has a crew of 12 sailors as well as a skipper. So far, no locals are scheduled as Volvo crew, but not all of the yachts — particularly Team Pirate — have crews signed on. Hardesty expects that Annapolitan Chris Larson will race.

Not every past port made this year’s cut. In 2006, Miami will be snubbed as the fleet races straight from Rio de Janeiro to Baltimore, where the boats are scheduled to arrive between April 19 and 21.

New this year are seven in-port regattas, which count toward each boat’s overall score and allow land-based spectators full views of the vessels and their crews. The Chesapeake’s in-port race is scheduled for April 29.

After Baltimore, the Volvo fleet sets sail for the shortest leg of the trip, parading under sail into Annapolis on May 4. On land and in port, Annapolis, like Baltimore, plans to welcome the sailboats with waterfront festivals, prizes, a forum, blessings of the fleet and boat parades.

Then, May 7, the fleet races down Chesapeake Bay before turning into the Atlantic to race to New York.

Keep tabs on the race, including the countdown to start some 170 days hence at www.volvooceanrace.org.

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Uncommon Courtesies Helping fellow fishers out of trouble
story and illustrations by Larry Fogel

One of the first sounds I can remember is the sound of gulls arguing with each other. They were always there following the boats in or out of the inlet. Or on the docks. Or sailing overhead. I could watch them for hours; still do, when I get the chance.

When I was born, my parents lived across the street from a fish- and clam-packing house in the Inlet section of Atlantic City, New Jersey. Commercial fishing was big there back then. It was the summer of 1934. The Great Depression was still with a lot of folks, including mine. It was potatoes and clams (clam chowder) 24/7, or so it seemed at the time. I know now it could have been a lot worse.

When I was five, I used to crawl around the rock jettys of the Inlet at low tide, looking for fishing line, hooks and sinkers that the jetty fishermen lost in the mussel beds that covered the rocks. It wasn’t long before I had my own rig: an old spark plug that some of the fishermen used for a sinker, two pieces of line — there was no monofilament back then — a small hook and an old Coke bottle as my reel. Guess this kind of rig sounds strange to some, but others will recognize it. Some of the other kids had this same kind of rig. It works. A rod and reel were from heaven.

I found chunks of clam and green crabs under a nearby seafood restaurant called Hackneys. Their raw bar sink was right over the water.

Waiting until a fisherman left a spot I knew about, I flipped my crab and clam sandwich (as much as I could squeeze on the hook) into a hole between the rock well known to have large slipperys, as tautogs are known in Atlantic City. In less than a minute I felt that first tug.

I know I was smiling because I’m smiling now as I write this. You fishermen out there know exactly what I’m talking about. I had caught my first fish, by myself, a slippery. It was small, but it didn’t matter. In those few minutes my life would change, and that thrill of a hook-up is still with me today, 65 years later.

I wasn’t alone that day. A laughing gull on a nearby piling had been watching me the whole time. And as I hauled my fish up on the rocks, the gull pointed its head skyward, screeching and flapping his wings as if to say, Well done, young man! To a five-year-old, this seemed appropriate at the time and a lifelong bond was formed.

In more than 60 years of fishing and communing with the gulls, one thing still bothers me: that’s when a fisher cuts the line after snagging a gull or other seabirds. I’ll never understand this. The birds are part of the magic of fishing, and they have the right to fish with us. These are not landfill gulls. They and their tern friends (the best fishers on the water) work for a living. Hell, they were here first. When the gulls are around, you can feel the excitement. And when you find a blitz of fish feeding on the surface, the gulls are telling you This is gonna be a good day. So when we cause them trouble, we should make the effort to help them out.

Following are some of my attempts to do just that.

The late 1970s, fishing for blues on the inlet jetty of Ocean City
It was a very calm late afternoon in early October. The water was so clear I could see mullet coming up and breaking the surface, with splashes of water, with flashes of bluefish below them. The baitfish were trying to move around the jetty. But the blues had them cornered. The tide was changing. The conditions were perfect.

Unlike summer, the jetty was loaded with fishermen who knew what they were doing. I was working a seven-inch, six-hook, black-and-white Rapala lure with a big diving lip. I had it swimming the way I liked

A very large black gull liked the way it was swimming, too. He hovered over it and wouldn’t move. So I stopped all motion and just let it float there. Maybe I should tell him it’s not real?

He took it anyway, snagging himself, and away he went, airborne with my lure. He flew over the jetty, over the fishermen on the jetty and into the inlet side, where he sat on the water for a minute as he thought things over. As I tried to reel him in, he took off again over the jetty, over the fishermen on the jetty, to the surf on the beach side. Most of the other fishermen were doubled over laughing or yelling stupid advice as my catch flew over their heads a second time.

The gull finally settled down a little, and I gradually reeled him in. He was very large and very angry — angry at me. I climbed down in the rocks to throw a towel over his head, but the hand towel I always carry wasn’t big enough. Someone threw me a beach towel, and that did the trick. With my pliers, I pulled out the hooks. What a mess. The hooks on lures are razor sharp. Keeping him still was a job.

As I set him down below me to free him, he nipped me good on the arm. He took off screeching, probably saying vile things about me. I heard some applause from the other fishermen up on the jetty. That felt good. We put on a great show. I know I looked pretty dumb at the time, but it was something I had do.

By the way, keeping the rod tip up didn’t work.

In the late 1960s, fishing the south jetty at Fort Pierce, Florida
This time a brown pelican flies into my line and dives before he knows something’s wrong. The brown pelican is a really large bird; wing span can get up to seven and a half feet. This guy was almost that big.

This time, I just had a bottom rig, single hook, with a whole mullet on, in a very good grouper hole. At slack tide you can catch some nice fish there. It’s out near the end of the jetty. But you can get soaked with the surf out there.

The pelican surfaced and started swimming to Spain. But with 60-pound test monofilament and a tight drag, I eventually turned him and brought him into the rocks. I jumped down to a lower rock. With the surf crashing, on barnacles and slippery grass, I faced this very large bird with only a pair of pliers and a small hand towel. I thought, Damn, this is gonna be interesting. Indeed, it was.

With the waves pounding me, I managed to put one arm around him and quickly cover his head with my towel. I cut most of the line off with the pliers and started pulling it away from him. I was moving fast. But with a few large waves, the towel was gone, and all I had was an angry bird flapping his wings on my head and shoulders.

A big wave broke us up and freed the line on him. He just sat on the surface for a moment, then suddenly dove to the bottom, came up and sat there again. I climbed out to a small and puzzled tourist crowd, which was probably wondering what I was doing to this poor bird.

As I started making up a new bottom rig, he was still sitting there. Thinking about the ordeal, I guess. He dove again; now I knew where my mullet went. How he didn’t hook himself with the mullet, I’ll never know. He stayed with me for a half-hour or so, like we were buddies or something.

The grouper hole was dry for the next few days.

Sometimes it’s not just birds. The same jetty later that year

A full-grown loggerhead turtle made his way along the rock jetty, feeding slowly. I was fishing for snapper with a live mullet. When the turtle got near me, I pointed my rod tip down and back toward me. But it didn’t matter. He snagged me and hooked himself. He didn’t seem to be fazed by it, but the hook was in his shoulder. It moved in and out as he swam.

There was a concrete block I could stand on, with water up to my waist. That’s where I went. I hand-lined him in and held him by the back side of his right front flipper as I removed the hook and line. His head was almost as big as mine, and his movements were powerful. Helping him was dangerous, but I knew he would be in trouble eventually because of where the hook was.

I never moved fast or aggressively and was ready to jump away quickly. When I pulled the hook out, he turned toward me and snapped the 60-pound line, cutting it as if it wasn’t there. When I let go, all the line was free. He continued on his way, feeding slowly along the jetty. Like it happens to him every day. No problem.

The late ’80s, Outer Banks, (Holy Land for surf fishermen) Nags Head, North Carolina. Public pier
My wife saw a small laughing gull, just off the fishing pier, tangled up in monofilament, hooks, sinkers and other beach trash. He was hardly moving. I had my dinner clothes on, but I jumped down onto the beach and got to him easily. I noticed why he had trouble moving. He only had one leg. I had seen this before. Probably a bluefish got the other. Since I had no towel or anything else to cover his eyes, I had to hold him by the neck. Luckily none of the hooks had penetrated.

As I untangled the gull and prepared to release him, a loud voice said,Why don’t you leave the damn bird alone? When I looked up, I saw the voice belonged to some guy standing on the pier with two kids. As I stood to address him, his daughter says, Daddy, he was just freeing that bird from all that stuff.

Oh, he says.

The gull flew off a short distance. No trouble on one leg. Another short flight. And so on, down the beach. He was pretty weak. Don’t know if he made it very far.

In the late ’90s, Upper Chesapeake Bay, north of the Bay Bridge.
In my Mako center console, I was chasing seagulls feeding on silverside minnows. Bluefish had chased them to the surface as they usually do in their annual fall migration. Following gulls is a standard practice for a lot of center-console fishermen in the fall. The catch north of the Bay Bridge is usually small throw-back stripers or small bluefish. All you need is a light rod and a small spoon, bucktail or stingsilver to cast into the churned-up water. They’ll hit your watch if you throw it out there. On my first cast, Wham! Fish on! Tailor bluefish! A school of 14- to 16-inchers.

The first one came in easy. Nice fish. The gulls were thick. I landed three more tailor blues. But on the fifth cast, a herring gull flew into my line. Old story; here we go again.

I didn’t cut the line for fear the bird would drag the whole rig around and eventually starve to death. As he sat on the surface and flopped about, he tangled himself even more. When I started to reel him in, he took off and got maybe five or six feet off the surface with part of my line wrapped around one of his wings. Then, wham! Down to the surface he went. Shaking his head, he took off again, this time getting three or four feet into the air. Wham! Down he went. Maybe he’s injured himself, I thought. He took off again, this time 10 feet in the air. Down he goes again, but this time it’s slower and in stages.

Now I understand. My gull had caught a bluefish. When he took off the first time, the small Hopkins lure darted to the surface; it was irresistible.

I got a towel ready to throw over his head — gulls can be nasty when cornered — and hand-lined the bird boat-side. I tied the line with the fish onto a cleat. I covered the gull’s head, cutting away all the line; luckily, there were no hooks involved.

Holding him over the side, I set him free. I wondered if he wanted his bluefish, but he just flew away. I pulled in the blue, a nice tailor, but since he wasn’t mine, I set him free, too. I never take home someone else’s fish.

Again in the late ’90s, Mid-Chesapeake, near the Bay Bridge
When I cross a tide line, I sometimes slow my boat to investigate the flotsam and debris. This time, I passed a terrible sight. A small herring gull had taken a nine-hook artificial lure and tried to fly away with it. The lure was at least 10 inches long. All nine hooks were embedded in his head or feet. He was twisted, contorted, torn and cut — and tangled with eight or 10 feet of monofilament, which held his wings in an unnatural way. He must have died in confusion and pain, not understanding what had happened. The mono had other debris and trash wrapped around its deadly cargo, holding it afloat.

I swung my boat around and stopped. I cut the hooks and line with pliers and pulled it away. The gull slowly sank to the bottom.

Some fishermen will cut the line when a gull snags itself, thinking the saltwater will rot or corrode the hooks. Not I. Sometimes there seems to be no other choice, like when you hook a large skate and can’t raise him. But we should make the effort when we can.

I once pulled in an eight-pound tautog — on the Oriental Avenue jetty in Atlantic City in 1965 — that had seven hooks of various sizes in his mouth. He must have terrorized the inlet jettys for years before I caught him. I removed them all in short order and put him back. He laid on the surface for a second, then was gone. Anyone who has ever fished for tog, can tell you this fish is tough, but this guy surely earned a put-back.

You gotta love ’em
Most of my fishing, until 13 years ago was as a surf fisherman and jetty jockey. I fished the surf from Point Judith, Rhode Island, to Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, to Fort Pierce, Florida. I have a place on the Little Magothy River now, off Chesapeake Bay. Since 1993, I have transitioned from a 19-foot Mako center console to a Parker 25 with full cabin.

Have I ever gotten a thank you from my sea gull friends? Yes. In the dead of winter, when it’s tough for them, I go out on my dock on my frozen river and toss out stale bread. I can get some to take the bread from my hand. And more than once, I’ve gotten a warm drop of thank-you on my head.

You gotta love ’em.

About the Author
Larry Fogel, of Cape Saint Claire, has been a fisherman for almost 60 years, as a surfman, jetty jockey and boater. For the past two decades, he’s worked at The Washington Post as a news cartographer and graphics designer. This is his first story and his debut in Bay Weekly.

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