Volume XI ~ Summer Guide 2003

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101 Ways to Have Fun on the Bay 11-20

11. See the Light at Maryland Lighthouses
The sea’s guiding lights are more than lonely floating bulbs that have led the way for sailors since the 1800s. They’re part of history. This summer, tour some of Chesapeake’s lighthouses and learn the inside story.

Start with Sandy Point Shoal Light, described as “one of the prettiest caisson lighthouses built on the Bay” by Lighting the Bay author Pat Vojtech. It sits near the Bay Bridge, 3,000 feet from the easternmost point of the Broadneck peninsula.

Head south to the mouth of the South River to find Thomas Point Light. In 1995, this old screwpile lighthouse was designated a National Historic Landmark, one of six in the country.

The coffee-pot-shaped, cast-iron caisson Bloody Point Light stands on Bloody Point Bar off the southern tip of Kent Island. That’s where it started to lean shortly after it was lit in 1882. It tipped five degrees, but workers pushed it back up and dumped 760 tons of rock around its base to keep it in place. It still leans slightly.

Hooper Straight Lighthouse, a restored three-story cottage-style house, has lived at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael’s since 1966. It descends from an 1867 original constructed on the north side of the entrance into Tangier Sound. It marked the shipping channel for a decade before succumbing to moving ice. Open daily 9am-6pm: 410/745-2916.

Sharp’s Island Light, sitting at a 15-degree angle and appearing to be Bloody Point Light’s twin, once marked one of the biggest islands in the Chesapeake Bay. That island washed away, but Sharp’s Island Light, located off Black Walnut Point near the entrance of the Choptank River at the end of Tilghman Island, is still standing as Maryland’s Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Cove Point Lighthouse, a 173-year-old conical tower, is the only working lighthouse left on the Bay and is in excellent condition thanks to constant maintenance. Calvert Marine Museum now owns the lighthouse, which you can visit on daily tours (11am and 1 & 2:30 [Saturday only] & 3:30pm); $3 by shuttle bus from the museum, at Solomons: 410/326-2042.

Also at Calvert Marine Museum is the screwpile cottage-style Drum Point Lighthouse built in 1883 to mark the entrance to the Patuxent River. Museum admission gains you full access to this entirely restored treasure.

Point Lookout Lighthouse, known for its ghostly visitors, stands at the end of St. Mary’s county where the Potomac River meets the Bay. It once marked the north entrance of the Potomac River. The diminutive white house with red roof and black lantern is closed to the public but can be viewed through a high chain link fence.

See history unfold before your eyes at Piney Point Lighthouse, a squat conical tower built in 1836. During World War II, the Navy tested torpedoes in nearby waters and brought a captured German Black Panther submarine to the point for study, then sunk it. An on-site museum fills in the details. Piney Point also served as summer White House for presidents James Monroe, Franklin Pierce and Teddy Roosevelt.

Located 14 miles up the Potomac River, this lighthouse marks a sandbar on the northern bank known as Piney Point. To get there, drive south on Route 5 to the sleepy little town of Calloway. Make a right at the town’s only traffic light, and before long the lighthouse appears through the cedars. The museum is open Fridays thru Mondays from noon-5pm; the park and museum grounds are open daily from sunrise to sunset: 301/769-2222.

To see the lights by water, book a Lighthouse Legacy Charter tour with Captain Buddy Norris: 410/535-4473 • www.lighthouselegacycharters.com.

To learn more read Lighting the Bay: Tales of Chesapeake Lighthouses by Pat Vojtech; Bay Beacons: Lighthouses of the Chesapeake Bay by Linda Turbyville; Lighthouses of the Chesapeake by Robert de Gast; or visit www.cheslights.org.

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12. Catch a Crab (but not more than two dozen)
Our Bay’s beloved blue crabs are so scarce these days that some good citizens have forsworn eating them. For our part, we think you can still eat a dozen now and again. If you’re thinking like us, the question is where are you going to get them.

The crabs you buy at seafood markets and in restaurants have been caught by commercial watermen who work hard at the job, crabbing from boats with hundreds of submerged crab pots or hundreds of yards of trotline.

If you’ve got access to the water, you can catch your own crabs, save some money and have a lot of fun.

You can always wade out into the water with a net and try scooping crabs out of the water. This is good sport, especially for kids. But crabs are swift swimmers and quite elusive. Other methods are more accurate, so you’ll be eating rather than fooling.

Begin with bait. Crabs eat just about anything, most of it things you’d never want to eat — and it doesn’t have to be exactly fresh. Try chicken necks, which lend their name to the most accessible way to catch crabs.

Next you’ll need some string, a bridge or pier overlooking the Bay or a tributary and a basket or bucket to store your catch. You might also want some thick gloves to grab the crabs that invariably scramble out while you’re dropping in a new catch. And be warned: these suckers pinch like the devil got hold of you!

Tie your bait securely, drop your line and wait. When you feel a tug on your line, slowly pull up your catch, hold it over your basket and jiggle the line. With any luck the crab will drop off. Otherwise you can try prying open his claw — be careful! — or try shining a flashlight in its eyes. Believe it or not, this often works.

Crabs are a resource we all share, so do your part to keep the fishery healthy. Keep only legal crabs: for hardshells, measure five and a quarter inches from point to point across the shell. Throw back the females so there’ll be more crabs next year. They’re the ones with red-tipped claws and a rounder underbelly that looks something like the U.S. Capitol building. Males underbellies resemble the Washington Monument.

To renew this great resource, recreational crabbers who go for two dozen or more must buy licenses this season. If you catch less than two dozen, you can still take your crabs without a license.

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13. Don’t Wait
Did you ever get around to picnicking on the grass of Quiet Waters Park or Downs Park as the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra serenaded the end of summer? Or visiting the five-century old Wye Oak? It’s too late now. The great Wye Oak fell to heavy winds June 6, 2001, and classic concerts in the park fell to this year’s budget ax.

Have you ever let a summer go without once going into — or going out on — our Chesapeake Bay? Don’t make that mistake this summer.

Have you ever caught, cleaned, cooked and ate a fish you caught yourself? What are your waiting for?

Did you ever dream you could paint a picture, write a story or capture passing time in a photograph? Why dream it when you can do it?

Life is short. Don’t wait.

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14. Ride a Horse

Give a man a horse he can ride,
Give a man a boat he can sail;
And his rank and wealth, his strength and health
On sea nor shore shall fail
— James Thomson, Scottish poet (1834-1882)

Go ahead: spend your time on the water, but you best take Thomson’s advice because Chesapeake Country is also horse country.

It’s home to the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown. And a recent survey by the Department of Agriculture found that there are nearly 80,000 horses in Maryland.

Horses can take you deep into the woods on trails no mountain bike or ATV could ever travel. They’ll canter around the ring and take you soaring over jumps. But maybe those are just the distances you’ll travel or the heights you’ll clear. Maybe something more will happen.

Maybe it’s time to find out what all those horse lovers are raving about. Take a few lessons, and before you know it you’ll be trotting along a wooded trail or soaring over jumps.

Here’s some places to get you started: Equilibrium Horse Center in Crofton: 410/573-0545 • www.equilibriumhorse.net; Hylan Forge Sport Horse Center in Crownsville: 410/923-8808 • www.hylanforge.com; Canaan Farm in Huntingtown: 410/257-0706; Oak Hill Stables in Port Republic: 410/586-3347.

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15. Shoot a Prize Photo
One of our perennial summer fun favorites is a local photo expedition. It’s a triple-header as it teaches you to see in a new way, gets you outdoors and releases the artist within.

‘Sheer Delight,’ by Bob Tomerlin, won 1st place in the Bowie-Crofton Camera Club’s 2003 Novice Slides category.
In Bay country we have an advantage; we live amid abundant inspiration, like stately blue herons, colorful sailboats and glorious crape myrtles. Even our hazy-skied, mid-summer days offer spectacular, glowing orange suns at dusk. Just about anyone with a decent camera can create pleasant pictures out of such subjects. This year, however, we suggest you set the bar a little higher and aim to create an award-winning snapshot.

The trick to making a prize-winner is to bring a new fresh, new approach to your shooting. Blue-ribbon shots often include unusual camera angles, arresting lighting, dynamite compositions and striking color combinations. They may focus on a detail, such as an old woman’s hands, to tell their story. Learn the capabilities of your equipment, particularly your flash, and fine-tune your observation skills.

You’ll find many sources of help. At www.kodak.com are tips on taking great, rather than just simply good, photos. The website also provides advice on shooting special subjects, such as babies and pets, and using summer backdrops, like the beach and theme park. Other resources include full-service photography stores, courses at Maryland Hall for the Creative Arts and your community college and numerous books on photography.

Think, too, about joining a local camera club. The Bowie-Crofton Camera Club (www.bowiecroftoncameraclub.homestead.com) and the Arundel Camera Club (http://phantfo.freeshell.org/index.html; click on the Arundel Camera Club link) take a break from meeting over the summer, but come fall, they will offer frequent get-togethers, field trips, and newsletters full of tips. They sponsor monthly photo contests where, if you’re a member, your summer shots will be welcome.

Or showcase your results at the county fairs, whose exhibitions include color as well as black and white competitions. Within each format are further thematic subcategories, such as pets, flowers, statues, animals and people. For more info about exhibiting photos at the Calvert County Fair, September 24-28, call 410-535-2327. Find details about the Anne Arundel County Fair, September 10-14, on its website, www.aacountyfair.org.

Get clicking away and watch what develops!

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16. Catch a Baseball Game
There’s a swing, the crack of the bat, the spin of the ball, an outfielder racing back, a drive deep to left field, the smell of green grass, dirt, leather … way back … a bloop single, the turn on a double play, a triple to the gap … way back … a 3-2 change up, a pick off at second, a relay to the plate … going … a hot summer day, a cold beer, a race to the pennant … going … fathers and sons, generation to generation, major league dreams … gone, a three-run home run.

As June turns to July, when basketball is over and football is not yet on the horizon, all eyes turn to baseball and the boys of summer. With the chill of spring gone, the pitches come a little faster, the bats crack a little louder and a long fly ball looks like it might float forever.

With a cold beer in one hand, a hot dog in the other and your buddy sitting next to you on a warm summer night, you’ll find life is better at the ballpark.

In Chesapeake Country your best catch is a Bowie Baysox game at Prince George’s Stadium, where you’ll see future Orioles take the field. With a kids’ park and carousel in right field, affordable tickets, a summer full of special promotions and theme nights — including fireworks — and between-inning shenanigans, there’s family fun and memories to be made at this the ballpark: 301/805-6000 • www.baysox.com.

Talk major league, and for now were talking Orioles, even if they haven’t found their game since the great days of Cal Ripken, who retired two years ago. Once more this year they’re playing like Baysox, and you can walk up to Camden Yards the day of the game and buy tickets. At $10 and under, bleacher seats — with backs and leg room — are a bargain with a great view: 888/848-bird • http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/.

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17. Make a Hero of a Tomato Sandwich
Nothing says summer like a tomato sandwich. Not a sandwich with a few thin slices of tomato playing second fiddle to ham or turkey. Not a sandwich where tomato shares the bill with bacon and lettuce. We’re talking full-fledged tomato sandwiches, where the tomato is the star. We’re talking a sandwich perfected over three decades.

The most important ingredient is, of course, the tomato. If you grow your own, pluck the tomato from the vine just before you eat it. If it’s still warm from the sun, you’re approaching perfection. You can usually find good alternatives to home grown at farmer’s markets and roadside stands. But don’t waste your money on those pink plastic tomatoes at the grocery store.

Any slicing tomato will make a good sandwich, but best are the beefsteak varieties. They are juicy and meaty and often big enough to fill a sandwich with one slice. Cut the tomato into half-inch slices.

Next, you’ll need some moderately dense white bread with a soft crust. (Stay away from squishy white bread; a juicy tomato will demolish it.) Toast the bread slightly, so that the outside is barely browned and the inside is still soft.

Spread both slices of bread with good-quality mayonnaise. Don’t use salad dressing or you won’t taste the tomato.

Place your tomato slices on one slice of bread and sprinkle salt on the tomato. Grind black pepper onto the mayonnaise on the other slice of bread and place onto the tomato-laden side.

Now comes the number one secret for the perfect tomato sandwich, passed down from ancestral tomato growers and eaters: Cut the sandwich vertically, then horizontally into fourths. You’ll be able to easily pick it up and eat it without standing over the sink.

Caution: may be habit-forming.

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18. Take a 360-Degree View
Feel hemmed in by the demands of daily life? There’s no better relief for that complaint than stepping back to see the big picture.

A boat’s a fine place to get that distance. Unless you’re fishing at a favorite hole or docked in a busy marina, there’s little to break your view. The sky’s above, the water below and the horizon circles a full 360 degrees around you. It’s a great big universe out there, and you’re but one point on the compass. What a relief.

Without a boat, you can get the same effect at the end of a pier or the top of a tall tree or building. Go for it.

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19. Get a Night Life
Let’s face it. If there’s one thing to do on a hot, steamy summer night, it’s swill down a few cold ones and chill with some friends. Downtown Annapolis is swimming with watering holes. Where to go to indulge yourself depends on your drinking pleasure and/or the right ambiance.

For many, beer is the drink of choice. If so, you’ll want to go where there’s a variety of beers to choose from, domestic, mirco-brews or imported.

Riordan’s Saloon and Hero’s Pub have two of the best selections in town, ranging from Maryland brews like Wild Goose to distant imports like the UK’s Newcastle Brown.

Rams Head Tavern boasts the micro-brew made by the Fordham Brewing Company, which was originally brewed in Annapolis and has since moved in large part to Alexandria. Savor the taste of the Wisteria Wheat.

One way would be to start from one end of the bar and drink your way down the taps to the other end of the bar. Well, maybe not.

If you’re a fu-fu drink lover, find your way to Pusser’s Landing for a paralyzing Painkiller or to Ego Alley for a brain-freezing Polar Bear. A pop at either stop will make feel like your partying in the Caribbean, mon.

No night of boozin’ would be complete without a Margarita or Dark and Stormy, two local favorites.

The Margarita is a drink that every Nap town bartender should know how to make — and make well.

Dark and Stormys are a sailor’s delight. Ginger beer and dark rum is a simple combination. The trick, again, is the place. The place, again, is Davis’ Pub in Eastport.

If ambiance is important to you, then be adventurous and try a new place to hang. Boatyard Bar & Grill is the place to be on Wednesday nights. After completing the night’s course, sailors pop in for drinks to watch, laugh, celebrate and sometimes cry in their drinks while watching video highlights of that night’s races.

The Sly Fox, part of Reynold’s Tavern, will make you believe that you’re back in the 1700s in its quaint little pub atmosphere.

For a taste of Ireland, there are a plethora of Irish pubs from Sean Donlon on West Street to Galway Bay on Maryland Avenue to Castle Bay on Main Street. And, if you’re intrepid, try an Irish Car Bomb made with a half pint of Guinness, one half ounce of Bailey’s Irish Cream and a half ounce of Irish Whiskey.

If you’re one goal when going partying is to avoid tourists, stay away from downtown Annapolis. There are plenty of places in Eastport and West Annapolis to feel right at home with other yokels.

Remember to play it safe when you’re out on the town. Know when to say when, and always have a designated driver for car or boat. It’s better to walk, especially since Annapolis is a drinking town with a sailing problem.

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20. NJFK: Tell a Spooky Story
Nothing goes with summer like a campfire, and nothing goes with a campfire like a spooky story — except maybe marshmallows. Spooky stories can be told anyplace, anytime — but the darkness and isolation felt around a campfire are particularly conducive to having your socks scared off.

When it’s your turn to do the scaring, remember that every story must have three things: a beginning, a middle and an end. You should begin every story by setting the scene and describing the characters. If your listeners don’t know anything about the people in the story, they won’t care what happens to them. Give your listeners a few key details — like the lines in a coloring book — and let them fill in the rest.

The middle is when things start heating up. Events go from good to bad or from bad to worse, dragging your characters along behind (or driving them in front). This happens a little differently, depending on what kind of story you’re telling. There are stories in which living people end up as ghosts, stories in which living people are haunted by ghosts and stories in which living people are haunted by living people (who often have hooks for hands).

If your characters are being haunted, it’s vital that you not reveal too much too soon. Just throw a few mysterious details at your listeners, again letting them fill in the details. Remember that each of us knows what scares us best; your listeners are fully capable of scaring themselves silly, if you point in the right direction.

Slowly bring your story to a boil — a point of no return — for your characters and listeners alike. Your characters get their heads chopped off or find hooks hanging from their door handles or encounter the corpses of their loved ones and throw themselves off cliffs or down wells. This is the only time you can be overt and get away with it, and then only if want your audience to scream and leap out of their seats. You can scream or shout or clap or hands or jump up or grab a listener or whatever.

Or you can end your story as slowly and subtly as it began. The surprise ending lets your listeners release all the fear they’ve been building up inside; the quiet ending sends them to bed with it. It also keeps kids awake for hours or gives them nightmares that last into adulthood, so be prepared to reap what you sow.

Spooky story tips:

  • If your story doesn’t send a shiver up your spine, it won’t send one up anyone else’s. You have to believe every story you tell — at least a little bit.

  • Tell ghost stories in the dark, but if there has to be a light on, stand right beside it so that it casts eerie shadows across your face.

  • Be subtle, not overt. Begin the story like you would any other, like it was about a trip to the grocery store. Then slow down as you near your climax. Let every word sink in. Give your listeners time to fill in all the details that make a story scary.

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© COPYRIGHT 2003 by New Bay Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.