|Update Sept, 20,1997:
We were back on the boat Sept 7th. Since then, we have been exploring the Southern part of the Chesapeake which has been especially interesting. Highlights include: Solomon Island, located at the mouth of the Patuxent River, (parallel to the Potomac River). Both of these rivers have deep channels which have allowed large trading vessels into the area and were used for many important battles during the Revolution. History here has revolved around oysters, tobacco plantations, pig iron, and slave trade.
There is a great museum which not only tells these stories, but also has a light house, fantastic marine/wildlife exhibits, aquariums and fossils from the area. The fossils come from the Calvert Cliffs also famous as being the place where Captain Smith landed and met Pocahontas. These cliffs are rich in fossils of all types including those of the Megatooth Shark which dates back to the age of the dinosaurs. Archaeologists believe these sharks were 50 ft long and weighed 50 tons. Did you know that today's sharks can live 50 years and have as many as 1,000 new teeth per year? This is because they are constantly falling out and growing new ones. That is why sharks teeth are so common to find.
Word quiz: do you know what a bentharium is? From what we understood, it is a floating biological laboratory . Built in 1925, it was a equipped in 1935 with an iron capsule that held two men and dropped to the floor of the bay to take underwater photos.
Next, we sailed up the Patuxent river to find a quiet cove to anchor. We discovered an old marina with a huge white house that looked sort of like the Taj Mahal, complete with a golden dome and castle like towers. Next to it on a hill top was Vera's Restaurant. It is a sprawling pink building with Banana Palms growing all around. It has been there over 40 years. Vera and her late husband were land developers. They traveled around the world acquiring amazing treasures which adorn the restaurant. They include hand carved island sculptures, antique binnacles (boat compass) and other classic ship parts. The atmosphere is enhanced by a colorful talking parrot and classic old hits played by an excellent pianist accompanied by a horn player. Anyway Vera must be close to 80. She has long white hair and dresses in exotic costumes every night. She was wearing an Indian tiara and orchids in her hair with a red and gold long flowing gown that evening. We later learned she was known to collect and wear the costumes of many famous movie actresses. We also found out that the white mansion is her home, and inside, is a square 54' swimming pool in the living room. We didn't visit with Vera. She was busy dining with the local mayor, but her obvious creativity in putting that restaurant together gave us a certain sense of adventuresome togetherness.
Down river is Smith Island (not named for Captain Smith). This island is approximately 3 1/2 x 5 1/2 miles and is split in half by the Maryland/Virginia state line. As you can imagine, this has caused problems for its residents for years, mostly because the states had different fishing laws and because you had to be a state resident to fish in the local waters.
Finally,just a few years ago, after a 15 year old youngster was killed in crossfire, matters were resolved in the Supreme Court. Now anyone can fish anywhere, as long as they obey that state's regulations.
This area is most famous for its crab. The best crab meat in all the world is said to come from these watermen who start their day at 2am. The men bring in the crabs, the women do the picking. They get up with their husbands and start picking at 3am. The Maryland side of the island has a crab house, the Virginia side has a Coop. The crab house hires women by the hour to pick crab. They work form 3am-noon. When we visited they were working hard and seemed pretty serious. The coop women work for themselves, and the atmosphere was very different. They choose a morning shift of 3-8am and an evening shift 4-8pm. They pick their own husband's crabs and sell them individually. When we visited one lady was taking a break to read the Bible to the others. They were excited that we stopped to visit, asked us lots of questions and laughed at most of our answers. They take turns entertaining each other and seemed to be having a lot of fun.
|Last Updated: 1-18-98
By: Ted Handel