Cool Outdoor Stuff: The Chesapeake’s World of Clams


With all the concerns recently related to the health of the Chesapeake Bay’s crab and oyster populations, the Upper Bay’s clams sometimes gets lost in the conversation. While it is important to note that these brackish water clams has no economic impact to speak off, due to the fact that it can only tolerate low levels of salt and therefore is not present bay wide, they are cool nonetheless.

In this latest installment of the Spy’s Cool Outdoor Stuff, Captain Andy McCown from Echo Hill Outdoor School puts the spotlight on the clam world found in the Upper Chesapeake the the wonders found in its survival skills.

This video is approximately five minutes in length. Gibson Anthony is our videographer

World Class Racing Event to Benefit Chesapeake Bay Foundation


More than 30 schooner-rigged vessels will race in the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay in the 25th Annual Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race next week.

Starting near Baltimore, Md., on Oct. 16, the schooners will sail 127 nautical miles through the night and cross the finish line in Hampton Roads, docking in Portsmouth, Va., on Oct. 17. Considered a world class racing event by sailing enthusiasts, the race and related activities are supported by more than 300 volunteers representing four boat clubs: Fells Point Yacht Club in Baltimore, Portsmouth Boat Club, Towne Point Yacht Club in Norfolk, and Broad Bay Sailing Association in Virginia Beach. Hundreds of donors also contribute to the success of the race.

With the motto “Racing to Save the Bay,” the annual event is held to promote awareness of the Chesapeake Bay’s maritime heritage and to encourage the preservation and improvement of the Bay’s natural resources.

At the conclusion of the race each year, organizers have generously given a portion of the proceeds to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF), whose mission is to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay.

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What started out in 1990 as a challenge between the tugantine sailing vessel Norfolk Rebel and the Pride of Baltimore II has grown into an event bringing together the largest collection of schooners in the world, the only overnight race, and the premier event for schooners in the country, according to race organizers.

More than 150 different schooners have participated since the event was started, said Al Roper, president of the Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race. To date, the race has raised more than $167,000 for CBF’s environmental education programs for students and teachers, all donated in memory of race founder and mentor Captain Lane Briggs and his seagoing family.

“We also have great fun,” Roper added. “I hope people will visit the schooners in Baltimore and Portsmouth, chat with their crews, and learn more about these beautiful boats, the Chesapeake Bay, and Bay restoration efforts.”

“The Schooner Race is an extraordinary volunteer effort, a challenging sailing race, and a wonderful event – all for a serious purpose,” said Elizabeth Buckman, CBF vice president for communications and a former Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race board member and sailor. “In fact, the race is among the oldest supporters of CBF’s education programs. Thanks to its generous donations over the year, thousands of school students have had the opportunity to participate in CBF’s award-winning, on-the-water educational programs that bring to life to what they read in text books.”

The 2014 Great Chesapeake Bay Schooner Race event highlights include:

Dockside viewing: Monday, Oct. 13, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Oct. 14, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — Schooners may be viewed dockside in Canton at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point. Some may be open for tours.

Education Program: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 9 a.m. — Selected schooners host area students for a hands-on learning experience in Canton at the Baltimore Marine Center at Lighthouse Point.

Parade of Sail: Wednesday, Oct. 15, 5 p.m. — The public is invited to view the schooners from the Canton, Fells Point, Harbor East, and Inner Harbor shorelines as they proceed to Baltimore’s docking area.

Cast-off for the Start: Thursday, Oct. 16, 8:30 a.m. — Participating vessels will travel 21 nautical miles from Baltimore to Annapolis.

Race Start: Thursday, Oct. 16, 1:30 p.m. — Some 35 schooners line up at the starting line just south of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge near Annapolis, and set sail for the southern end of the Bay, about 127 nautical miles away.

Crossing the Finish Line: Friday, Oct. 17, time to be determined depending on weather conditions, often before dawn, off Hampton’s coast. Vessels then make their way past downtown Norfolk on the Elizabeth River at various times on Friday.

Education Program: Saturday, Oct. 18, 9 a.m. — Selected schooners host area students for a hands-on learning experience dockside in downtown Portsmouth.

Public Viewing: Saturday, Oct. 18 — Many of the vessels will dock in downtown Portsmouth, and some will be open for tours.

A complete schedule is available on the race website,

Team Pecometh Seeks Support for Baltimore Running Festival


“Help support Team Pecometh’s 10 runners in this year’s Baltimore Running Festival on Saturday, October 18. You can donate online today, track their progress, or sponsor a runner. All money raised goes directly to supporting Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries.

Go to

For more information, contact Executive Director Jack Shitama by phone, 410-556-6900 ext 101, or email,”

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Spawning Sturgeon Make Surprise Return to Maryland Rivers



Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

Biologists recently netted several adult sturgeon on the Marhyhope. The endangered fish were thought gone from Maryland Rivers. Dave Harp photo for Bay Journal News Service.

When a crew of biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources hauled a gill net out of the Marshyhope Creek in late August, they hauled in more than the catch of the day: It may have been the catch of their careers.

One of the nets contained two “ripe” — ready to spawn — Atlantic sturgeon. One was a 7-foot 3-inch, 154-pound female. The other was a 5-foot 2-inch, 70-pound male. The female was filled with black eggs, and the male was leaking sperm.

“That was probably the most exciting and rewarding day in my career,” said Chuck Stence, head of the anadromous fish restoration unit of the DNR Fisheries Service, who was leading the survey crew. “We’re out there fishing — you’re not expecting to catch anything — and then all of sudden two fish like that get dropped into your lap.”

That catch turned out to be just the beginning. By-mid September, the crew had caught eight ready-to-spawn fish, including six males and two females on the Marshyhope, a tributary of the Nanticoke River on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. They saw several others that they weren’t able to net.

“That is pretty exciting,” said Steve Minkkinen, who heads the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Maryland Fisheries Resources Office, and has been active with sturgeon programs in the state. “There is a population of them up there. It is not just one or two random fish that showed up for some reason.”

Atlantic sturgeon are the largest fish native to the Bay, where they historically reached lengths of up to 14 feet. Once common, they suffered a dramatic population drop in the last century caused by overfishing, habitat destruction and pollution. Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service listed them as an endangered species.

Like other anadromous fish, sturgeon live most of their lives in the ocean, but return to their native rivers to spawn. The James River is the only Bay tributary known to still have a spawning population. No sturgeon have been documented spawning in Maryland since 1972, when one was found in the Nanticoke River. 

But the recent catches suggest the Marshyhope now has a spawning population. “I can’t imagine a fish that big going up in there for any reason other than to spawn,” Stence said. 

And, like the James River, the sturgeon seem to be spawning in the fall, unlike sturgeon that spawn in rivers farther north, such as the Hudson. 

“I am very surprised by that,” Minkkinen said. “All the other anadromous fish are releasing their eggs in the spring.” That’s when plankton blooms fuel the food web that helps support newly spawned fish. 

Proof of successful spawning would require finding recently spawned “young of year” fish in the river. Right now, Stence said, no surveys exist in the vicinity of the Marshyhope that would catch young-of-year sturgeon. Now, with evidence that suggests likely spawning activity, the fishery service will consider starting one, he said.

It’s unknown where the sturgeon came from. They could be remnants of a native Maryland population that went undetected for decades.

It is possible, some have suggested, that they are James River fish that have wandered up the Bay. 

Another possibility is that they stem from a small batch of juvenile Hudson River fish that were released in the Nanticoke in 1996.

Those questions could be answered in coming weeks. The biologists take DNA samples of each sturgeon for analysis to determine their river  of origin.

Biologists would also like to know what habitats the fish are using. So the captured sturgeon were briefly anesthetized and the biologists made minor incisions in each to insert a small transmitter and a tag so they can monitor the sturgeons’ movements and identify them in the future.

After that procedure, the biologists jump into the chest-deep water and cradle the fish, “like babies,” Stence said. After about 10 minutes, the sturgeon recover and swim away.

The recent catches ended more than two years of frustration for the biologists. Fishermen have reported seeing sturgeon jumping in the Marshyhope for several years. Last fall, one landed in the boat of two anglers.

But crews from the DNR and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service had — until Aug. 28 — failed to catch any sturgeon. The previous week, in fact, Stence and his crew saw one jump only 40 feet from their boat, but they were unable to net it.

“It’s so frustrating when you see them jumping right in front of the boat, and you still can’t catch them,” he said.
That changed as they were pulling in the last of four, 100-yard gill nets that had been deployed on the 28th.

“We got maybe a third of the way through the net, and all of a sudden the net started pulling back,” Stence said. “And the closer we got, you could see the big shadow in the water. It’s amazing how the adrenaline kicks in when you go out there for three years and catch nothing, and all of a sudden you can see a big one in the net — and then having another one right behind it.” 


By Karl Blankenship
Bay Journal News Service

Distributed by Bay Journal News Service.

Cool Outdoor Stuff: Three or Four Cheers for Shoreline Fish


They might be small, but with extraordinary populations along the Chesapeake Shoreline, and with names like Atlantic Silversides, Mummichogs, Killifish, and Sheepshead minnow, these shoreline fish are one of the great wonders of the region. In the latest installment of Cool Outdoor Stuff, Andy McCown of Echo Hill Outdoor School, hits the edges of the Bay to tell the remarkable story of the shoreline fish world, but also highlights some good ecological news about the Bay and its estuaries.

This video is approximately five minutes in length

Kent School to Host Fourth Annual Osprey Triathlon


We’re Training. Are You? Racers are posting and sharing photos of their training sessions on the Osprey Tri Facebook page in an effort to inspire and encourage other racers.

The fourth annual Osprey Triathlon will be held on Sunday, October 5 at 9:00 a.m. The race consists of three legs: a 7-mile bike race, a 2-mile kayak course and a 3-mile run. (Exact distances may vary.) The course will cover mixed surfaces, including pavement, gravel paths and some grassy areas. The race course takes advantage of Kent School’s Chester River access and gorgeous views. The course is flat, fast and racer friendly!

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

Cyclists take off at the start of the 2013 race.

The Osprey Triathlon is a family friendly event welcoming athletes at all levels of skill and experience.  Not ready for the full triathlon? Create a team with friends or family and compete in 1, 2, or 3 legs of the race.

The 2014 race will incorporate some new elements that will add professionalism to the race without infringing on the special charm of this family-friendly event. Race coordinator, Tricia Cammerzell said, “We have learned so much over the past three years about planning and hosting this event and it has grown each year. We had to make some changes to accommodate the growth and enhance the racers’ experience.”

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

Kayaks ready for launch before the race begins.

This year the race is sanctioned by USA Triathlon. Race support and management will be provided by Fuel 3 Sports. Sanctioning ensures increased safety measures. Fuel 3 Sports will provide electronic chip timing and wave starts to support the safety of the participants. Cammerzell continued, “I am really looking forward to the improved start, finish, and timing that will come with Fuel 3 Sports but it was important to the full race committee that we maintain the things that make this race so unique. We always want an event that includes three-generation relay teams and first time racers along with elite triathletes….and of course, the post-race barbeque is a requirement! And thanks to our PTF there will be some terrific activities for those who are too young to race.”

Racers can register as individuals completing all three legs of the race or they can break the race into smaller segments and register as two or three person relay teams.  The race is open to anyone age nine and older.  Racers between the ages of 9 and 12 must be part of a relay team with at least one team member age 16 or older.  Registration will be open until Friday October 3.  Visit or search Osprey Triathlon for registration information.  Advance registration is appreciated and early registration is discounted. Race fees are as follows:

Race Fees
Early Registration (Before September 15):  $55
Late Registration (Sept 15-October 4):  $65
2 Person Relay (Before September 15): $110
2 Person Relay (Sept 15-October 4): $125
3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $125
3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $145
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer) (Before September 15): $120
Mixed Age Group (includes junior racer)  (Sept 15-Oct 4): $135
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Before September 15): $120
Junior 2 or 3 Person Relay (Sept 15-Oct 4): $120
Other Fees
Kayak Rental: $10
Lunch for Non-Races: $7

Cammerzell continued, “This race would not be possible without support from our corporate sponsors and legion of volunteers. First on the list to thank is our volunteer committee chair, Pat Parkhurst ‘84. Our top of the Class sponsor for the 2014 race is Chestertown Runners. Segment sponsors are Gunther McClary Real Estate, Peoples Bank,  and Yerkes Construction. Additional sponsors to date include David A. Bramble, Inc.,  Chesapeake Medical Imaging, Clovelly Vineyards, RealTerm, and Dixon Valve. We are very grateful to every sponsor, racer, and volunteer who plays a part in the success of the Osprey Tri. See you in October.  We’re training. Are you?”

For more information about the Osprey Triathlon or Kent School visit or call 410-778-4100 ext.110.

Skywatch for Sept. 2014: Longer Nights and the Equinox


When September arrives, the hours of darkness grow longer in the Northern Hemisphere, while day-length decreases. The shorter daylight hours trigger all kinds of biological events, such as animal migrations and fall leaf color changes. The longer nights bring greater opportunities for skywatchers to view the wonders of the night sky. Meanwhile, September 22nd this year will mark the time of the Autumnal Equinox, which occurs at precisely 10:29 pm EDT. This marks the moment when the Sun appears to cross the Celestial Equator, appearing to move below or south of it. Earth’s tilt and its constant annual motion around the Sun cause this each year. This means that we are heading towards winter. Winter’s cold is still months away and September nights are very comfortable for getting outside.

During an equinox, the Earth's North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth's surface. (Wikipedia)

During an equinox, the Earth’s North and South poles are not tilted toward or away from the Sun, and the duration of daylight is theoretically the same at all points on Earth’s surface. (Wikipedia)

Saturn the beautiful ringed planet stays above our southwestern horizon all month, but it is getting lower each night. In the first week of September it is 20 degrees above the horizon one hour after sunset, with Mars just 5 degrees to its left. Both are down to magnitude 0.6, but Mars appears reddish-orange, while Saturn is more yellowish. By the end of September Saturn will only be 10 degrees above the horizon an hour after sunset, while Mars will appear to move much faster against the background stars all month because it orbits the Sun much faster than Saturn. This motion will take Mars east, or left, of Saturn out of Libra, across Scorpius, and into Ophiuchus. On September 27th, Mars will pass just 3 degrees above Antares, a red star and the brightest star in Scorpius. Saturn will be to the right, or west of Mars that evening, and the waxing crescent Moon will be seen just 0ne degree to the right of Saturn! Two nights later on the 29th, look for the Moon to be directly above the pair of planets.

In the early morning eastern sky we can find Jupiter at magnitude –1.8 rising about 4 am local daylight time in early days of September. During the month it will rise sooner and appear higher above the horizon. Venus may be spotted in early September, rising around 5 am and appearing even closer to the horizon. But with a good clear view to the horizon, we can spot it easily because it is so bright — -3.9 magnitude. By the end of the month it will be only a few degrees from the Sun and be lost to us in its glare.

The Full Moon this month will be on the 8th; Last Quarter on the 15th; and New Moon will be on the 24th.

The Easton Yankees: Baseball of Yore


It’s summertime and thoughts turn to baseball, our national pastime.

When some of us attend Major League Baseball games at Camden Yards in Baltimore or Nationals Stadium in Washington, DC with children and grandchildren, we naturally think back to our childhood when watching baseball meant cheering our favorite players, nagging our parents to buy us food and more food and eyeing all the other people enjoying a ball game.

We may recall an incredible play at third base by Baltimore Orioles great, Brooks Robinson, or a home run by another Orioles hero, Frank Robinson. Mainly, we remember a time of innocence; baseball provided a soothing feeling in our lives.

Summer and baseball seemed synonymous. We eagerly awaited both.

Sixty-six years ago, the Class D Eastern Shore League had a presence in Easton. The Easton Yankees, a farm team for the famed New York Yankees, played at Federal Park on Federal Street on a field now occupied by St. Marks Village.


Undated photo. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society

For parts of three decades beginning in the 1920s and lasting until 1949, Class D teams played at different times in Cambridge, Centreville, Crisfield, Dover, DE, Easton, Federalsburg, Laurel, DE, Milford, DE, Northampton, VA, Parksley, VA, Pocomoke City, Rehoboth Beach, Salisbury and Seaford, DE.

Easton teams carried names such as the Farmers, Browns and Cubs. From 1939-1941 and 1946-1949, it was the New York Yankees which owned and operated a minor league team on Bay Street.

In 1947, Easton was second to last place in the league with 45 wins and 90 losses. In 1948, the Easton Yankees occupied third place behind Salisbury and Milford and ahead of Cambridge, Rehoboth, Seaford, Federalsburg and Dover. Its record was 71 wins and 50 losses.

According to the “Eastern Shore League Record Book 1937-1948, “The Easton Yankees fielded the hardest hitting club in the league. They scored more runs and banged out more hits than any rival. A so-so mound staff, supported with none too stable defense, ate up the pennant mileage of the third place Little Yankees.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees.  Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

Undated photograph of Easton Yankees. Image courtesy of the Talbot Historical Society.

“Casualties also took their toll on the Easton roster. Don Maxa, who established a league record for the highest batting percentage of .382, was in and out of the lineup several times with ailing feet. Crawford (Dave) Davidson, a .352 hitter, and author of 21 homers, wrenched a knee during June. He was sidelined for four valuable weeks. Jerry Stoutland, considered by many as the league’s top catcher, rode the bench occasionally because of a sore arm.”

If the quotations sound as if a sports writer authored them, that indeed was the case. Ed Nichols, sports editor of “The Salisbury Times,” edited and published the lively and colorful record book.

In 1948, Walter J. Claggett, an Easton attorney, was the business manager of the Little Yankees. The caption under his picture, besides citing his college degree gained at Washington College and his law degree at the University of Maryland, said, “Walter is a fellow well met—congenial, cooperative, and always eager to talk baseball.

Raised in Baltimore, I never knew a rabid New York Yankees fan until I moved to Easton in 1976 and met Jack Anthony, who in the years since never has apologized for his loyalty to the sometimes hated Yankees. I learned not too many years ago the reason for this Eastern Shore native’s passion for the pinstripers. His father, J. Howard Anthony, preceded Walter Claggett as the volunteer business manager for the Easton Yankees.

Only one farm team remains on the Eastern Shore. And that is the Delmarva Shorebirds, a Single-A Baltimore Orioles affiliate in Salisbury.

The baseball tradition continues on the Shore. Not as widespread, however. While times change, baseball still rivets our attention.

Paddle Through Miles River History September 4


From 9:30 a.m. to noon on Thursday, September 4, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is teaming up with the Sultana Education Foundation to offer an interpretive paddling program on the Miles River.

Participants will join Sultana Vice President and naturalist Chris Cerino as he explores the history and environment of the museum and its surrounding creeks, marshes, and beaches by water. Participants will learn about the Miles River of today—and 400 years ago—as they seine, search for arrowheads and navigate St. Michaels’ Fogg’s Cove and Miles Point.

Participants can bring their own kayak, or one will be provided. Children ages 12 and up must be accompanied by a parent in a personal tandem kayak. The cost is $35, with space limited and pre-registration needed by contacting the Sultana Education Foundation at 410-778-5954 or online at

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.

Kayak the Miles River with the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Sultana Education Foundation’s Chris Cerino on Thursday, September 4.