beautiful swimmers

Scroll to Info & Navigation

The Chesapeake we know, the Chesapeake we love, the Chesapeake we remember is the summertime Chesapeake. When a dip on a hot day leaves a salt line on your bathing suit as it dries, and the heated air pushes sailboats ahead of thunderstorms in a white crest. June, July and August along the Bay means fat, sweet crabs, harbors teeming with sails and engines, and bare feet in all the places they’re normally frowned upon.

Simple things change little here, and pleasures like chicken necking for crabs with a few buddies,a picnic under a shady tree, and running a little wild with a pack of friends while the sun sets late are timeless.

In our collections, we have boxes of snapshots like these, meant to preserve for ever the magical fleeting moments that flash in the past like lightning bugs in a jelly jar. Intimate and shockingly modern, they remind us that as they are, so too are we- our digital lives in fully saturated color will one day be as thrown back as this sweetly sentimental array. But they also remain as legacies of the Chesapeake that was, and echo strongly in the Chesapeake that is. 

It’s true, that saying- take a picture. It’ll last longer.

All photographs, collections of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.

On June 30, 1952, the first Chesapeake Bay Bridge opened, connecting Sandy Point on the Western Shore to Kent Island and points east. That was also the last day of operation for the Kent -Island-Sandy Point ferries, including the Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor pictured here.

The first 2-lane bridge was so successful in easing the flow of traffic that it rapidly proved inadequate. A second span, opened in 1973, was built to guarantee smooth travel across the Bay for years to come. The new, broader access roads were built right over unspoiled marshland, and the new interchanges brought “easy-on -easy-off” access for booming industry and housing. 

If you’ve traveled over the bridge recently, you have likely had plenty of time to study this view, with Sandy Point State Park to the North and the remnants of the old ferry slips to the South. 

The early, ca 1947-50 photograph shows the ferry Gov. Herbert R. O’Conor docked at the Sandy Point end of its run. If you look to the left of the bridges in the newer picture, you can still see some of the ferry terminal structure, along with Old Ferry Slip Road leading to the water alongside Route 50.

Modern photo courtesy of Hunter N. Harris, Aerial Aloft Photography.

Vintage photo c. 1947-50 by H. Robins Hollyday. Talbot County Historical Society collections.

Crabbing season opened last month, but the low crab population and cool spring has many watermen stuck on the dock, waiting for the first beautiful swimmers to arrive. It means a lot of empty picnic tables and crab feasts turned into last-minute barbecues here in the Chesapeake, where crabs mean summer, prosperity, and the essence of the best of the Bay.

Photo courtesy of Edwaste on Flickr: http://bit.ly/1ko0X0B

Crabbing season opened last month, but the low crab population and cool spring has many watermen stuck on the dock, waiting for the first beautiful swimmers to arrive. It means a lot of empty picnic tables and crab feasts turned into last-minute barbecues here in the Chesapeake, where crabs mean summer, prosperity, and the essence of the best of the Bay.

Photo courtesy of Edwaste on Flickr: http://bit.ly/1ko0X0B

Kayak Scenes

image

There has been much written about the magic of sailing the Chesapeake Bay. Wide open water, slightly salty note in the humid air that strokes your face like a silky palm, and fills the sails. Harnessing the elements of the Bay’s brackish tide, bound for Reedville, St Michaels, Annapolis, or destination unknown. But there is another, more intimate way to connect with the engorged tidal coves of the Bay’s thousands of miles of shoreline: by kayak.

image

Kayakers are tourists on a surgical scale. They explore the twisting oxbows of shallow Chesapeake tributaries in a precise, minute fashion alien to the racing speeds of sailors and power boaters. They amble. They prog. Their behinds are sodden with the tannin-rich water of the hardwood canopy streams, and they have pollen in their hair from dusting along ripening chaffs of wild rice. They are getting nowhere fast, but somehow, the aimlessness itself is the journey- there is so much to see.

image

Sounds, amplified by proximity, make up an essential element of the landscape at the kayak level. It is a noisy place, these Chesapeake marshes. Red-wings blackbirds cry out in a trilling melody as they sway back and forth like a metronome from the tops of frothy cattail.  Osprey chirp, silhouetted by the sun, angling for their supper from a cloud-level vantage point. Bullfrogs belch out some bass notes that will echo as the sun sets and the mosquitoes teem. Every creature, it seems, vies for the spotlight in this backwater stage. It’s supposed to be peaceful, but people think the city can be peaceful, too. In their own way, these creeks are just as bustling, their din just as ceaseless as a metropolitan center. Traffic streams silver down the rivers, raptors substitute for airliners, and insects crowd on tuckahoe leaves like bargain hunters at a flea market.

image

Kayakers often liken the landcsape they enjoy to a “John Smith” view. Meaning, as untouched, pristine, and unspoiled as the 1607 Bay that Smith explored on his forays from Jamestown. And though much has changed- the bottom is siltier, the water cloudier, the plants pushed aside by non-natives, the crabs and otter confounded by the blue catfish and the nutria, there is much that feels unchanged. Little development has reached these shallow, isolated creeks and streams of the Bay’s tide line. Heron rookeries aren’t uncommon to discover, or beaver dams as wide as a two-lane dirt road. Abandoned houses, half covered in scuppernong vines with glassless windows, stand sentinel along the shorelines. Their fragrant sweetheart roses still perfume the air, unaware that the scenery has changed since the 1920’s. By kayak, the Chesapeake can feel like the world has ended and you are the only person left in the vast wilderness. It can be eerie, but is is generally a good feeling.

image

But even better are the paddles shared with others, where you raft together and point out all the incredible things to see with too many legs, scuttling away in the sand. You share the sunset like a heaping plate of food until you paddle back home, satisfied and kingly. To paddle around in a low vessel is a slow moving method of exploration, as John Smith well knew, but its also a way to observe and savor the Bay’s heartbreaking beauty both intimately and together.

When you need a reminder that the Bay isn’t done for, and those dead zones they keep talking about on the news aren’t the last word, put some bug spray on and find some shorts that can see a little mud. We’re going for a paddle tonight.

image