Paddling the S1-A Futura/Huki surfski in the Baltimore Inner Harbor on August 18, 2019

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Kayaking and SUP Adventures 2019


Last updated October 9, 2019


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Patuxent Challenge Prize
You may recall that between July 27, 2019 and August 30, 2019, I participated in the Patuxent Challenge.

This challenge requires one to complete certain physical activities within a given calendar year. None are challenging. The challenge is just getting out and doing them. But as evidence that you were at least there, you need to take a selfie snapshot by the Patuxent Challenge sign.

Prizes of different levels are awarded to participants who complete 5, 10, or 15 activities within the calendar year. I completed all 16.

On October 7, 2019, I received my prize. It was a box full of swag from some of the cities and counties through which the Patuxent River passed through. I am very pleased with my prize.

Here's what was in the box:
  • Patuxent River Park aluminum water bottle.
  • Volunteer Laurel plastic water bottle.
  • One complimentary canoe or kayak rental from Patuxent River Park, expires October 31, 2020.
  • Stuffed animal crab.
  • Patuxent River Park keychain and bottle opener.
  • Calvert County econo silicone mobile pocket.
  • A Paddler's Guide to Mallows Bay with waterproof case.
  • Map of Water Trail Adventures in Calvert County, Maryland.
  • City of Laurel Parks and Recreation magnet and clip.
  • Calvert County Maryland ball point pen.
  • City of Laurel bag.

  • I am estimating this is all worth about $54. Just the complimentary canoe or kayak rental from Patuxent River Park is worth $26. Everything except the crab had something on it to indicate it is associated with Maryland.

    I also received a handwritten card of congratulations from the Patuxent Challenge Committee.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.



    Potomac River near Algonkian Regional Park
    On September 29, 2019, I went kayaking on the Potomac River. I explored four islands, three creeks, two states, and covered 16 miles.

    I launched from the 850-acre Algonkian Regional Park in Virginia. According to an information sign it was reportedly used as a site for stills during Prohibition and originally built as a corporate retreat.

    Next to the boat ramp, I found some osage oranges. An outfitter was taking a group of about 10 people out on the water.

    It hadn't rained much in awhile so the water was low. But based on Ed Gertler's description of this area, it is canoeable all year. But canoeable is not the same as paddleboardable, the latter requiring more water due to the large, unretractable fin. So rather than chance it with a SUP, I brought a plastic kayak.

    Paddling upstream from the launch site, I came to the privately owned Tenfoot Island, first photo, first column. I saw plenty of paw paw trees on the island but no fruit. I think they were at peak ripeness a couple weeks ago. There were also several swamp hibiscus flowers in bloom, second photo, first column. I found a pond on the upstream end with hundreds of snails, each about a third to a half inch long.

    I stopped briefly at Tenfoot Island. Behind in third photo, first column is Van Deventer Island which is owned by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.

    The Potomac River was shallow and clear. I could see five feet down. There were millions of small clam shells and a few large ones like this, fourth photo, first column. It wouldn't take many of these to make a fine meal.

    At Van Deventer Island, I saw lots of wild turkeys, fifth and sixth photos, first column. This turkey hen was as curious about me as I was about her, seventh photo, first column.

    After paddling almost a mile along the privately owned Selden island, I kayaked upstream on Broad Run, eighth photo, first column, for about a third of a mile. Any further and I would have had to portage. I went ashore to explore a bit. On the east side of this creek are trails that are part of the Potomac Heritage National Scenic Trail.

    This eastern painted turtle just south of Selden island let me get unusually close, ninth photo, first column.

    I was not able to paddle west of Broad Run south of Selden Island. Too shallow.

    I paddled between Selden and Van Deventer Islands. There were lots of big fish on the south side around here. At least some were not carp.

    Next I crossed the Potomac River to the Maryland side and then I landed at and explored Sycamore Landing which borders the McKee-Beshers Wildlife Management Area. Nearby, I saw this great blue heron take flight, tenth photo, first column.

    There were quite a few great egrets out. This one is stalking its next meal, eleventh photo, first column.

    Paddling east, I landed at Sharpshin Island. I saw several snails crawling along the muddy river bottom, twelfth photo, first column. According to LandScope America,
    The Potomac Conservancy acquired Sharpshin Island via charitable donation in 1996.

    I pulled ashore near the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal and saw these things in a stagnant pond, first and second photos, second column. Each is about two inches long. I reached out to various people to inquire what they are. Renowned author and entomology professor Dr. Michael J. Raupp said it is some kind of fly larvae. Just behind the pond, a bicyclist passed by on the towpath, third photo, second column.

    I paddled upstream on Seneca Creek for about a half mile. Then I pulled ashore near the mouth at Seneca Landing Park. In the fourth photo, second column is Seneca Creek Aqueduct. It is one of
    eleven aqueducts built from Georgetown to Cumberland to carry water over water. The aqueducts, literally 'water bridges,' carried the canal over large streams and rivers flowing into the Potomac River.
    - from park sign

    I paddled right up to Lock 23 at Violettes Lock. Locks like this on the C&O Canal were build to raise and lower boats so they could navigate along the canal, fifth photo, second column.

    Then I ventured ashore at Violettes Lock to see what Lock 23 looked like on the other side, sixth photo, second column. From here, I saw people kayaking in the C&O Canal, where barges were once towed by mules in the 1800s, seventh photo, second column. There is a nice place to launch in the canal just a short distance from the Violettes Lock parking lot, eighth photo, second column. Of course this is also a good place for bicyclists to access the towpath, ninth photo, second column.

    Back on the water, I saw a snake swimming to shore.

    I paddled back into the Potomac and starting making my way back to Virginia. I pulled over at one of the many big rocks in the river. Recall that I mentioned that I saw no paw paw fruit. But clearly, some animal did. These are paw paw seeds, tenth photo, second column. I found quite a bit more mixed in with lots of poop.

    I paddled by Dam 2. In eleventh photo, second column is a view looking downstream from it.
    The dam was built to supply water for the canal from the Seneca area to Dam No. 1 at Little Falls. Only rubble is left today, but the Potomac still backs up, forming the Seneca Lake.
    - from River Explorer - Dam Number Two

    In the twelfth photo, second column, one can clearly see where the rubble from Dam 2 starts. Upstream (left) is Seneca Slackwater, aka Seneca Lake.

    The last creek I explored was Sugarland Run on the Virginia side. This is a very scenic place that I plan to return to and explore more thoroughly when there is more water. I made it upstream about two thirds of a mile, thirteenth photo, second column.

    I was out for about 6.75 hours. It was a full day of exploration.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    California
    On September 23, 2019, Norma and I did some kayaking in California at Drakes Estero.



    Furnace Creek and Dorian
    Of the last ten days, I spent six on the water. September 8, 2019 was the most recent. I was thinking about being a landlubber that day but I thought twice because I didn't want to pass up a great opportunity.

    My section of the country got off easy in that we didn't experience heavy wind or rain from hurricane or tropical storm Dorian. But we did get strong tidal surges. On September 7, 2019, the following was reported:
    Coastal flood watches and advisories remain in effect through Saturday afternoon for Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties in Maryland, where the weather service said up to one foot of floodwater on low-lying streets is possible during high tides.
    - from WTOP - Strong waves, rip currents in Md. as Dorian parallels East Coast

    For me, this meant I could paddle further upstream than I would normally be able to. So I loaded up my SUP and headed out to Solley's Cove. Then I paddled to Furnace Creek and explored the northern and western sections. I'd paddled this section many times before but on this day, I saw it in a totally different light.

    One of the tributaries on the north side of Furnace Creek is Back Creek. This is the only place I'd ever seen or photographed a little blue heron. I remember that day well because I had to walk through a lot of mud to get close enough to take that picture. But had conditions been like today, I would have easily been able to paddle to my destination and possibly another quarter mile upstream. I made it up to around 39.193944, -76.593083 where things looked like the first photo.

    Also on Back Creek, I easily circumnavigated this island in the second photo, located at 39.192333, -76.591222. Under normal conditions, I would have never been able to reach this island without portaging. I was there around 1240. High tide was around 1520.

    Since we hadn't had much rain, the water was pretty clear. I saw several turtles and hundreds of fish...more than I'd ever seen before in this area. I could see lots of divots in the bottom of Back Creek which I assume fish might have made when building their nests, third photo.

    Out on Furnace Creek, I saw several places where the water was very pale in color near the shore. Since so much of the dirt and sand along the shore was also pale, I'm guessing the high water saturated parts of the shore that would not normally be saturated, thereby causing it to erode. See fourth photo.

    Paddling west on Furnace Creek, I saw some very scenic areas that I never knew existed, fifth photo. One doesn't typically associate such natural beauty with Glen Burnie. I managed to paddle west of Governor Ritchie Highway (route 2), reaching 39.183000, -76.613222 before turning around.

    I tried to sneak up on a cormorant that was asleep on a pile but my camera case made a popping sound when I opened it, which woke up my intended victim.

    I got to hear some live music as I paddled past Ram's Head Dockside.

    It was a short and unexpectedly scenic trip.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Parkers Creek
    On September 3, 2019, I sent out an invite for folks to join me on a Guided Canoe Trip on Parkers Creek. Unfortunately, I had no takers. It turned out to be a great trip although I was sad that Daphne could not join me. Dogs were not allowed.

    This September 7, 2019 event was part of the American Chestnut Land Trust's 2019 Guided Canoe Program.

    I gave myself plenty of time so I could explore the area. I stopped in at Parkers Creek Preserve and picked up a hiking trail map. I think Daphne would really like this place. I'd hiked on the northern American Chestnut Land Trust trails once before on November 13, 2011 but I had never been to this section of trails.

    Fifteen of us (including three guides and two children) met at Warrior's Rest Nature Preserve. This place is managed by the American Chestnut Land Trust and not open for public use. Already, I felt like my $15 event fee was being put to good use because I was seeing something that others could not.

    Next to the driveway at Warrior's Rest, I found what I believe is a rat skull (first photo). It was about 2.5 inches long.

    Ten boats (including my SUP) launched from a beach (second photo) on the Chesapeake Bay at 38.535306, -76.517583. Looking to the north and south, I saw cliffs where I probably stopped to look for shark's teeth back on August 10, 2014 which is I also when I last paddled on Parkers Creek.

    Fish jumping out of the water as we paddled by. Looking down from the SUP, I saw hundreds of them, all about 2-3 inches long. Many fish were jumping further away too. Greg Montgomery, our lead guide, told us that those were likely disturbed because of a predator. I was reminded of the times when small fish have leaped onto the deck of my SUP.

    We paddled about an eighth of a mile north to Parkers Creek. The flood tide and the surge from tropical storm Dorian gave us a strong push at the mouth of the creek (third photo).

    The lower part of this creek is lined with various bay grasses since the salinity of the water is similar to that of the Chesapeake Bay, fourth photo.

    As we paddled upstream, Greg pointed out an island at 38.533972, -76.524194 with several trees. He called it a "seed bank" because if there is a fire, there would be seeds from various native plants that would survive and help repopulate the vegetation. See fifth photo.

    We saw several bald eagles, osprey, a great egret, and great blue herons (sixth photo).

    As we made our way upstream, the salinity of the water went down. Greg pointed out that we were now seeing fewer non-native, invasive phragmites plants as cattails became more abundant. Further upstream we started to see more woodlands. I asked Greg why there were so many dead trees (seventh photo) but he didn't know. I thought maybe it was the same thing that killed many of the trees that we saw on September 2, 2019 at Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. There were some striking similarities between the two locations.
    The marsh has many dead trees, presumably killed by the invasive emerald ash borer.
    - from Friends of Dyke Marsh - Marsh Life

    I saw two turtles (eighth photo), a muskrat, and a snake swimming in the water. Other folks saw crabs.

    We turned around at 38.532694, -76.543556 just before the creek got too narrow for a canoe to turn around. In the ninth photo is one of our guides, Laura Berg, who is bringing up the rear. Our middle guide was Jan Hurst.

    Various hiking trails meander through the American Chestnut Land Trust. A wooden raft (tenth photo) connects Parkers Creek Road Trail with the North-South Trail so that hikers can get across Parkers Creek.

    On this sunny day, the wind was light and the temperature stayed in the 70s. Can't get much better than this. See eleventh photo.

    High tide was supposed to be around 1020 but like my September 1, 2019 trip on the upper Murderkill River, the tide kept rising even after I expected it to fall. But in this case, I attributed it to Dorian.

    It was a great day for taking pictures (twelfth photo).

    We got in about 5 miles in 2.25 hours.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Mattawoman
    On September 6, 2019, my fourth article was published: Paddling Mattawoman Creek, "Where One Goes Pleasantly".



    Corsica River Water Trail
    The Corsica River Water Trails have been on my bucket list since last year. On September 5, 2019, I finally got started with exploring them.

    After purchasing a couple of Queen Anne's County boat launch day passes at Anglers, Norma, Daphne, Beate, Gerhard, and I launched from the Centreville Public Landing. Beate and Gerhard are Norma's friends from Germany that stayed with us September 1-6.

    We paddled south on Mill Stream Branch. The day was overcast with temperatures in the mid-70s. It was very comfortable but without the sun, I never really felt like I was completely awake. It was a terrible day for taking most pictures though it would have been great for photographing egrets.
  • First photo, first column: Norma, Beate, and Gerhard kayak upstream on the scenic and peaceful Mill Stream Branch.
  • Second photo, first column: It didn't take long before things got narrower and more scenic.
  • Third photo, first column: You can't see it but to the right is Millstream Trail, which Norma, Daphne, and I walked on July 4, 2018 with Sara and Samantha.
  • Fourth photo, first column: Shortly after I took this picture, we paddled under the Centreville Road (route 213) bridge which was undergoing construction. Then we started seeing paw paw trees with fruit. I picked four of them.

  • We saw this two foot long carp. I generally find them in muddy water but upstream of the Centreville Road (route 213) bridge, the water was pretty clear so it seemed out of place. See fifth photo, first column. We managed to get about a half mile upstream of the bridge.

    Here we are heading back downstream on Mill Stream Branch, sixth photo, first column.

    Back at the launch site, Daphne found this cicada, which I rescued before she ate it. See first and second photos, second columns.

    After a snack, we continued paddling, this time making our way up Yellow Branch Stream.
  • Third photo, second column: This part was not as interesting but at least we saw a few bald eagles.
  • Fourth photo, second column: Slightly past Gravel Run, we encountered this fallen tree which we paddled through. But just beyond that was another which we would have had to portage. I didn't think all of us were willing to get soaking wet to continue past, so instead, we turned around. I expect I will return another day to see how far I can make it up this stream.
  • Fifth photo, second column: Daphne and I on the SUP.

  • We put in a total of about 5.8 miles.

    The water trail is comprised of three sections. We finished the first and did most of the second. The third is Alder Branch which I will do another time.

    Upon driving away from the launch area, two bald eagles flew in front of my car.

    After paddling, we ate at 98 Cannon Riverfront Grille in Chestertown. From their deck, I spotted this boat (sixth photo, second column), called "Sara V." Of course I let Sara know about it. She jokingly claimed it was her boat.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Dyke Marsh
    On September 2, 2019, Norma, Daphne, Beate, Gerhard, and I paddled in the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. Beate and Gerhard are Norma's friends from Germany that stayed with us September 1-6.

    I read about this place in another blog. It appeared interesting. The more I looked into it, the better it sounded. The satellite photos were particularly appealing. See first photo.

    We launched from the boat ramp (second photo) at Belle Haven Marina in Alexandria, Virginia. This place is a real gem. It is strategically located to offer great boating opportunities to some very interesting places like Old Town Alexandria which lies about a mile north. Just prior to that is Hunting Creek and Cameron Run which I have yet to explore. My plan is to return and visit all of these when the Tall Ship Providence is in port so I can see that too.

    The five of us paddled south on the Potomac River to the marsh. It was fairly windy (I'm guessing 12 mph gusts) at times but I positioned us on the downwind side of the islands to make things a little calmer. Eventually the wind calmed down.

    There were lots of people enjoying Labor Day by getting out on the water, biking on the Mount Vernon Trail, or walking on the Dyke Marsh Trail. At the east end of Dyke Marsh Trail is a fishing pier. Here, we found a group of men that caught two American eels (third photo).

    It didn't take long before we were at the mouth of the marsh. The mix of sun and clouds provided some dramatic views (fourth photo).

    Norma paddled my Cobra Expedition sit-on-top kayak (fifth photo) while Beate and Gerhard were on my Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top kayak (sixth photo).

    The marsh is comprised of a main waterway, called Hog Island Gut, that has several tributaries that branch off it, making it a great place to explore, seventh photo.
    Managed by the National Park Service as a part of the George Washington Memorial Parkway, Dyke Marsh provides a habitat or home for a diverse array of plants and animals and offers an ideal setting for a variety of recreational activities. The trail, which leads visitors into the marsh, known as the "Haul Road," is a favorite of area birdwatchers, hikers, photographers, and nature lovers. In addition, the waters in and around the marsh are popular fishing areas. People who explore the marsh by canoe may be rewarded with up-close encounters with the resident wildlife.
    - from Find Your Chesapeake - Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

    The further upstream we paddled, the more lush and wooded things became. See eighth and ninth photos.

    At times it felt like we were deep in nature yet the George Washington Memorial Parkway was sometimes just 300 feet away. The Mount Vernon Trail was even closer. As people and dogs ran by on the trail, Daphne was on high alert, tenth photo.

    We turned around at the Mount Vernon Trail (eleventh and twelfth photos). It was near high tide. Could we have gotten under the trail at low tide? Perhaps. But right behind that was the George Washington Memorial Parkway, which would have stopped us.

    We started making our way downstream. See thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth photos. During that time, I started to think about the history of the area. According to National Park Service - Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve:
    Located along the west bank of the Potomac River approximately 95 miles from the Chesapeake Bay, Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve consists of approximately 485 acres of tidal marsh, floodplain, and swamp forest. Dyke Marsh, which is believed to have formed 500 years ago, is one of the largest remaining freshwater tidal wetlands in the Washington Metropolitan area.
    Dyke Marsh was indeed "diked" at one time. In the early 1800s, earthen walls were built around the perimeter of the marsh in order to create more "fast land" or land not flooded by high tides. These areas were used to graze livestock or grow crops.


    U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that the southern marsh has existed for approximately 2,200 years, and the northern marsh has existed for 500 years.
    - from U.S. Army Corps of Engineeers - Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve Restoration

    We saw lots of wild rice growing in patches along the shore. According to Friends of Dyke Marsh:
    In late summer and early fall, Dyke Marsh's wild rice (Zizania aquatica) is a shimmering panorama of green in the breeze. It is a native, annual, emergent, light green grass with flower clusters on broom-like branches. Wild rice thrives in soft, muddy areas and can grow to eight to 10 feet tall.

    Additionally, we spottted a couple of wild persimmon trees, sixteenth photo. The fruit from these trees is about the size of a racquetball. Norma says they won't be ready to eat until after the first frost. What other flora resides in the marsh?
    To date, more than 360 species of plants have been recorded in Dyke Marsh. The dominant species of the marsh itself is the narrow-leafed cattail, which typically develops its characteristic flower spike by June. Other species associated with the tidal marsh include: arrowhead (a.k.a. duck potato), a plant whose starchy tubers are favored by waterfowl; arrow arum, a distinctive plant with large triangular leaf blades; pickerelweed; sweetflag; spatter-pond lily; and northern wild rice, the grains of which are enjoyed by red-winged blackbirds, waterfowl, and people.
    - from National Park Service - Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve

    But while so many of the plants in the marsh appear healthy,
    The marsh has many dead trees [seventeenth photo], presumably killed by the invasive emerald ash borer.
    - from Friends of Dyke Marsh - Marsh Life

    We saw a few turtles, and unfortunately, trash in some places, especially on the Potomac. But trash was very localized with some areas having a good bit while others, like here (eighteenth and nineteenth photos), had none.

    On the Potomac River, we saw some construction in progress. It is expected to conclude in 2020. According to U.S. Army Corps of Engineeers - Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve Restoration:
    The Baltimore District and the National Park Service (NPS), George Washington Memorial Parkway, are working on a project to protect and restore freshwater tidal marsh within the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve. With the available project funding, work includes an approximately 1,800-foot breakwater and construction of a stone sill to prevent erosion.

    While looking for snakes (I found none), I came across Mother Nature's floral arrangement, twentieth photo.

    After almost six miles on the water, we ended up landing at a different place than where we launched. At the south end of the marina is where they rent kayaks. They have a nice soft launch there, twenty-first photo, which is better suited for small boats than the ramp. I didn't see it when we arrived.

    After loading the boats and changing clothes, we drove to Old Town Alexandria and ate lunch at IL Porto Ristorante.

    It was a good Labor Day weekend for me. Over the last four days, I was on the water three of them, each in a different state: Maryland, Delaware, and Virginia. On the day I wasn't on the water, I was in Pennsylvania at Norma's family reunion on her mother's side.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Upper Murderkill
    On September 1, 2019, I kayaked on the upper part of the Murderkill River in Kent County, Delaware. Almost all of my trips are on the Chesapeake Bay watershed. But the Murderkill is on the Delaware Bay watershed. One difference between the two is that the Chesapeake Bay watershed tends to have a tidal fluctuation of up to two feet. But where the Murderkill flows into the Delaware Bay, the tidal fluctuation is closer to seven feet! That means if you time things right, you won't have to work very hard and if you time things wrong, you might have a very bad day.

    On this day, high tide at the mouth was 1130. I launched my surf ski 7.5 miles upstream from the mouth at Frederica Road (route 12) in Frederica so I figured high tide would be a little later. How much later? Well, about seven miles upstream on the Delaware Bay, high tide occurred at 1149. So I figured high tide at Frederica would be a little later. But even after I finished at 1400, the tide was still going up. So I ended up paddling upstream with help from the tide and paddling against the tide on the way back. Got in about 15 miles.

    What's the story behind the name "Murderkill"? According to Delaware Backstory: The Murderkill River doesn't have a grisly past
    Mother is "moeder" in Dutch, and river is "kill."

    Taking pictures from the surf ski isn't easy but I managed to get in a few:
  • First photo: I pulled ashore at the Canterbury Road (route 15) launch and portaged around the Coursey Pond dam, shown in the background. Then I launched at the Coursey Pond launch.
  • Second photo: Here is the Canterbury Road (route 15) launch.
  • Third photo: Here is the Coursey Pond launch.
  • Fourth photo: After my portage, I explored Coursey Pond. This lovely pond is bordered by Killens Pond State Park on the north. I saw several people fishing and one other kayaker. Lots of spatterdock were in bloom.
  • Fifth photo: I see so many turtles when I'm on the water that I usually don't bother photographing them unless they are unusual, very large, or very small. This eastern painted turtle at Coursey Pond fits the latter criteria. Its carapace is about three inches long. I also saw a few bald eagles.
  • Sixth photo: Back on the Murderkill River, I found this wasp or hornet nest about five feet above the water.

  • I paddled under a few bridges. One was road 389. Going upstream, none of the bridges were an issue. But coming back downstream, I was expecting to ride the ebb tide but instead, the tide was still rising. It had risen so much that I could not paddle under road 389. I was going to try to swim under it, pulling my boat behind. But instead, I found that if I leaned forward and bent my head forward, I could fit under the bridge. I pushed forward against the bottom of the bridge to get across.

    Then I noticed a black snake (seventh photo) between the bottom of the bridge and the foundation. I scooched my way over to get a closer look. You can't see it but its head is on the left side. It was pretty thick so I'm guessing it was about five feet long.

    This is where I launched and landed, eighth photo. It is on the northwest side of Frederica Road (route 12) on Spring Creek. I launched in mud but the tide rose quite a bit while I was out so that when I landed, all the mud was underwater.

    This six mile section of the Murderkill River between Frederica and Coursey Pond is very scenic and natural. It starts out being bordered by bay grasses. Then, as I paddled upstream, I started to see a few trees. For some reason, the ones nearest the water were dead. After a few miles, the trees were in better shape and it was nothing but trees. The increase in trees is due to changes in the salinity of the water. I only saw one other boat while paddling on the Murderkill. So if you want to get out and enjoy some quiet time deep in nature, this is the place to go.

    My suggestion for the tide? Bring a fast boat so if you do have to fight it, you won't have to work as hard as if your brought a slow boat.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Patuxent Challenge - Part Four
    On July 27, 2019, I declared "Challenge accepted!" to the Patuxent Challenge. On August 30, 2019, I now declare "Challenge completed!"

    I found the challenge sign at the Brighton Dam Visitor Center in Montgomery County where Brighton Dam meets the Triadelphia Reservoir (first photo). I stopped in at the Visitor Center to talk to someone about launch sites and pick up a map. The trails and Azelea Garden at Triadelphia are closed for construction until 2020. For more information, see Important Information Regarding 2019 WSSC Watershed Opening.

    Then I found the last of the 16 Patuxent Challenge signs (second photo) at Scott's Cove Recreation Area in Howard County. This is by a scenic area (third photo) on the T. Howard Duckett Reservoir.

    I've never liked paddling on reservoirs because I find them too sterile and artificial for my taste. It also costs $6 per day or $70 per year to launch or even hike here. But I expect I'll take advantage of this area once I turn 64 because then the fee is waived.

    On August 31, 2019, I submitted the photos for all 16 sites. Daphne was with me for seven of them but she doesn't qualify for a prize because they only give out one per address. I received confirmation of their receipt on September 4, 2019.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Fossil hunting at Sotterley
    On August 30, 2019, I took the day off from work to go kayaking and look for fossils. Recall that on August 24, 2019, I paddled from Greenwell State Park to Historic Sotterley Plantation as part of the Patuxent Challenge. I found a few shark teeth at Sotterley Point but didn't have enough time to do a thorough search of the area.

    On this trip, I did a detailed search for fossils between the launch site at Greenwell State Park and Saint Thomas Creek, both in Saint Mary's County. I decided that Sotterley Point was the only area worth exploring for fossils.

    The air was cool and the water was warm. It felt like autumn was right around the corner and I was wanting to spend as much time on the water as possible.

    The Chesapeake Bay was clean and full of crabs, fish, sea nettles, and comb jellies. This (first photo) is one of several hundred comb jellies that I saw. They do not sting. I waded through the water, brushing up against them and never noticed. I caught this one in a plastic bowl so I could get a picture. They are also known as sea walnuts. According to Virginia Institute of Marine Science - Sea Walnut
    They can produce light when agitated, and can often be seen flashing brightly in boat wakes at night.

    I rarely paddle at night but I might start doing so if it means seeing such bioluminescence.
    When disturbed at night, the color bands of the sea walnut glow soft green.
    Comb jellies break apart when taken out of the water. If you find a comb jelly and would like to view its true shape, gently scoop it out of the water with a clear container and view it...

    - from Chesapeake Bay Program - Comb Jellies

    Here's a comb jelly washed up on the shore at Sotterley Point (second photo). On the north side of the point, I saw dozens of comb jellies that ran aground (third photo).

    I also saw several eagles.

    I did find numerous fossils (fourth photo) but considering how long it took and what I found, this location is not as promising as my favorite spots in Calvert County. I found it interesting how certain parts of the cliff held embedded shells at very distinct layers (fifth photo)...much like some of the cliffs along the Chesapeake Bay in Calvert County.

    Ever since my last trip, all I've been thinking about is finding the coveted megalodon tooth...the holy grail for shark tooth hunters. I've never found one but I have found a piece of one in Calvert County. Sadly, I did not find any this day.

    After looking for fossils, I continued exploring the area. It is just moderately scenic. What I found most notable was an unusual sign (sixth photo). The top sign reads "WARNING Bats may be rabid. Land at own risk" while the bottom one says "Private Property. No trespassing." I supposed it is intended to keep people out but bat lovers like me might be tempted to look for the bats. I guess it is better than saying "Trespassers will be shot."

    I paddled about 7 miles in my surf ski.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Patuxent Challenge - Part Three
    They say the "third time's a charm." For me, this statement held true.
    The origin of the phrase "third time's a charm" is probably ancient, as things that come in sets of three have often been associated with good luck due to their similarity with the Holy Trinity of Christianity.
    - from Ginger - Third Time's a Charm

    You may recall that I've been trying to locate the Patuxent Challenge sign at Governor Bridge Natural Area. July 27, 2019 was my first attempt. I erroneously located the Patuxent Water Trail sign which is a whole different animal. But I didn't realize my mistake until I got home. So I returned on August 24, 2019. The sign was described as being on the Red Trail. I hiked as much of it as I could but found that the southwest end of the trail was overgrown and parts had eroded away. Running out of daylight, I vowed to return to complete my mission.

    I did this on August 29, 2019. Prepared to go "full amphibious," I walked in the Green Branch, sinking up to my knees in mud at times. I followed this creek to the Patuxent River and waded in that until I found a break in the treeline where I picked up the overgrown trail. I was wearing splash plants to protect myself from poison ivy. Eventually, I found the sign somewhere around 38.942833, -76.692222. Mission accomplished. See first photo.

    A little later, I stopped in at the Robinson Nature Center. I parked at Simpsonville and checked out the pre-colonial Simpsonville Mill ruins. Then I walked on the Mill Ruins Trail and strolled through Annie's Garden. Next, I walked up the Sycamore Stroll Trail towards the nature center until I found the Patuxent Challenge sign. Easy find. See second photo.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Patuxent Challenge - Part Two
    Hollywood, California...
    ...Saint Leonard, and Bowie. These are the Maryland towns I visited on August 24, 2019 as my continuation of the Patuxent Challenge. Recall that my last big effort for this was July 27, 2019. The goal is to do a particular activity, find the Patuxent Challenge signs, and take a selfie with the sign as proof that you were there.

    On August 4, Norma, Daphne, and I walked through the scenic wetlands and historic dam ruins on the 1.5-mile paved trail at Riverfront Park in Laurel, Maryland. See first photo.

    On August 24, 2019, I spent about ten hours looking for Challenge signs. The rest of this blog is about those ten hours.

    First, I visited Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum in Saint Leonard, Calvert County and walked on the Village Trail and Riverside Trail. The Challenge sign was along the former, second photo. Then I checked out the kayak launch site, third photo.

    Next, I launched my surf ski from Clarke's Landing (fourth photo) and then paddled to Myrtle Point Park in California, Saint Mary's County. I landed at the beach just southwest of Thomas Point and walked on the Wet Sox Trail to the picnic area, where I found the Challenge sign, fifth photo. I didn't have to paddle far but there was a lot of boat traffic kicking up waves so it wasn't easy.

    In the launch site parking lot at Greenwell State Park, I saw this red-spotted purple butterfly, sixth photo. I launched my surf ski from the park's pier (seventh photo) and then started paddling to Historic Sotterley Plantation in Hollywood, Saint Mary's County.

    Much of the time when I'm exploring the great outdoors, I'm either looking up for paw paws or down for shark teeth. On this day, I found both. I was not expecting to find shark teeth. When I was kayaking to Historic Sotterley Plantation, I overshot my mark, landing north of Sotterley Creek at Sotterley Point. I pulled ashore and noticed that the broken shells and rocks looked very similar to parts of Calvert County where I've found numerous fossils. I observed the cliff and noticed a layer of embedded shells which is a very good sign for fossil hunters. I looked around for about 30-40 minutes and found these six shark teeth (eighth photo) along with a couple pieces of ray dental palate. Not sure what happened to the latter but I'm thinking Chester took them when they were on my desk.

    In the ninth photo, I am posing with my surf ski at the Historic Sotterley Plantation boat landing. This plantation has 300 years of history and over 20 historic buildings including a 1703 Plantation House and an 1830's Slave Cabin. There are also almost six miles of trails, of which, I hiked none of these because the wife of the manager there gave me a ride in a golf cart to and from the visitor center where the Patuxent Challenge sign was posted, tenth photo.

    I spoke to the woman with the golf cart and despite living at Sotterley for 10 years, she's never heard of anyone looking for shark teeth around there. So this is my secret gem...at least it was a secret until I announced it to everyone via the internet. Here is where I found the teeth: 38.383472, -76.537889 and 38.379750, -76.535083.

    For my final trip of the day, I walked about two miles in Governor Bridge Natural Area in Bowie, Prince George's County. In the eleventh photo is one of the ponds beside the green trail. I was last here on July 27, 2019 and took a picture of what I thought was a Patuxent Challenge sign. But it turned out to be a Patuxent Water Trail sign. So I returned on August 24 to find the correct sign. I failed. It is supposed to be on the red trail, which I hiked most of. But the red trail is poorly maintained and eventually fades away as it gets close to where Green Branch enters the Patuxent River. Yes, I did inform someone about this via e-mail, specifically DLMDP-Webmaster_MDP@maryland.gov and PatuxentChallenge@gmail.com. I will return and walk/swim to my objective via the Patuxent River since I know it follows the river.

    For those of you that have never heard of Hollywood, Maryland, it is shown in one of my favorite movies, "Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny." Here is the video clip. This is superfantastic music from Jack Black, Meatloaf, and the late Ronnie James Dio. I saw Dio in concert in 2007.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Baltimore Inner Harbor
    On August 18, 2019, I went kayaking in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. I was just north of the Lazaretto Point Lighthouse. From there, I could see the cannons of Fort McHenry. It looked like at least one had been shot because I saw smoke coming out of it. The weird thing is that instead of pointing towards where the British would have attacked during the War of 1812, it was pointed towards Baltimore! The first photo shows a zoomed in view.

    But upon zooming in even more, I learned that was I thought was smoke coming from a cannon was instead exhaust coming from a luxury cruise ship on the other side of Fort McHenry. See second photo.

    I hadn't paddled in the Inner Harbor since last year. I noticed a few interesting things which I posted as questions on Facebook.
  • Third photo: Anyone know what these black squiggly lines are for? When I paddled up close to them, it looked like they had some thickness so I'm guessing they were stuck on.
    Ray P.:Where a vessel's bulbous bow extends forward beyond her stem head, a symbol of a bulbous bow shall be marked above the vessel's summer load line draught mark in addition to a + symbol followed by a number indicating the total length in meters by which the bulbous bow projects beyond the stem.
  • Fourth photo: I guess this is the closest thing to a waterfall that I'll see anywhere near the Northwest Harbor. Seems like an awful lot of water to come from a bilge pump but then again, it is a pretty big ship. There was also water coming out the other side. Anyone know the story?
    Ralph: Might be that the anchor wash down [that] sucks water from the chain locker to keep it relatively clean and that they wash it on a regular basis.
  • Fifth photo: These are the Harborview Pier Homes, located at 39.278750, -76.604806. Many sell for around a million dollars. They've been there a few years now. Every time I paddle by, I never see any boats tied up to their pier. This is one of their two piers. Both are completely empty. I would think that at least some people willing to spend so much for waterfront property with so much pier access would have a boat. I was out pretty early so I can't imagine all the boats would have been gone. Has anyone ever seen boats at this pier? It's a shame if it isn't being used.
    No answers.
  • Sixth photo: Does this boat make me look fat?
    Rey, Yes, start working on your personality.

  • I saw about eight or ten kayaks launching from right in front of the Maryland Science Center. I was told it was a tour group led by the city. A few years ago, whenever I landed there, the police would chase me away.

    I got in 12 miles doing a few bursts of speed, keeping up with runners for short distances.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Jug Bay
    On August 2, 2019, my third article was published: Paddling in Paradise at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary.



    Pocomoke
    On July 28-30, 2019, Norma, Daphne, Chester, and I visited the Pocomoke River area of the eastern shore of Maryland with Allison, Mark, Viviana and their new puppy, April.



    Patuxent Challenge
    "Challenge accepted" was the catchphrase commonly used by Barney Stinson (one of my favorite television personalities) of How I Met Your Mother. On July 27, 2019, I decided to undertake the Patuxent Challenge.

    This challenge requires one to complete certain physical activities within a given calendar year. None are challenging. The challenge is just getting out and doing them. But as evidence that you were at least there, you need to take a selfie snapshot by the Patuxent Challenge sign. I had actually completed two of these challenges earlier this year.
  • Site 16: First photo, first column: I actually installed this sign in my town on May 31, 2019. It was formally unveiled the next day at Savage Fest during a visit from County Executive Dr. Calvin Ball and District 3 County Councilperson Christiana Rigby. Did I actually do the required activity there? Yes, not that day...but certainly that year, many times. Every year I walk countless miles through my town and along the Little and Middle Patuxent Rivers. So yes, I qualify.
  • Site 4: Second photo, first column: July 7, 2019 hike at Patuxent River State Park.

  • So what was done on July 27? Daphne and I walked about five miles and paddled 10.35 miles to get six (I originally thought seven) selfies taken at various Patuxent Challenge signs along the Patuxent River. In the process of doing so, we also found two launch sites I had never been to: Lower Marlboro Wharf/Pier and Patuxent Riverkeeper.

    Site 6: Daphne and I got an early start, arriving at our first destination, Governor Bridge Natural Area, around 0745. During our short hike, we were greeted by this garter snake, third photo, first column. Getting the sign picture was difficult because the land drops off very sharply into the river and what little land there is is muddy, fourth photo, first column. I later realized that I photographed the wrong sign. This is a Patuxent Water Trail sign, not a Patuxent Challenge sign. I guess I'll have to return to do it right.

    Sites 15 and 10: I paddled from Lower Marlboro Wharf (fifth photo, first column) to Kings Landing Park via the Patuxent River. I got a kayaker to take this snapshot of us at Kings Landing in front of what I originally thought was a Patuxent Challenge sign. But it is not. It is just one of the Patuxent Water Trail signs (sixth photo, first column). I made the same mistake as at the Governor Bridge Natural Area...but at least this time I realised my error then whereas at Governor Bridge, I didn't comprehend my mistake until a week after. So here is the correct picture, seventh photo, first column.

    On the way back from Kings Landing, I explored Tyverne Creek, getting 0.92 mile upstream. This is Daphne at our turnaround point, eighth photo, first column.

    I haven't seen many monarch butterflies this year. This is one I saw on Tyverne Creek, ninth photo, first column. Like Michael Jackson, it is lacking pigment.

    While the monarchs seem to be hiding, there is certainly no shortage of tiger swallowtails. I must have seen over 100 that day, many on Tyverne Creek, tenth photo, first column.

    Site 11: Daphne and I hiked 2.8 miles on the Blue Trail loop at Maxwell Hall Park. She found something interesting to roll in, eleventh photo, first column. The place is popular with equestrians. Needless to say, she got a bath once we got home. Here we are at the sign, first photo, second column.

    We made a brief detour to visit the Patuxent Riverkeeper where one can launch a boat. See second photo, second column.

    Site 9: At Patuxent River Park, I was supposed to paddle. But I did this on June 29, 2019 so instead, I chose to explore on foot. I wanted to take Daphne with me on Black Walnut Creek Nature Study Area but dogs are not allowed so we stayed closer to the visitor center. I walked slowly and let her sniff everything. Here we are at the Jackson's Landing sign, third photo, second column

    In the Patuxent Rural Life Museum, this black vulture (fourth photo, second column) was giving us the old stink eye.

    At 38.773278, -76.710111, I found a small grove of paw paw trees with lots of fruit, fifth photo, second column.

    I was looking for monarch butterflies, chrysalis, or caterpillars in and amongst the milkweed but all I saw were these large milkweed bugs, sixth photo, second column.

    Sites 7 and 8: I paddled from Patuxent Wetlands Park (seventh photo, second column) to the Glendening Nature Preserve via the Patuxent River and Galloway Creek. Here, Daphne is on the Chris Swarth Boardwalk (eighth photo, second column) which leads to the Cliff Trail at Glendening Nature Preserve. And here we both are at the Glendening sign, ninth photo, second column.

    By the time we got home, we had spent over 12 hours out working on the Patuxent Challenge. I still need to do some of the ones closest to home and the ones furthest away. But I'm pretty sure I'll get them all before the year ends.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Roosevelt Cliffs
    One thing I have learned is "when in doubt, have a backup plan." When Norma and I launched from Breezy Point Marina on July 4, 2017, we arrived at 0545 and didn't end up launching until 0720 because there were so many people trying to get to the beach. There is only one road to the beach and the marina so despite the fact that we were probably one of maybe 70 people trying to get to the marina, we all had to wait in the same line of traffic.

    Fortunately, on July 13, 2019, that was not the case. We left Savage at 0530. Yes, there were a few cars lined up to get to the beach when we arrived at 0640 but not many. Even better yet, there was someone near the entrance that saw our boats and then gave us head of the line privileges to get to the marina. So we launched around 0715.

    Before we started, I set three contest categories:
  • Most shark teeth found.
  • Most interesting shark tooth found.
  • Biggest shark tooth found.

  • Sara, Mike, Daphne, and I paddled north in the Chesapeake Bay to Roosevelt Cliffs. This is my favorite place to look for shark teeth. According to "Fossils of Calvert Cliffs" and USGS - Chesapeake Group; Calvert Formation, this area is the
    principal mollusk-bearing stratum of the Calvert Formation, both in number of species an individuals. Fossils date from the Miocene epoch (5.333 to 23.03 million years ago).

    Here's Sara and Mike at the cliffs in the first photo. They are using my now 20 year old Ocean Kayak Cabo tandem sit-on-top. I've really gotten my money's worth out of it.

    The wind was 5-7 mph from the northwest. This meant a nice, smooth ride for Daphne on my SUP as well as for Sara and Mike (second photo). Out on the water, I saw several schools of fish and five rays.

    We brought a couple sifters I made out of scrap wood and leftover hardware cloth used to make the chicken coop. While sifting, Sara caught a small fish and Michael found a horseshoe crab, about two inches long and semi-transparent.

    Daphne had a good day. She got to run around off leash, sniff things, swim (not by choice), rest in the shade, and do lots of digging (third photo). I don't know if she was looking for anything in particular.

    I don't necessarily find big teeth at Roosevelt Cliffs but I always find a lot. This day was no exception. In the fourth photo is what I found:
  • Four pieces of beach glass.
  • One fine specimen of a turritella gastropod (snail-like shell).
  • Five pieces of ray dental palate.
  • Four pieces of what I originally thought was petrified wood but now think might be whale jaw fragments.
  • Two things that look like petrified twigs.
  • And finally (drum roll please)...122 shark teeth!

  • Sara found 56 teeth. Michael found less. 122 for me may sound like a lot but the last time I was there I found 140. My record at that location is 157. Today was a good but not a great day. The low tide was 0.52 feet which is just moderately low. A few less inches of water would have exposed more fossils.

    My most interesting find was this 15/16th of an inch long piece, fifth photo. Here's a top view of this same fossil, sixth photo. It is black and very smooth along the sides. Mr. D.J. Robare thinks it is a broken piece of a megalodon tooth. Based on photos I've seen that resemble my find, I believe he is correct.

    I believe Sara found both the biggest shark tooth. It is from a snaggletooth shark. This tooth is in excellent condition with very well defined serrated edges.

    Though not a shark tooth, I think this piece is worth honorable mention, seventh photo. After looking through "Fossils of Calvert Cliffs," I believe it is a stone crab claw. It is 7/8th of an inch long and, unlike a shark tooth, it is hollow.

    We paddled 6.25 miles.

    So what was my backup plan? It was to paddle in Rockhold Creek, launching from Tri-State Marine or Chesapeake Paddle Sports. No, fossils would not be involved on these trips but I felt they would be close by and fairly interesting. But I'm glad my primary plan worked. I think Sara and Mike were glad too.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Hancock's Resolution
    On July 5, 2019, my second article was published: Hancock's Resolution - A "National Treasure".



    Franklin Point State Park
    Franklin Point State Park On July 6, 2019, I launched my SUP early in the morning at Franklin Point State Park in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. I explored Deep Creek (not the one in Garrett County) and Deep Cove Creek. These areas can get pretty shallow and difficult to navigate but I was on the water at high tide and all the rain from previous days ensured the water level was higher than normal. Ralph told me
    Deep Creek was [deep], I am told, until a hurricane filled it in, sometime in the 1970s.

    I saw three muskrats. This one was in Deep Cove, first photo. After seeing me, he decided to do a 180, second photo.

    Some of the narrow, grassy sections reminded me of the Patuxent River, third photo. This is a great place to visit if you want to get out in nature. I never saw another person the whole time I was out. There are some houses but not many.

    I saw this (fourth photo) and several other great blue herons. I also saw three bald eagles, egrets, osprey, red-winged blackbirds, and a green heron.

    Paddling the west end of Deep Cove Creek. I put my camera on a wood duck box to get this shot, fifth photo.

    I paddled out into the Chesapeake Bay as the wind kicked up some waves. I tried surfing but the waves were too close together for my 14 foot long SUP. As I tried to surf, the stern was lifted up which then forced my bow underwater into the wave in front of me, thereby slowing my momentum.

    Where the park meets the Chesapeake Bay, I saw this Surf Scoter, sixth photo.

    Having paddled 6.7 miles, I stopped in at the Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market to purchase locally grown/made goods. The place was packed. I was there rather late and the merchants were running out of stuff. I came home, mowed the yard, and then went to a pool party at my neighbor Jason's house.

    I was pretty exhausted that night. I think the heat and humidity during mowing did me in. I kept cramping up in the pool. So I devoured a Pizza Hut meat lover's pan pizza. Man food!
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Upper Glebe Marsh
    On June 29, 2019, I paddled at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. Over the years, I've kayaked or paddleboarded just about every paddleable part of this lovely place, except one...Upper Glebe Marsh. Hence, to complete my exploration, I ventured out to this location.

    There is no public launch site at Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary. So instead, I launched from Jackson's Landing at Patuxent River Park. Just outside the visitor center, I found this Great Spangled Fritillary on a coneflower, first photo.

    There was some confusion over when the area closes. Their website says dusk. But their sign at the entrance says 8pm (2000). I spoke to Warren at the visitor center and he acknowledged the discrepancy. That day, dusk was around 2040. I really love that area but some of the nicest views are very early or very late. By them closing so soon, they are keeping folks from seeing the best sights at the park...just my opinion.

    The temperature was in the 90s with a heat index of 99. When it gets this hot in Maryland, the weather can be volatile. Two forecasts were calling for wind up to 8 mph but another said 18 mph. It turned out the latter (NOAA) was right but these strong winds didn't last long.

    Out on the water, I saw several pickerelweed flowers in bloom at the edge of the Patuxent River, second photo.

    At Upper Glebe Marsh, I found a sea of spatterdock, third photo. This plant grows in shallow water so I know that the places where no such plant grows are deep enough for my SUP. Many of the wider sections in this area comprise Kings Creek (not the same Kings Creek that I paddled on June 4, 2019).

    On the eastern part of Upper Glebe Marsh, some of the open water parts served as a demarcation line between spatterdock and bay grasses, fourth photo. In the background, I could see a storm approaching.

    High tide was 1433. At this time, most of the spatterdock flowers are submerged. But not this one, fifth photo.

    I spotted an osprey in Upper Glebe Marsh, sixth photo. Standing is the parent. Laying low is its offspring.

    It started raining hard with thunder and lightning. I went ashore and stayed undercover until the storm passed. I also ate an egg sandwich that Norma made for me. While waiting, I saw a pipevine swallowtail butterfly on a buttonbush flower, seventh photo.

    Once things cleared up, I started paddling downstream to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary river pier. There, I saw this exoskeleton of dragonfly nymph, eighth photo. Ralph told me
    The nymphs hang out on the underside of spatterdock leaves. When making your way through it, you can get a nasty bite because these guys have sharp jaws for snaring water bugs and small fish!.
    I've never seen a live dragonfly nymph...just the molts. If they bite hard, maybe it's best that I don't see them.

    At the river pier, I met Norma, Daphne, Sara, and Mike for the second part of my day's adventure.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Evening Mysteries of the Marsh
    On June 29, 2019, after exploring Upper Glebe Marsh on my own, Sara, Mike, Norma, Daphne, and I participated in the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary "Evening Mysteries of the Marsh" canoe trip. I invited all my Facebook friends to join me on this back on June 21. Sara and Mike were the only takers.
    We'll paddle some of the smaller branches of the river to look for beavers, birds, other wildlife, and flowering wetland plants.
    - from event descrption

    The five of us paddled from Jackson's Landing at Patuxent River Park to the Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary river pier, though not all together. I was out exploring on my own a couple hours prior and the others met me there. But we all arrived about the same time. Then Sara, Mike, and I walked to the wetlands center to sign in and listen to the orientation talk. Norma stayed at the river pier with Daphne because dogs are not permitted at the sanctuary.

    Bob F. was the main leader for this event. He told us about how Jug Bay is a tidal freshwater marsh and that the Patuxent River is the longest river contained entirely in Maryland with Jug Bay being roughly the mid-point. We could hear thunder getting closer so he didn't want to have us go out to the boats. Then the storm hit and it rained hard. But it also left quickly. I later found out that this storm killed a local kayaker.
    Maryland Department of Natural Resources Police said a 39-year-old woman is dead after her kayak overturned in the Severn River.
    [She was not] wearing a life jacket.

    - from WUSA9 - Missing woman found dead in Spa Creek after kayak overturns

    We walked out to the river pier, near where the canoes are stored, first photo. The rest of our group would be using the Sanctuary's canoes while my group used our own boats.

    The river pier ends at the Railroad Bed Trail, which as the name implies, once supported a railroad.
    They called it the "Honeysuckle Route" because the railbed was "banked on either side with fragrant clumps of honeysuckle." And its purpose was just as fanciful: to carry vacationers from Washington, D.C., to the popular resort town of Chesapeake Beach, which boasted a boardwalk, a casino, dance pavilion, two hotels, and a roller coaster over the water. This railroad passed right through the middle of today's Sanctuary. The railroad and resort ceased operation in 1934 during the depression and the railroad was dismantled soon thereafter and sold as scrap metal.
    - from Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary - Steam Age

    I took some photos while we waited for the rest of the group (8 adults, 2 kids) to launch.
  • Second photo: Norma and Daphne on the Patuxent River.
  • Third photo: Sara and Mike in her Adventure 14 Mad River Canoe. Behind them are spatterdock plants.

  • Our group left the river pier and started heading upstream on the Patuxent River, fourth photo. We got a late start due to the storm. One can say it was a hinderance but once it passed, the temperature went from 90+ degrees to something much more pleasant.

    Here are our guides Blythe A. and Bob with the youngest member of our group, fifth photo. Both Bob and Blythe have taught college biology classes and are knowledgeable about flora and fauna on the Patuxent River.

    In the sixth photo, Norma, Sara, and Mike make their way upstream on the Patuxent River to the Western Branch.

    There was a lot of kayak, canoe, and SUP activity on the water near Mount Calvert Historical and Archaeological Park, seventh photo. A lot of people were paddling out of Patuxent River Park while Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary had two activities in progress: ours and Camp Pandion - A Summer Camp for Adults. It was good to see so many people outside having fun on the water.

    Bob led us up Charles Branch, a tributary of the Western Branch. He pointed out this beaver lodge, eighth photo.

    I asked Bob how to tell the difference between an arrow arum leaf and a pickerelweed leaf. He found examples of both and then passed them around, pointing out differences both in shape and vein structure.

    As we paddled up further upstream on Charles Branch, the salinity in the water went down as we started to encounter more trees, ninth photo. Bob said that we were experiencing the transition from marsh to swamp.

    After being stopped by a fallen tree, we turned around and started making our way downstream on Charles Branch as the sun started to sink low in the sky, tenth photo.

    Here we are making our way back to the Western Branch, eleventh photo.

    On the Western Branch, Bob told us about how Canadian geese have chosen to not migrate back to Canada and instead, remain in the area. In doing so, they started decimating the wild rice. Then Greg Kearns enclosed the wild rice plants in wire enclosures to keep the geese from getting to them. The wild rice population rebounded.
    If seeds escape consumption and germinate successfully, the young Wild Rice plants can still be grazed. The bright greenshoots are delectable morsels: tender, low in cellulose, highly digestible, and energy-packed. Since the mid-1990s, Sanctuary director Chris Swarth has observed resident Canada geese gorging voraciously on Wild Rice shoots in the spring, cropping and even plucking entire plants. (Migratory geese have returned to Canada by this time.) Experiments with wire exclosures placed in the marsh by Kearns as Wild Rice shoots emerge show striking results: thick stands of Wild Rice grow within the exclosures, surrounded by bare mud outside the wire boundaries.
    - from Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary - Marsh Notes - Volume 16, No. 1 Spring 2001

    Bob also mentioned that Jug Bay has an extremely high concentration of osprey.
    The Chesapeake Bay is home to one of the largest osprey populations in the world, and more than two dozen breeding pairs nest at Jug Bay...
    The Baltimore Sun - Osprey pairs travel thousands of miles each March to reunite at Jug Bay and renew their courtship

    Remember the railroad that I mentioned which once passed through Jug Bay Wetlands Sanctuary to connect Washington D.C. to Chesapeake Beach? Well it crossed the Patuxent River right here, twelfth photo. This "mini-island" was once a support for the train bridge.

    Daphne and I head back to Patuxent River Park on the SUP in the thirteenth photo. Up ahead in the fourteenth photo is our take out, Jackson's Landing.

    After loading up the boats, we drove out to Gambrills for dinner at Nando's. They have dog-friendly outdoor seating which is a must. While dining, we got to see fireworks going off somewhere in the distance around Odenton. It was a fine night to sit outside. The temperature was perfect.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Rocky Point Park to North Point State Park
    On June 27, 2019, I launched my SUP at Rocky Point Park then paddled to North Point State Park and back. Both parks reside in Baltimore County. On this 12.1 mile Chesapeake Bay trip, I
  • Paddled to the southwest end of Hart-Miller Island.
  • Circumnavigated and landed at Pleasure Island.
  • Paddled to the pier at North Point State Park.
  • Explored Black Marsh.

  • To the best of my knowledge, the history of Rocky Point Park is not very interesting. But North Point State Park...well that's another story. According to North Point State Park Homestead - Park History:
    The North Point property has been continuously farmed for almost 350 years, with evidence of human occupation dating back 9000 years. During the War of 1812, the North Point area was the site of skirmishes between local colonists and British troops invading Baltimore from the Southeastern flank. The route to Baltimore passed through the present day park and is known today as the "Defender's Trail".
    During the first half of the twentieth century, a small part of the park was the site of an impressive amusement park. Bay Shore Amusement Park, built in 1906, was in its heyday a bustling and attractive park offering recreation and relaxation on the Chesapeake Bay in a setting of gardens, pathways, and Edwardian architecture. The park included a dance hall, a bowling alley, a restaurant, and a pier jutting out into the bay. Bay Shore Park was accessible by trolley from Baltimore, and was probably the premier facility of its kind ever located on the Bay.
    Bay Shore Park was demolished in the 1940's when Bethlehem Steel bought the land. The property was acquired by the MD Department of Natural Resources in 1987 to provide resource protection and limited access to the bay. Once acquired, the park was renamed Black Marsh State Park, but that was later changed to its current name -- North Point State Park.


    At Pleasure Island, I found what I believe to be a non-native mouse ear marsh snail (first photo).
    These snails were first reported in Chesapeake Bay in 1900.
    - from National Exotic Marine and Estuarine Species Information System (NEMESIS) - Myosotella myosotis

    At this same island, I found this old log on which some worms had obviously practiced their cursive handwriting (second photo).

    At North Point State Park, I pulled ashore and looked on the other side of the rip rap to find this pond (third photo) at 39.211278, -76.422083. Unfortunately, it doesn't connect to the Chesapeake Bay.

    Also at the state park, I saw a lot of dragonflies. I believe this one (fourth photo) is either an eastern pondhawk or a slaty skimmer.
  • The Eastern Pondhawk is in the same family as the skimmers, but in a separate genus.
    - from Cape May Wildlife Guide - Larger Skimmers
  • Young males and females [eastern pondhawk] are bright green becoming powder blue in older males.
    - from Odonata Central - Eastern Pondhawk

  • I'm quite certain this (fifth photo) is an eastern pondhawk.
    Eastern pondhawk females and immature males are bright green. As the males age, they gradually turn a powdery blue from their abdomen to their thorax. These dragonflies can get up to 2 inches in length and can be found along ponds, lakes and streams.
    - from Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Common Dragonflies of Maryland

    At the state park, much of the rip rap was comprised of old bricks, sixth photo. I also saw a lot of dark porous rocks which Mike B. says is slag. I found this brick nearby, seventh photo. It is from the Baltimore Brick Company which was organized in 1899.

    Eventually the rip rap-lined shores of North Point State Park gave way to sandy beaches. Here is my SUP, eighth photo. In the box is my drone. The bump in the distance on the right side is Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse.

    On a beach, I found lots of beach glass, ninth photo.
    Glass from inland waterways such as the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes is known as beach glass. It is similar to sea glass, but in the absence of wave rigor and oceanic saline, content is typically less weathered.
    - from Wikipedia - Sea Glass

    Near Rocky Point Park, I saw all the typical water birds such as osprey, ducks, and this great blue heron (tenth photo). I also saw one bald eagle.

    I thought this might be something special but I think it is just some type of daddy long leg spider, eleventh photo. But I'm sure its mother thinks it is special.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse
    After launching from Rocky Point Park on June 27, 2019, I made my way to Craighill Channel Lower Range Rear Lighthouse, built in 1873. I flew my drone to see things from a different vantage point.

    Here's a westward view with the town of Edgemere in the background, first photo.
    Craighill Channel, so named for William Price Craighill, a key figure on the Lighthouse Board who supervised the engineering surveys of the channel, forms the first leg of the maintained channel from [the] Chesapeake Bay to the Patapsco River and leads from the mouth of the Magothy River to Seven Foot Knoll and the Brewerton Channel. The rising importance of Baltimore as a port persuaded Congress to set aside $50,000 in 1870 to widen Craighill Channel to 500 feet and deepen it to 22 feet. Without range lights, the channel was unusable at night, and the Lighthouse Board moved to remedy this situation in 1871...
    - from Lighthouse Friends - Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse

    This shot (second photo) is looking south from the nearby Pleasure Island. Pull into the southernmost island beach to see this picturesque lighthouse in all its historic glory.

    I flew a little higher to get this downward view, third photo.
    Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse measures 105 feet tall, making it the tallest light in Maryland and one of the tallest on Chesapeake Bay. A fourth-order Henry-Lepaute Fresnel range lens installed in the lantern room produced a fixed white light, and the lighthouse itself was described in 1884 as an open-frame pyramid of four sides with its lower portion straw-color, its upper part brown, and its lantern red.
    - from Lighthouse Friends - Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse

    In the fourth photo, Pleasure Island resides in the background. Notice the extensive rip rap breakwater on the Chesapeake Bay side of the island which protects it from erosion. Behind it in the fifth photo is Hart-Miller Island.

    Anyone who has paddled in this area knows the importance of having a lighthouse at this location. According to Chesapeake Bay Lighthouse Project - Craighill Channel Range Lights, the light has a range of 16 miles.
    The rear light was electrified in April 1929, at which time a submarine cable was used to connect the tower to commercial electricity.
    - from Lighthouse Friends - Craighill Channel Lower Rear Lighthouse
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Concrete Ships
    My main reason for wanting to paddle in the North Point State Park area on June 27, 2019 was to see the shipwrecks. I saw three World War I concrete ships here. You may recall that on June 15, 2019, I went to see nine concrete ships at Kiptopeke State Park on the eastern shore in Virginia. On April 18, 2019, I saw one such ship at Curtis Bay near Baltimore.

    The concrete ships at Kiptopeke are well documented. But not these here at North Point State Park in Baltimore County. Unlike the ones at Kiptopeke, these are nowhere near as impressive, visible, or accessible. Of the three, two protrude out of the water while one is mostly submerged. I timed my visit with the tide to get maximum viewing. I also picked a nearly windless, clear day after several days without rain to ensure good water clarity.

    According to Shipwreck Map No. 6 - Concrete Ships & Barges
    Bethlehem Steel removed from Bear Creek three abandoned concrete barges that had been used to transport munitions in World War I. (Apparently, concrete barges ensured that, if a load of munitions went off and killed everyone nearby, you at least wouldn't lose the barge. Priorities were different back then.)
    The barges were raised, moved to the end of the old ferry pier and intentionally resunk to create a breakwater to protect the slowly crumbling structure.


    This (first photo) is an overhead view of the concrete ships that I took with my drone. The small thing on the right half of this image is me on my SUP piloting the drone.

    A concrete dock that leads to the concrete ships still remains. Looking southeast (second photo), it appears to be in good shape.
    In the late 1890s, while construction of Bay Shore was under way, the developers built a wooden pier to accommodate a ferry from Tolchester that would bring Eastern Shore visitors to the site. Bay Shore opened in 1906, but the pier was destroyed by a hurricane in the late 1910s. It was decided that the new pier, as Shakespeare would stay, should be made of sterner stuff, so they built the current concrete dock.
    - from Shipwreck Map No. 6 - Concrete Ships & Barges

    This (third photo) is the same concrete dock as in the previous picture but looking northwest. You can see why it is no longer in use. A much longer rock-solid pier now resides about 4000 feet south of this one.
    Bay Shore closed in 1947, a victim of changing habits and the rising use of the automobile, a development that destroyed the advantage of the old trolley parks. Prior to the death of Bay Shore (at least at that site), the land had been purchased by Bethlehem Steel. After the passing of the park, Beth Steel used the land as a private hunting preserve for its executives.
    - from Shipwreck Map No. 6 - Concrete Ships & Barges

    Here's a couple views looking west at the concrete ships and the concrete dock, fourth and fifth photos.

    Could these be the barges built by Arundel Sand and Gravel Company? Built 1912-1917, 500 tons capacity. One is said to have been wrecked at Sparrows Point.
    - from Shipwreck Map No. 6 - Concrete Ships & Barges

    The northernmost ship is stamped with "U.S.115" on the starboard side, sixth photo. Here's some info about it from 1921.

    Here's the port side of the northernmost ship, seventh photo. This is looking southwest.

    Viewing north at the northernmost ship, eighth photo.

    Here, my drone points north at the three ships, ninth photo. At high tide, I don't think the middle ship would even be visible. Be very careful if boating in this area. There are lots of submerged obstructions.

    I flew my drone closer to get a southwest view at the southernmost ship, tenth photo. Paddling up close to this one, I noticed that much of the concrete below the water had worn away, leaving just rebar.

    The southenmost ship is stamped with "U.S.108" on the starboard side of the aft, eleventh photo. It was
    Built in 1919
    - from Bowling Green State University - U.S. 108

    Looking west at the southenmost ship, one can see what looks like exhaust pipes, twelfth photo. Someone later commented that he thought they were samson posts.

    The hull looks bent in this southern view of the southernmost ship, thirteenth photo.

    These are the two northernmost ships, fourteenth photo. I never found out the identifier/name of the middle one, fifteenth photo. I guess one would need to swim down to find out...or wait for an exceptionally low tide. Unfortunately, tidal fluctuation in this area is not that significant.

    It was a real treat for me to get these drone photos. So few people know about these ships. I like to think that by taking these photos, I'm helping keep their memory alive.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Black Marsh
    On June 27, 2019, I explored part of Black Marsh. This is a relatively undisturbed tidal freshwater/brackish wetland area within North Point State Park.

    I don't think many people know about this place now, but at one time it was quite popular.
    In the early twentieth century, the beaches south of Black Marsh were attractive getaways for Baltimore City residents looking to escape the humdrum life and heat of the city.
    - from Maryland Department of Natural Resources - Black Marsh, Baltimore County

    If you paddle into Black Marsh, expect to be surrounded by walls of eight foot tall bay vegetation, first photo.

    I found a sunken boat maybe 400 feet from where the marsh enters the Chesapeake Bay, second photo. I couldn't see most of it buy my guess is that it is 30 feet long.

    I saw thousands of fish, third photo.

    There isn't much diversity of vegetation here in the marsh. But I did find quite a bit of Bittersweet Nightshade. See fourth photo.

    I passed by this bird nest (fifth photo) sturdily constructed into the vegetation. I was hoping to find some snakes. Instead, I had two close encounters with muskrats. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to capture them on film.

    I came to an open area where I decided to turn around. But not before I flew my drone to get a better view of the area. In the lower right of the sixth photo is my SUP.

    Here's another shot taken from my drone, seventh photo. On the left is the Chesapeake Bay. I never got around to exploring the narrow section that runs parallel to the shore. I might return in the autumn or early spring to do so. I expect then the vegetation might not be so thick and therefore it should be easier to move about. I'll definitely want to explore at high tide.

    This is a drone view from Black Marsh looking northeast, eighth photo. On the upper left is Rocky Point Park, where I started. The two islands at top center are Hart-Miller Island and Pleasure Island. On the right is Craighill Channel Lower Range Rear Lighthouse. The town is Edgemere.

    After flying around for awhile, my battery got low and my drone did a forced landing. In this picture, it is coming home. Notice its shadow in the upper right, ninth photo.

    I wouldn't dare fly my drone high enough to see all of Black Marsh so here's a Google Maps satellite photo, tenth photo.

    I headed back to Rocky Point Park but vowed to return to this area and continue my exploration. This is a beautiful place. Too bad it isn't so easy to get to.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Sharps Island Lighthouse
    On June 23, 2019, I paddled out to Sharps Island Lighthouse. I launched from Bar Neck Landing on Tilghman Island. The lighthouse is located three miles south by southwest from the southern tip of Tilghman Island, out in the Chesapeake Bay. The name of the lighthouse implies it is located on an island but this is not the case...only water. Because of this, I only venture out to this location under ideal conditions, such as today's 2-6 mph wind and sunny skies. I got in 13.2 miles.

    I got across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge early and then got one of only two parking spaces at Bar Neck Landing. I did not want to show up later and risk not having a place to park.

    I had my SUP loaded up for some serious business. I brought my drone, lots of food, plenty of liquids, a VHF radio, sunscreen, boom box, etc. See first photo. Next time I should put the SUP in the water before loading the big stuff. I couldn't lift it.

    The wind was not strong but it wasn't yet calm enough for a three mile open water crossing on SUP. So I paddled north on the west side of Tilghman Island so I could catch the north wind to the lighthouse when it was time to make my move. Eventually, the whitecaps subsided and a slight tailwind helped take me to my destination (second photo). Sharps Island Lighthouse is actually the
    ...third lighthouse with that name to serve the Eastern Chesapeake Bay area near the entrance to the Choptank River. The first lighthouse was actually situated on Sharps Island...
    - from Lighthouse Friends - Sharps Island Lighthouse

    Sharps Island lies directly at the mouth of the Choptank River. It is named after Peter Sharpe, a Quaker "Chirurgion" who owned the island before 1675. The island then consisted of over 700 acres. Exposed to wave action on all sides, the island had eroded to about 100 acres by 1914 and eroded completely away by the early 1940s.
    - from Choptank River Heritage - Sharps Island

    I took this shot (third photo) with my hand-held camera. From this angle, it doesn't look like the lighthouse is leaning. But it most certainly is.
    Leaning by about 15 degrees since it was ice-damaged in 1977, the structure is picturesque, but in poor condition.
    - from Wikipedia - Sharps Island Light

    I've paddled out to Sharps Island Lighthouse several times now and have plenty of photos of it. But today, I took my drone to get a different view. See fourth photo.
    The Sharps Island lighthouse is a cast iron caisson filled with concrete with a brick lined cast iron tower built on top. The tower is 37 feet tall which sets the light 54 feet above the mean water level. This structure was constructed in 1881-2 and first lit on February 1, 1882.
    - from Chesapeake Chapter U.S. Lighthouse Society - Sharps Island Lighthouse

    Here's another picture I took with my drone, fifth photo. It wasn't until I saw this image at home that I realized that the light is hanging freely so that it is always perpendicular to the ground. Thus, even though the lighthouse is skewed 15 degrees, the light is not.
    ...the structure is, to date, fundamentally sound. The inclination, however, was severe enough to require the removal of the Fresnel lens, which was replaced with a 250 millimeter plastic beacon. This new apparatus was placed on a leveling plate fastened to the lens pedestal, where it gives off a flashing white signal with a red sector used to mark dangerous shoals.
    - from Lighthouse Friends - Sharps Island Lighthouse

    So what became of this lighthouse?
    As of 2006, the lighthouse was a candidate for sale under the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act. It was deactivated in January 2010.
    - from Wikipedia - Sharps Island Light

    While viewing the lighthouse was great, my main goal was to see and photograph cownose rays. On September 16, 2017, I saw 60+ rays near the island or the lighthouse. Then on June 30, 2018, I saw 101 rays. But on this trip I only saw 40-50. Most were in Blackwalnut Cove at the south end of the island.

    What made this trip different than the others is the amount of splashing taking place. At various times, it seemed every few seconds a ray was making as much noise as a bowling ball being dropped into the water! Why all the commotion?
  • Mating takes place in June or July each summer.
    - from Chesapeake Bay Program - Cownose Rays
  • Occasionally, there would be major splashing as the males tried jumping out of the water to grasp the [female's] pectoral fins with their mouths. It is thought that the female's having the pectoral fins out of the water might be mate avoidance behavior.
    - from Florida Museum - Rhinoptera bonasus
  • Occasionally [they are] seen jumping and landing with a loud smack - probably as a territorial display.
    - from Georgia Aquarium - Cownose Ray

  • I don't recommend paddleboarding around rays unless you have very good balance. Though not aggressive, these rays can be dangerous, sixth photo.
  • ...cownose rays are venomous...The spine tips can break off, which can lead to infection if they do sting you.
    - from The Infinite Spider - Can a Cownose Ray Hurt Me?
  • Cownose rays are have venomous spines at the base of their tails. Captain John Smith learned about the cownose ray's spine the hard way. During his 1608 voyage he was stung so severely that his crew thought he was going to die. The site on the Rappahannock River where he was stung is still known today as Stingray Point.
    - from Chesapeake Bay Program - Cownose Ray

  • For the purpose of photography, I look for rays swimming at or near the surface. If they are just below the surface, I usually won't know until they are close. But I can see fins sticking out of the water from further away. Then I can paddle to them and get a closer look. See seventh photo.
    A female will swim with the edges of her pectoral fins sticking out of the water, with male cownose rays following her trying to grasp the fins to mate.
    - from Wikipedia - Cownose Ray

    For more information about these beautiful creatures, see Bayville - Cownose Rays - the Bay's Flattened Sharks.

    Back when I lived on a boat, I sometimes saw flying fish. They were airborne for quite awhile but they didn't really fly...they glided. But watching cownose rays swim, I would say they look like they are flying through the water. See eighth photo (video). In Mexico, I saw mobula rays propel themselves out of the water as they flapped their pectoral fins on January 4, 2013. In a sense, maybe those rays were really flying.

    Also in Blackwalnut Cove, I spotted an osprey family, ninth photo. If you look on the right side of this image, you'll see a juvenile laying low. They do this because unlike their parents, which can fly away, the young are vulnerable and therefore must avoid being seen.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Kiptopeke and Chincoteague
    On June 15-17, 2019, I went kayaking at Kiptopeke and then Norma, Daphne, and I went kayaking at Chincoteague after spending the weekend with some of her family.


    Dream Job
    What is a dream job? In my opinion, it is when you can get paid to do something that you truly love. I now have such a job.

    On May 15, 2019, Greg W. forwarded me an e-mail he received from the Director of Communications of the Chesapeake Conservancy. She was looking for someone who could write about paddling ideas and experiences in the Chesapeake watershed. I reached out to her and pointed her to my website to give her an idea of my adventures and style of writing. After several e-mail exchanges between us and another woman from the Conservancy, they decided to let me write an article for them.

    I submitted Paddling the Curtis Creek Ship Graveyard which was approved and posted to on June 6, 2019. The woman in the top photo is my good friend Sara. Sara took the photo of me in the second photo.

    I am now a "freelance paddling adventure journalist." After an idea I propose is given a green light, I will do a kayak or stand up paddleboard (SUP) trip, write about it, submit it for approval, and then (if they like it) get paid. This program is sponsored by the Chesapeake Conservancy and National Park Service.

    My goal is to write two articles per month. These articles must cover one particular area on a list of a few hundred places. There are no deadlines. During the late autumn and winter, I can write about my hiking adventures but my focus will be on paddling. I will be reimbursed for mileage and fees.

    On May 17, 2019, I opened a fortune cookie. My fortune read, "You are soon going to change your present line of work." I don't plan on quitting my regular job but certainly a change in my work has taken place...a change for the good.

    What's next? Maybe this winter I will work on getting a commercial drone pilot license so I can submit drone photos with my articles.



    Kings Creek Water Trail
    After work on June 4, 2019, Sara, Mike, Norma, Daphne, and I went paddling on the Kings Creek Water Trail launching from Kingston Landing. It started out fairly windy where we put in on the Choptank River but once we entered the sheltered Kings Creek, the water became calm.

    Sara and Mike tried out Sara's brand new Adventure 14 Mad River Canoe. I thought it looked extremely comfortable. Daphne seemed to like it too. In the first photo, we are a short distance from Kingston Landing, where we launched.
    Kingston was one of three designated "Port Towns" established by the Maryland Assembly in 1683 as tobacco trading ports and warehouses on the Choptank River. Steamboat wharves and warehouses also operated here before the town died out in the 19th century.
    - from Choptank and Tuckahoe Rivers Water Trails Map Guide

    At the mouth of Kings Creek, the salinity of the water is higher so the vegetation is more grassy. But further upstream, the water is fresher so the landscape is more wooded, second photo. There were several spatterdock flowers in bloom.

    Near mile three, one can pull over on the downstream north side of the Kingston Road bridge for a break, third photo. One could also launch from here. There is enough room on the west side of the road to park at least two cars about 60 feet north of the creek.

    Under Kingston Road bridge live several barn swallows. These birds use mud to build their nests. Notice the baby remaining motionless in the nest, fourth photo.

    Along the shore, we saw a few very fragrant sweetbay magnolia flowers, fifth photo.

    I saw a turtle or two but overall, we didn't see much wildlife. However, near mile four, Norma spotted a river otter. Unfortunately, the rest of us were too busy talking to notice and we never got a picture of it, sixth photo. I think all our chatter scared away the critters.

    In the seventh photo, Daphne and I pass a clump of arrow arum.

    Daphne is quite competent on the SUP. She's part corgi and that gives her very short legs which means a low center of gravity. I've got short legs too. She must get it from me, eighth photo.

    In the ninth photo, we are near the Choptank wetlands.
    This 650 acre tract of land is owned by the Nature Conservancy and is considered one of the largest remaining tracts of undistrubed brackish marsh in the United States. Historians believe that these marshlands are pristine, meaning that despite their closeness to Kingston Landing, they are untouched by man.
    - from "Kings Creek Water Trail" by the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy

    Mike, Sara, Daphne, and I paddle downstream on Kings Creek as the sun sets while Norma takes our picture, tenth photo.

    This place looks so natural. I wonder if the scenery has changed much since prior to European settlement.
    The Choptank Indians inhabited this region. They are a sub-tribe of the Algonquin Nation closely related to their neighbors the Nanticokes. The Choptank Indians were generally considered a peaceful tribe who traded regularly with the English settlers who came to the area. In 1699, the League of Peace between the Choptank Indians and the province created a 14,000 acre reserve area. Eventually, the Choptank Tribe fizzled out as members moved to Pennsylvania and joined the Nanticokes or died from diseases brought by the settlers.
    - from "Kings Creek Water Trail" by the Midshore Riverkeeper Conservancy

    We eventually made our way to the mouth of Kings Creek, where it meets the Choptank River.
    The Choptank's deepest waters are found at the river's confluences with the Tuckahoe (40 feet) and Kings Creek (50 feet). These are two of the many interesting tributaries along the Upper Middle Choptank. Locals call the smaller of these channels "guts," an odd-sounding name for streams so often lined with beautiful swaying grasses and awash in vibrant wildflowers.
    - from Choptank and Tuckahoe Rivers Water Trails Map Guide

    There are many fine creeks that flow into the Choptank that are paddleable, at least for some distance. The Tuckahoe is the most well known. But I'd recommend any that have a name. Those without are too shallow, narrow, or short to make exploring worthwhile.

    We were out of the water just after 2000. The four of us put in eight miles, making it slightly upstream of where Kings Creek and Beaverdam Branch merge. Afterwards, we stopped for dinner at Chipotle (8911 Ocean Gateway, Easton, Maryland 21601), which Mike suggested. They have a dog-friendly outdoor dining area on the west side. This was a great find for me.

    Kings Creek is one of my favorite places to paddle. Norma and I have been there several times now but this was a first for Sara, Mike, and Daphne. I was glad to be able to share it with them.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    New Jersey Pine Barrens
    On May 24-27, 2019, Norma, Daphne, and I went kayaking in the New Jersey Pine Barrens.



    Marley Creek
    After work on May 16, 2019, I did a little kayaking on Marley Creek, launching from Solleys Cove.

    One or two miles into my trip, a couple of kids called me over and showed me a box turtle they found. It was on a landscaped grassy area in back of their apartment complex and they were concerned for its safety. The shell was just slightly damaged as if it might have gotten caught under a lawn mower. I told them I would take it across the creek to an undeveloped, wooded area and let it go there. Box turtles are not aquatic.

    My favorite kayak is my S1-A surf ski. It is unstable but very fast. I only take it out when the water is fairly calm. If I am expecting rougher water, I'll use another boat. My surf ski is only 16 and a half inches wide so it is an understatement to say that it isn't spacious. I don't use this boat to carry Daphne or my drone. The footwell isn't even wide enough for me to wear sandals. There isn't much room for transporting stuff but I managed to find room for this turtle (photo). I released it on the east side of the creek on a level area under some trees.

    Later, I saw a couple of eagles though it might have been the same one that I saw two different times.

    I paddled 11.7 miles.

    After finishing, I came home and started planning my big trip to see the horseshoe crabs come ashore in Delaware to spawn. I did this trip on May 18, 2019.
    Click thumbnail to enlarge.



    Perryville to Charlestown
    On May 11, 2019, I kayaked in Cecil County, Maryland, paddling from Perryville to Charlestown. I explored Mill Creek, Furnace Bay, and Northeast River. Then I paddled up into the Susquehanna River.

    Here's some information about the area, taken from Cecil County Life - Saluting a rich history:
    The first known inhabitants of the Perry Point peninsula were the Susquehannock Indians, who left stone arrow and spear points on the land as they hunted and fished there for untold centuries. In a display case are a few arrowheads, two of which were singled out by a recent visitor as possibly being about 2,000 years old, Vincenti said, so the occupation of Perry Point apparently goes back into prehistory.
    In about 1680, Lord Baltimore granted some 32,000 acres of land, including what was then called Susquehanna Point, to his cousin, George Talbot. Talbot discovered that John Bateman was already living on the Point, having acquired the land in 1658 by a patent from Lord Baltimore. In 1710, Captain Richard Perry acquired the land, but the Perry Point name predated him, and is mentioned in the land grant to John Bateman, earlier than 1658.


    Lots of people were out fishing. This prevented me from paddling the most scenic route because I had to make sure I stayed away from people's fishing lines.

    I saw plenty of eagles. Too many to count. I found an 18" long feather.

    I found this (first photo) unnamed island on Principio Creek at 39.562472, -76.036306. If nobody has any objections, I'm naming it Isle of Saki.

    Nearby, I kayaked between two very unusual and unnatural-looking peninsulas. I looked for clues but could not figure out why they were there. They are at 39.565083, -76.032667.

    I turned around after taking a short break at Charlestown (second photo). According to an information sign, this is Charlestown Wharf.
    Stone wharf and warehouse were built here by decree of general assembly in 1744. During [the] Revolutionary War, this was a major supply depot for American armies.

    I found this (third photo) unusual structure on Carpenter Point at the mouth of the Northeast River at 39.541306, -76.002833. I thought it might be the remains of an old lighthouse. It is certainly in a good location for one. But I could find nothing to indicate this. There is a beach right next to it but it seems like overkill to be a place for lifeguards to sit.

    The sun had been out earlier in the day prior to my launch. I used that time to take drone photos of Havre de Grace. But I knew it would be dark and overcast while I was on the water. So I didn't take many photos or pay much attention to nature. For me, this was more of a training paddle. I was working on form and endurance. The wind was calm. It started to rain lightly.

    I kayaked to the Perry Point Gristmill. See fourth photo.
    Constructed in 1721, the gristmill continually operated serving the community of Perry Point until the end of the Civil War, when it was abandoned. Today, the 280-acre Perry Point site serves as a medical rehabilitation facility for Veterans.
    - from Preservation Maryland - The Gristmill at Perry Point Maryland VA Medical Center

    I paddled 20.6 miles. This was my first real training paddle of the year. My back and abs were sore. That's what you want to be sore. It is an indicator that you are using good technique.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    South River
    On Star Wars day (May 4, 2019), I took Daphne paddleboarding on the South River in Edgewater, just south of Annapolis, Maryland.

    First, we stopped in at the Anne Arundel County Farmers' Market. I picked up some bread, cookies, and a breakfast sandwich but I was disappointed that dogs are not allowed. Daphne had to wait in the car.

    Next, Daphne and I paddled 12.6 miles between Homeport Farm Park and Quiet Waters Park. We explored Church Creek, Aberdeen Creek, and Harness Creek. These creeks all flow into the South River.

    I saw a muskrat and lots of carp activity in the shallower sections of the creeks. I'm guessing they are mating.

    I saw lots of ospreys but no eagles. See first and second photos.

    Daphne and I stopped at Quiet Waters Park. I pulled ashore at the boat rental pier. Then I took Daphne for about a two mile walk on the trails. I saw her sniffing around. Then she was startled. I checked things out and discovered that she had found a box turtle, third photo.

    The park trails are very nice but they also get a lot of use so it isn't a good place to let your dog run off leash though maybe during the week it isn't a problem. This place has a dog beach and a dog park. I took Daphne to the dog park but she wasn't feeling very social.

    At Quiet Waters, I found a male broadhead skink (fourth photo) resting on a log. This is the first time I've ever seen this lizard.

    Back on the water, I saw a great egret (fifth photo). They look so much like great blue herons, I think if you just bleached out a heron, you'd end up with an egret.

    This bird ruffled his feathers in a manner that reminded me of a pee shiver (piss quiver). See sixth photo. I found a good explanation for this at Hank Christensen Photography - Snowy Egret Feather Shake:
    He shook his body vigorously to fluff all of his feathers, so that they could resettle into a natural insulating layer. This type of shake will rearrange the micro-structure of a bird's outer feathers, keeping water from penetrating the inner feathers.

    I saw several green herons. This is one of my favorite birds. This one was fairly cooperative at posing for my camera. See seventh photo.

    Ralph H. and Greg W. informed me about a great blue heron rookery on Aberdeen Creek. I found it at 38.944528, -76.519667.
  • Eighth photo: View from afar. I count seven birds in this picture.
  • Ninth photo: Even in early spring, this rookery would be difficult to see because it is built in pine trees.
  • Tenth photo: Over the shoulder glance-back.

  • In addition to the great blue heron rookery, I was also looking for a long-tailed duck that Ralph and Greg saw on May 2. I could not find it.

    I considered taking a drone shot of the big brick building at Historic Londontown but that would have required me to cross the South River. Daphne wasn't enjoying the boat wakes so I figured I'd save that for another time when she wasn't with me. Instead, I practiced setting up, launching, and landing the drone from my SUP. Daphne doesn't much like my drone. Notice that she is standing behind me in the eleventh photo.

    The next day, Daphne stayed in bed until almost noon. I think this trip did her in. She was standing almost the entire time she was on the SUP. I offered her fresh water to drink but she always turned me down. From now on, I'll reserve the shorter trips for her (up to 10 miles) and try to keep things flat water. She shakes when the we start hitting waves. I notice she yawns a lot too. According to Pedigree - What Your Dog's Yawn Really Means:
    A yawn may indicate anticipation or stress.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Poplar Island
    On April 29, 2019, Norma, Daphne, and I kayaked to the Poplar Island area in Talbot County, Maryland to do a little bird watching. We found two rookeries, egrets, ospreys, a bufflehead duck, a sandpiper, a couple of Canadian goose nests with eggs, and a duckling that appeared to be separated from its parents. This place is out in the Chesapeake Bay, a little over a mile from the mainland. We paddled a total of 7.6 miles.

    Since its reconstruction with dredged material began in 1998, Poplar Island had grown to 1,140 acres by 2005. Plans call for the addition of another 575 acres. Only "clean" material, dredged from approach channels, is being used on Poplar Island. The Poplar Island restoration project will not use material dredged from close to Baltimore, which may be contaminated with heavy metals.
    The island is the home of approximately 175 different species of birds, including terns and osprey. More than 1,000 diamondback terrapins have been reported hatching annually on the island in recent years.
    Chesapeake Bay biologists consider Poplar Island's restoration to be a huge success for the diamondback terrapins, a brackish water turtle - and Maryland's "official state reptile." Terrapins started laying eggs on the island almost as soon as construction workers started building the sand berms and beaches, and the island now hosts the nation's largest terrapin research and propagation project. Terrapins here enjoy a nearly 99 percent survival rate (compared with 10 percent or less elsewhere) because there are no fox or raccoon, their major predators.

    - from Wikipedia - Poplar Island

    Here's another interesting fact about Poplar Island:
    In 1847, Charles Carroll launched an enterprising business on an island in the Upper Chesapeake Bay: the Great Poplar Island Black Cat Farm. Carroll had heard that there was a market in China for black cat fur, so he offered 25 cents apiece for female black cats. He shipped the cats to Poplar Island, paid a local waterman to deliver fish daily, and let the kitties have the run of the place. All was well until winter arrived. The bay froze, the fish couldn't be delivered, and the hungry cats made off across the ice to the mainland, thus bringing an end to Carroll's feline farm.
    - from Johns Hopkins Magazine - Treasured Islands

    We launched my tandem kayak from Lowes Wharf. In this area, we saw a bufflehead duck. See first photo, first column.

    The wind was strongest at the start of our trip. Waves rocked our boat and made Daphne feel uneasy. But after about a half hour, the water was calm so she could relax.

    We pulled ashore and walked around on the unnamed island at 38.769255, -76.372335. Here, we saw Canadian goose nests. In the second photo, first column is a nest with a very recent hatchling. Yes, it is alive. We tried not to disturb anything but the nests are right out in the open and the geese sitting on the nests don't let you know they are there until you are almost right on them. Then they leave and return after we are gone.

    Our next stop was Jefferson Island. This lies just east of Poplar Island and is home to a very large double-crested cormorant rookery. It is located at 38.766306, -76.371639.

    I took a multitude of pictures of the cormorant rookery.
  • Third photo, first column: It was a mostly cloudy day but occassionally, the sun did come out. I was very fortunate that it came out when we were at the rookery.
  • Fourth photo, first column: This was the first time I've ever heard cormorants. Their call reminded me of the Predator alien.
  • Fifth photo, first column: I'm guessing there were well over a hundred nests.
  • Sixth photo, first column: Coming in for a landing.
  • Seventh photo, first column: I found a cormorant recipe at Funny Jokes - Cormorant Recipe:
    Finally roast in a very hot oven for three hours. The result is unbelievable. Throw it away. Not even a starving vulture would eat it.
  • Eighth photo, first column: According to Wikipedia - Poplar Island:
    The island is the home of approximately 175 different species of birds, including terns and osprey.
    I assume this includes the islands around Poplar (like Jefferson).
  • Ninth photo, first column: These two have blue green eyes. The mouth of the bird on the right matches its eyes.
  • First photo, second column: Mating or courtship?
  • Second photo, second column: The one on the left has very clearly defined tufts on the side of its head. This means it is ready to breed. The previous photo supports this.
  • Third photo, second column: More tufts. Kinda reminds me of Dilbert's pointy haired boss.
  • Fourth photo, second column: Something tells me the cormorant is going to get shit on when this great blue heron takes flight.
  • Fifth photo, second column: Cormorants in various stages of flight. Unlike mallard ducks, cormorants need a lot of space in front of them to get airborne.

  • Norma, Daphne, and I headed to Coaches Island where we spotted a great blue heron rookery at 38.752083, -76.365917. The best place to see this is from the eastern side of the island. See sixth photo, second column.

    The nests are in evergreen trees so they are very difficult to see, seventh photo, second column.

    I heard what I thought were the faint sounds of baby great blue herons. Hatching around now is about right, according to All About Birds - Bird Cams FAQ. See eighth photo, second column.

    After paddling, we ate a very nice lunch at Crepes by the Bay in Saint Micahels.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Upper Middle Patuxent River
    On April 28, 2019, I kayaked on the Middle Patuxent River between the Robinson Nature Center and Old Columbia Road. Recall that on April 13, 2019, I kayaked the lower section of this river starting at Old Columbia Road. Until today, I had never explored upstream of this location. I picked this route because it was very windy so open water kayaking would not be fun.

    I launched my boat from Simpsonville and then paddled upstream. The ruins of the Simpsonville Mill (first photo) lies under the Cedar Lane bridge. The history of this mill dates back to the mid-1700s. I launched right by it at a sandy area.

    It had rained recently so I expected there would be plenty of water.

    My goal was to get two miles upstream. Gertler says that is where a significant unnamed creek merges with the Middle Patuxent River. Upstream of that, the flow is too little to make it worth kayaking. My take out was only two miles downstream from Simpsonville. At best, this would be a six mile trip.

    Paddling upstream, I saw a couple of stone structures which I assume were somehow related to the mill. The area was very wooded, scenic, and natural. Occassionally, I saw a hiker on one of the Robinson Nature Trail paths.

    I took out several times to look around. Near a smelly sewage area on the west side, I found a stone wall and a couple of ponds next to it. There were lots of American toads and pollywogs in them. See second and third photos.

    I only made it up about a half mile from the launch site. Above that, it was too rocky and I would have needed to do a significant amount of portaging. My six mile trip would now only be three miles. I intended to savor this as much as possible. Making my way downstream, I pulled out at the mill race (fourth photo). Here, I saw honeysuckle azelea flowers (fifth photo).

    Near route 32, there was a two foot drop. I pulled ashore on the northeast side to scout things before continuing. I'm glad I did because had I taken the left side, I would have hit a rock just below the drop which would have surely caused me to capsize. Staying to the right was much better.

    I saw a blue jay collecting nesting material (sixth photo). I also spotted a fishing spider (seventh photo).

    I can't emphasize enough just how scenic the Middle Patuxent River is. See eighth photo.

    I don't remember how many portages I did but there were a few, mostly upstream from Simpsonville. I don't think it is worthwhile to paddle upstream from there.

    I pulled ashore near 39.175142, -76.892658 at a gravel road junction. I never saw any people or vehicles on this road. I investigated it from car afterwards and found that it connects to a recreational park owned by the Applied Physics Laboratory at 39.173702, -76.895685. There were no signs telling folks to stay out. I checked with a neighbor who works there. He asked his security people about the area and it turns out it is not restricted. So I plan to return with Daphne. It looks like a good place to let her run off leash.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Fort Carroll
    Before I purchased my drone in December 2018, I decided that my ultimate goal would be to photograph Fort Carroll. This piece of Baltimore history is privately owned and off limits to the public. I landed there on February 20, 2017 but didn't stay for long...just long enough to get a few snapshots.

    I wanted to see the fort again but in a way that very few had...from above. Doing so would not be easy because it is about 1300 meters from land. So I decided I would get there by stand up paddleboard (SUP). I felt the SUP offered more flexibility in handling the drone by myself because I could stand up, kneel, or sit. I could also easily access whatever equipment I was carrying while on the SUP.

    Skies were fairly clear and the wind was somewhat light on April 23, 2019 so I decided to make that my day to paddle out to the fort and fly my drone. At no time did I enter the fort.

    Norma accompanied me on her kayak. I didn't want to rely on her for help with the drone because I wanted to see if I could do it all myself. But just in case I ran into problems, I might need an extra hand. But otherwise, her main job would be to document my adventure via camera.

    We launched from Fort Armistead in the late morning. Visibility was good but not excellent. Even though the wind wasn't very strong, there were definitely waves being kicked up. That part of the Patapsco River is relatively narrow (that's why they built a bridge). It is also very deep (to accommodate shipping) and very shallow (that's why the fort is there). That means any currents are channeled and it also means any waves will increase in size when they get near the fort. Paddling my SUP, especially with a big box containing a drone, was not easy in these waters.

    Fort Carroll was built on a 3.4 acre artificial island built on Soller's Point Flats. It is located at these coordinates.

    Baltimore's Third System defense, Fort Carroll was named in 1850 to honor Charles Carroll, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. It is located on a man-made island in the Patapsco River adjacent to the Francis Scott Key Bridge. The construction [which commenced in 1848] was once supervised by Robert E. Lee. The fort was abandoned after WWI. The Coast Guard used the fort during World War II. A lighthouse was added in 1854 and rebuilt in 1898. The lighthouse and the fort were abandoned after World War II. The fort was originally known as Fort at Soller's Point during its construction.
    - from Fort Tours - Fort Carroll

    My two main objectives were to get well lit pictures of both the lighthouse and the fort. I had morning sun in the southeast but there was also a breeze from that same direction. I planned to do two drone launches. The first would be from the northwest side. This meant I could use the fort as a windbreak and see the drone when I photographed the lighthouse on the west side. I would then do a second launch from the landing dock on the north side. I would get off my SUP for this and sit on the stairs of the dock ruins. This would enable me to view the drone when I photographed the sunny side of the fort. I needed line of sight to the drone in order to get a visual reading on the monitor. Breaking up my time into two launches also meant I could swap an old battery with a new one, thus extending my flight time.

    Norma and I crossed to the northwest side of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. We made our way northeast then cut southeast to the fort. Here, first photo, first column, is what the place looks like from a kayak/SUP.

    I approached the northwest side (second photo, first column) which was sheltered from the wind. Then I prepared my drone (third photo, first column). It didn't take long before it was airborne (fourth photo, first column).

    As I typically do, I did a quick ascent and got a straight down shot of the entire fort. See fifth photo, first column. Notice our SUP and kayak at the bottom.

    While my drone was up there, I directed the view northwest towards the Key Bridge (sixth photo, first column).

    Next, I lowered the drone to get another view of the fort (seventh photo, first column).

    I then directed my drone to the lighthouse.
    In 1854 a lighthouse was built on the ramparts of the fort to warn vessels away from the construction site and to mark the turn from the Brewerton Channel to the Fort McHenry Channel leading in and out of Baltimore Harbor. In 1898 a new lighthouse was built, the one still seen today, and it was automated in 1920 and then discontinued sometime between 1931 and 1945.
    - from ByteNet - Fort Carroll

    The eighth and ninth photos, first column show what the lighthouse looks like from a kayak/SUP.

    I flew my drone towards the lighthouse (tenth photo, first column). Norma captured me concentrating deeply about the task at hand. See eleventh photo, first column. I took shots from afar (twelfth photo, first column) and then more as I got closer. Here (thirteenth photo, first column) is my favorite lighthouse view. Notice Norma off to the left.

    Many water birds make Fort Carroll their home. This pic (fourteenth photo, first column) of a great blue heron was taken via kayak.

    Hundreds of cormorants live at the fort. I took this shot (fifteenth photo, first column) with my drone and this one (sixteenth photo, first column) from my SUP.

    In the summer, the foliage at the fort is very thick so visibility is poor. In the winter, vegetation is sparse but there is little wildlife. This time of year is good because there are plenty of birds building and sitting on nests which can easily be seen. They did not seem to be the least bit affected by the presence of my drone.

    Living amongst the cormorants are several egrets, seventeenth photo, first column. This is only the second time I've ever seen an egret rookery. If you look closely, all the little black things in the first photo, second column are cormorants while the little white things are egrets.

    Now take a look at the second photo, second column. If you were to enter the middle of the fort via the landing dock entrance, you would pass through the wide entrance with the curved archway on the left. Now look at the right side. My question is, "What is that big rectancular thing?" It is about 43 feet long and 17 feet wide, based on Google satellite information. The sides appear to be made of brick or stone. I can't tell how high it is...maybe 5 feet tall? One person thought it might possibly be ammunition storage. In old snapshots, it looks like flag poles are mounted on it. Here's another view of it (third photo, second column) from higher up. Some of the artillery emplacements are in front of it, facing downstream, which is where an attack would likely originate.

    Big guns are the bread and butter of a fort. Such cannons are no longer here but you can clearly see where they once stood in the fourth and fifth photos, second column. For the latter, Sparrows Point is in the background. In the sixth and seventh photos, second column, there are many stairs laid out to help the soldiers get to their battle stations quickly. Here's a close up of where a couple of the artillery once lay, eighth photo, second column.

    Peach trees (and maybe other fruit trees) once grew at the fort...perhaps they still do. I can't tell if anything in the ninth photo, second column are or were peach trees.
    Grass was growing on the parade ground and the fruit trees were here, but nothing like this. Now the trees have taken over the place and in time their roots will tear the place apart.
    - from The Baltimore Sun - Amateur historian dreams of restoring Fort Carroll

    I mentioned that there are many staircases that lead to the gun positions but in the tenth photo, second column there is an enclosed spiral staircase.

    After about 12 minutes of flight time, I brought my drone back. See eleventh photo, second column. From early on, I thought about how I would land the drone when I am on the water. Landing on a narrow platform such as a SUP would leave very little room for error. So I practiced what I called a paddleboard landing. This involves me getting it to the right height near me, paddling to it, and then grabbing it out of the air. I would then lower it to the SUP as I used the controller to turn it off. If instead it tried to fight me by gaining altitude, I would put down the controller and turn off the battery. The challenge is that I would need two hands to turn off the battery, a third to hold the controller, and maybe a fourth and fifth hand to paddle into position. I reduced this challenge somewhat by adding a nylon strap so I could wear the controller around my neck. But simply putting it on the plastic carrying box was sufficient. See twelfth photo, second column.

    I spent two years of my Marine Corps enlistment stationed on an aircraft carrier. What makes a boat an aircraft carrier? One criteria is that aircraft must launch from and land on the boat. I don't know what the other requirements are but I think my SUP has this first one covered.

    I paddled over to the landing dock. Here I could maintain line of sight with the drone as it flew to the southeast side of the fort. See thirteenth photo, second column.

    This (fourteenth photo, second column) is my favorite shot. My drone is looking west as the sun illuminates the fort and the Key Bridge behind it. Here's (fifteenth photo, second column) another view of the fort and the bridge. On the other side of the Key Bridge is the heart of Baltimore, which Fort Carroll was built to protect.
    Britain's invasion of the Chesapeake in the War of 1812 had shown that forts like Baltimore's Fort McHenry were too close to the cities they were meant to defend. A new plan for fort construction, called the "Permanent System" (also known as the Third System) intended to defend America's most important seaports and prevent another invasion from the sea.
    - from ByteNet - Fort Carroll

    So what happened to the fort? Did it ever save Baltimore from another attack? Was it ever used in battle? The answer to both questions is no.
    Plans were proposed over the years to see the fort as the base for a giant statue, just as the Statue of Liberty had been erected on the remains of Fort Wood in New York harbor. Other plans included using the fort as an island prison like Alcatraz or as a museum. The Army and Coast Guard both used the interior of the fort as firing ranges briefly, but in 1958 the entire fort was sold to Benjamin N. Eisenberg for just over ten thousand dollars. Eisenberg hoped to turn the Fort into a casino, but the plan fell apart when he discovered that the fort was just outside the boundaries of gambling-tolerant Anne Arundel County. Eisenberg still spent a great deal patching up the Fort's neglected walls, planting peach trees and keeping the interior landscaped. In 1964 real estate developer Robert L. Jackson leased the fort and used his private passenger hydrofoil, the Baltimore Clipper, to ferry guests for picnics in the unique surroundings offered by the fort. Soon this plan was abandoned, too. Rumors persisted of development plans through the years, but in the meantime trees, vines, and weeds engulfed the fort's interior and the effects of wind, rain, and time eroded the brickwork and concrete. Thousands of birds nest there, and the Forts walls are covered with guano and bones. In October 2000 developer Bill Struever signed a new lease form the Eisenberg family, declaring his intention to "preserve this terrific piece of history," and "protect the site from neglect and decay." Nothing came of this man's ambition, either.
    - from ByteNet - Fort Carroll

    Here's a view (sixteenth photo, second column) looking south to the Herbert A. Wagner Generating Station in Curtis Bay.

    I asked to see if anyone knew what the cylindrical thing is in the seventeenth photo, second column I believe it is at least 8 feet tall and made of stone. The top is not hollow. Someone on Facebook replied along with a link to the Darkroom photo
    It is the base for the lookout tower. The rest is long gone.

    I brought my drone back (eighteenth photo, second column) and then we headed back to Fort Armistead.

    Everything went well but there was one concern. While at the landing dock, a big boat passed by that created waves. As the waves reached me, they grew to be pretty big due to the shallow water. The waves bounced off the fort walls and crashed into oncoming waves. This went on for awhile. Fortunately, all my drone equipment was on the stable landing dock. I held onto my SUP as the waves tried to upset it. While this was going on, I let the drone hover. It took a few minutes for the water to calm down. This was time that was draining the drone battery. Fortunately it was not an issue. But if I return, I will need to ensure that I can deal with the waves while I control the drone. Had I been on the SUP, I would have headed out to deeper water to help minimize the waves.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Baltimore Shipwrecks - Curtis Bay
    On April 18, 2019, I launched from Solleys Cove. I paddled downstream to Curtis Bay.

    At Jaws Marine, I saw three old yard patrol crafts in need of maintenance (first photo). These are used by the United States Navy for training and for research purposes.
    The YPs [patrol craft] are used to teach familiarization with water craft, Basic Damage Control and underway instruction of Basic to Advanced Seamanship and Navigation. Yard Patrol craft provide realistic, at-sea training in navigation and seamanship for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and candidates at Officer Candidate School, Newport, Rhode Island. These craft can cruise for 1,800 nautical miles at 12 knots for five days without refueling.
    - from Wikipedia - General characteristics, YP 676 and YP 696 classes

    I got this view (second photo) with my drone.
  • YP 677: Front right. Launched 1984. Waterline length: 102 feet. Waterline beam: 21 feet.
  • YP 680: Front left. Launched 1985. Waterline length: 102 feet. Waterline beam: 21 feet.
  • YP 682: Rear. Launched 1985(?)

  • Right by Jaws Marine are various shipwrecks. I call these the Walnut Point Wrecks.
    These old ships [1917-18], many of which remain, are the repositories for memories and stories of harbor history. You can see a surprising number of them along the Patapsco. Forming a mile-long phalanx against eroding northerly gales between Sledds and Leading Points, a score of great wooden ships lie sunken head to tail. Some are in the shallows, with sand and gravel accumulating in their ruined hulls. This permits some to host a disguising growth of shrubbery and small trees. From a great dike of deposited rubble lying inland, you can view the line of ships stretching off eastward, some still with decks of 4-inch-thick plank surviving, gray with age. The square black mouths of long-empty cargo hatches open into murky water beneath.
    For some, only structural frames protrude above water to suggest the shape of a hull and the tangle of rusting steel and rotting wood beneath. Where the entire above-water hull and planking have fallen away, there is the odd hawse-pipe standing, in which the anchor cable was once conducted through the hull and deep into the vessel's chain lockers.

    - from Bay Journal - Ghosts of industrial heyday still haunt Baltimore's harbor, creeks

    Here's a drone view of the shipwrecks, third photo. On the upper right is a lot of modern building material...not sure what it is for. Regarding this picture, I was told
    The ship in the lower right hand corner is the Fort Scott, a WWI freighter built in Oregon.

    This is a concrete ship, fourth photo. I don't know how old this is. It likely does not have the same origin as the other boats. I took this picture from my kayak. Yes, a concrete ship sounds crazy but at one time folks probably said the same thing about metal ships.

    This is the same concrete ship seen via drone, fifth photo.

    I took these pictures from my kayak (sixth and seventh photos). Someone on Facebook replied,
    According to the book "Baltimore Harbor" this is the Dover. World War I freighter purchased after the work by Davison Chemical Co and used to haul pyrite ore from Cuba to Curtis Bay.

    These views (eighth and ninth photos) is the same wreck as the previous shots but taken from higher up with a drone.

    View from kayak looking north between the wrecks, tenth photo.

    Similar shot as the previous photo but taken from my drone, eleventh photo.

    Looking east via drone, twelfth photo. Can you find me?

    Looking west via drone (thirteenth and fourteenth photos). Someone mentioned
    Ship to the right of the Dover is the Ashland with the same history as the Dover.

    Google maps says these wrecks are located at 39.208528, -76.574722.

    If you haven't seen these wrecks, I suggest doing so soon. All the construction equipment around them makes me think their days are coming to an end. That is what happened to the Stahl Point Wrecks on Curtis Creek.

    I am truly fortunate to live in a place where there are so many interesting things to see via kayak/SUP. I know there are folks that consider these wrecks to be an eyesore but you know what they say:
    One man's trash is another man's treasure.
    It all comes down to perception.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Bald Eagles on Curtis Creek
    While kayaking on Curtis Creek on April 18, 2019, I saw two mature and three immature bald eagles in Glen Burnie at coordinates 39.194722, -76.568472.

    Immature birds [first photo] have mostly dark heads and tails; their brown wings and bodies are mottled with white in varying amounts. Young birds attain adult plumage in about five years.
    - from All About Birds - Bald Eagle

    Mature bald eagle in flight (second photo).

    Mature bald eagle looking majestic. See third photo.

    Not so long ago, it would have been unusual to see bald eagles close to such an urban area but they are now becoming a common sight. They are truly once of the great success stories of our country's conservation effort.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Baltimore Shipwrecks - Curtis Creek
    Lastly on April 18, 2019, I kayaked out to the shipwrecks in Curtis Creek, Maryland. I call these the Stahl Point Wrecks. Unlike the Walnut Point Wrecks in Curtis Bay, these ships have undergone significant changes over the last few years.

    Here are a couple pictures of what the place looked like on July 4, 2012.
  • Janie and Mark by the S.S. Daryl
  • Mark and two hawseholes

  • This is what it looks like today from a kayak (first photo). The shipwrecks have been imploded.

    Seeing the place from water level is not very interesting anymore. Best to see things from above.

    From about a few hundred feet up, one can look east towards the swing bridge and the Coast Guard yard (second photo).

    Looking north, the highway 695 Baltimore beltway can be seen (third photo). On the other side of the beltway on the right is where the Walnut Point Wrecks lie.

    Here is what the shipwrecks look like from a drone. From water level, one might just think they are piles of rubble but from higher up, they display distinctive ship outlines (fourth photo). Can you find my kayak in this view?

    Here's another drone view looking east with a swing bridge in the background (fifth photo). Someone from the Baltimore Memories of Days Past Facebook page wrote the following:
    According to a Chesapeake Bay Magazine, three of the ship names are Conemaugh, Emma Giles and Portland. Don't know who is who but the Emma Giles is an old bay steam boat.

    One last drone shot (sixth photo).

    Here's a Google satellite photo.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Lower Middle Patuxent
    On April 13, 2019, Norma, Daphne, and I kayaked on the Middle Patuxent River from Old Columbia Road to Savage Park. The water was high due to rain during the previous night.

    This was Daphne's first kayak trip of the year (first photo, first column).

    Somewhere between Old Columbia Road and Murray Hill Road (closer to the former), we saw what was likely the remains of a bridge foundation (second photo, first column). It is around 39.163833, -76.877444.

    I posted this picture to the Friends of the Guilford Industrial Historic District Facebook group and received the following feedback:
    It is closer to Atholton and possibly the Judge I. Thomas Jones property where quarrying was also done around 1900.
    Definitely granite - you can see the drill marks.
    You can walk down Kindler Road, and then continue down the remnants of the old road that used to connect to Columbia on the other side. I've colloquially heard it was washed out by a past hurricane.
    They want to put a bridge in there. However, about 2-3 times an average year (The last 12 months have seen more) the river crests and floods over that section of the old road. I think that they are unwilling to put in a bridge where the risk of it getting removed by another flood event is as high as it is.
    The bridge remnants are easy to see and you can walk the (not well maintained) trail following the river either left towards Old Columbia Rd or right towards the sharp curve of Gorman prior to Murray Hill.


    The scenery was beautiful. Even though we were never far from civilization, we often felt like we were away from it all. See third and fourth photos, first column.

    We saw two snapping turtles. This one had a carapace about 14 inches long. See fifth photo, first column.

    Pulled ashore (sixth photo, first column), we saw small pieces of muscovite and possibly chromite.

    There were two major log jams that required portage (seventh photo, first column). Here I am checking things out to decide how to get us past this. It is because of this and strainers (we capsized once) that I don't recommend this route for beginners.

    Erosion has exposed lots of tree roots (first photo, second column).

    We saw a kingfisher (second photo, second column).

    In the latter part of our trip, Norma sat in the front seat of our tandem (third photo, second column).

    In Wincopin Park, I spotted a 4-5 foot long black snake. I like the way it grips onto the bark of the tree so it can rest vertically. See fourth and fifth photos, second column.

    Me at the takeout, near the ruins of the Savage Mill dam. See sixth photo, second column.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Heron Rookeries on Morgan Creek
    On April 7, 2019, Sara and I launched from Rileys Mill near Chestertown and paddled the upper section of Morgan Creek. We were the only ones on the water. It was a very peaceful day with great opportunity to see a plethora of wildlife.

    Our goal was to visit a great blue heron rookery. But we saw so much more to include a barred owl (Sara saw, I did not), several bald eagles, an eagle nest, and an osprey that dove into the water just 30 meters in front of us and then flew away carrying a fish in its talons.

    Here are my pictures:
  • First photo: This muskrat swam past my SUP and then hid under some brush.
  • Second photo: I reckon there are about three dozen nests in this rookery on the east side of the creek, about a mile upstream from Rileys Mill.
  • Third photo: Some nests were in a pine tree while most were in deciduous trees. It is important to get out in early spring to see the nests before they are hidden by leaves in the deciduous trees.
  • Fourth photo: The best place to photograph these fine birds is from the middle or west side of the creek.
  • Fifth photo: Landing around high tide (which I recommend) at 39.267269, -76.028216, we ventured onto land to observe the great blue herons from below. If you remain quiet and still, they will ignore you. It is for this reason that we left our dogs at home. Notice the bird in flight in the lower right corner. Here's a satellite view of the rookery.
  • Sixth photo: Red-winged blackbird making a boisterous call.
    Glossy-black males have scarlet-and-yellow shoulder patches they can puff up or hide depending on how confident they feel.
    - from All About Birds - Red-winged Blackbird
  • Seventh photo: One of several bald eagles we saw that day.
  • Eighth photo: Eastern painted turtle.
  • Ninth photo: Sara paddling her Necky Chatham 15 sea kayak with her carbon fiber Epic wing paddle.

  • Sara and I saw a very thick northern water snake (tenth photo), about three feet long. I saw it swim and then go underwater. I tried to back up my SUP to get a photo. Then my fin (skeg) caught a submerged log. I fell backwards onto the SUP with enough force to lift the nose of my board into the air. I was soaked but I did NOT fall off. What I was most proud of is that the whole time, I held the strap of my camera in my teeth. Even though I lost my balance and fell flat on my back with water splashing around, I never dropped my camera and it remained totally dry. Not so for me. It is because of things like this that I carry extra warm paddling clothes.

    My SUP fall reminded me of when I pulled a dead branch from my mother-in-law's tree. I pulled really hard and I wasn't ready when it fell. I fell backwards, landed on my butt, and then did two backward rolls downhill before I finally came to a stop. I was embarrassed and a little sore but it was well worth it to see my mother-in-law get a good laugh out of the whole thing.

    After paddling, we stopped in Chestertown for superfast lunch service at Play It Again Sam in Chestertown. They have outdoor seating in both the front and the back. Seating in the back is accessible from both the restaurant and a back parking lot.

    We encountered light traffic both on the way there and on the way back. It was a great day though not as sunny as the day prior. But I think we were out during the brightest part of the day. Later that afternoon, it got more cloudy.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Heron Rookeries on the Sassafras River
    On March 30, 2019, I drove out to the eastern shore of Maryland to do some kayaking. On the way there, I stopped in my favorite small town, Chestertown...no, not Savage. I went to their Farmers' and Artisans' Market where I bought oatmeal raisin cookies for me and "Doggie Crack" for Daphne, Rufus, Cassi, and Bailey.

    The town was really hopping. Lots of people and dogs were at the market. At Wilmer Park, it looked like there was a big rowing race taking place. But things were quiet at the Town Dock so I pulled out my drone and took some pictures of the town. The sun was not as bright and the humidity was not as low as I would have liked so the photos are not as crisp as they could be.
  • First photo, first column: Looking northwest on High Street. The white steeple in the upper part of this shot is the First United Methodist Church. In front of that is Fountain Park, where the farmers' and artisans' market is located. The big house in the lower right corner is Widehall.
    [Widehall] is a large, 2 1/2-story, mid-Georgian, brick dwelling house built in 1769 by Thomas Smyth. It later was the home of Robert Wright, Governor of Maryland between 1806 and 1809; and of Ezekiel F. Chambers, State and United States Senator and Judge of the Court of Appeals.
    - from Wikipedia - Widehall
  • Second photo, first column: Now Widehall is in the lower left. One of the many things I love about Chestertown are the well preserved historic buildings.
    In Maryland, only Annapolis has more Colonial-era buildings, but Chestertown also has the alchemy of an untrammeled riverscape and a welcoming, small-town vibe.
    - from Soundings - Time Travel
  • Third photo, first column: Looking southwest. The long gray building on the left is Chestertown Station, a historic railway station built in 1902-03 for the Pennsylvania Railroad. In the lower right is the Custom House.
    Built in 1746, the Custom House was the residence of Thomas Ringgold, a leader of the local Sons of Liberty who was also - in cruel contrast - one of the most active slave traders in the entire Chesapeake region. The building, overlooking the tidal waters of the Chester River, also served as a warehouse and store, and British redcoats were quartered here during the French and Indian War.
    - from Washington College - Home to the Starr Center, the historic Custom House embodies the complexity of American history

  • I drove north to the Sassafras River and launched my boat at Foxhole Landing. I saw two great blue heron rookeries, a bald eagle, several turtles, and a few other critters. Spring is definitely here!

    I paddled to Hen Island. I reckon it has about 30 great blue heron nests. There are also a lot of geese...but no hens. See fourth and fifth photos, first column.

    I found that if you approach the island slowly and remain quiet, the herons will go about their business as if you aren't there. See sixth and seventh photos, first column.

    Looking at the eighth photo, first column, I can't distinguish between a male and a female great blue heron. Can you?

    It looked like some were building their nests and some were sitting on eggs but I really have no idea if there were eggs. I suppose I could fly my drone above them to see but that would be unethical, in my opinion. See ninth photo, first column and first photo, second column.

    After spending maybe an hour near Hen Island (I never went ashore), I explored the area east of Hen Island to 39.381688, -75.822698. There were many great blues out. See second, third, and fourth photos, second column. I really like the clarity in the second photo, second column. But this picture shows that this bird needs to wipe his beak. When birds do this, it is called "feaking." My chickens do that because they have good table manners.

    I pulled ashore at Jacobs Creek and took a selfie, fifth photo, second column. If you're wondering where my personal flotation device (PFD) is, I'm using it to prop up my camera.

    I found a second rookery (sixth photo, second column) at 39.377194, -75.832167. I was out near low tide which kept me from getting any closer. Better to look for rookeries at high tide.

    It wasn't a particularly sunny day and as the day wore on, the clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. Still, it would be much nicer than tomorrow.

    There were several turtles out. I saw a few eastern painted ones. See seventh photo.

    I also spotted a couple dozen greater yellowlegs sandpipers (eighth and ninth photos, second column).

    About 10 turkey vultures circled the area. This one perched long enough for me to get a shot (tenth photo, second column).

    It was a long but peaceful drive home. Driving on the eastern shore is soooooo much nicer than driving in the northern Virginia and Washington D.C. area.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Fort McHenry
    Maryland Day [March 25] commemorates the formal founding of the colony of Maryland, when the newly-arrived colonists erected a cross on St. Clement's Island, offered prayers (perhaps by saying Mass), and took "possession of this Countrey for our Saviour and for our soveraigne Lord the King of England." According to one of the three versions of Father Andrew White's account of the voyage of the Ark and the Dove, this event took place on 25 March 1633/34 at the colonists' first landfall in Maryland. Marylanders began observing Maryland Day in 1903, when the State Board of Education designated it as a day to be devoted to the study of Maryland history. In 1916, the General Assembly authorized the celebration of Maryland Day as a legal state holiday.
    - from Maryland Day Celebration in Annapolis and Anne Arundel County

    I celebrated Maryland Day Eve (March 24) by kayaking to and flying my drone near one of Maryland's most distinctive landmarks, Fort McHenry. I did not launch my drone on Fort McHenry property due to drone flight restrictions at national parks.

    Fort McHenry is primarily known for the Battle of Baltimore during the War of 1812, when American troops stopped a British invasion. The battle inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what would become the national anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner."
    - from Baltmore.org - Fort McHenry

    Here are my drone photos:
  • First photo: I like the way the fort is captured overhead with the industrial section of Baltimore at the skyline.
  • Second photo: Looking northwest towards Tide Point. In the upper left, one can see buildings that line the Inner Harbor. Further out from the lower right is where Fort McHenry lies.
  • Third photo: Here's a low altitude view of Fort McHenry, looking east toward Lazaretto Point.
  • Fourth photo: Fort McHenry was constructed between 1799 and 1802. It was in the shape of a five-pointed star, which was a popular design during the period. Each point of the star was visible from the point on either side and every area of land surrounding the fort could be covered with as few as five men.
    - from National Park Service - Fort McHenry - The Star Fort
  • Fifth photo: A former co-worker suggested I have a "Where's Saki" drone photo so here it is. On the upper right, you can see the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Fort McHenry would be off to the lower right if this photo were extended. Both me and my kayak are in this photo but not together. Can you find me?
  • Sixth photo: Here's the answer to the previous photo. I landed at a small beach but couldn't see Fort McHenry from there. So I walked down a path which was lined by small trees which also kept me from seeing the fort. It wasn't until I was on the foot bridge that I could see above the trees. So that's where I stood to direct my drone.

  • Maps of the fort can be found at John's Military History - Fort McHenry.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Swing Bridge
    On the same day I shot drone photos of Fort McHenry, I also paddled out to 39.265038, -76.623911 to get drone photos of the swing bridge on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River.

    When trains pass over water, something must often be put in place to allow ships to pass. In this area, I don't recall ever seeing a drawbridge to support trains. Instead, swing bridges seem to be the norm. I think that from an engineering point of view, it is stronger because it is supported both at the ends and the middle.

    I was later told the following by Greg W.
    Swing bridges are seen more often for train crossings due to a number of factors in our area. The swing bridges can give clearance for bigger ships, which can pass in two directions simultaneously (draw bridges usually have ships on one side going then the other). Also, trains do not handle steep grades well, and most draw bridges are designed to let a certain amount of river traffic pass under them without needing to open, meaning the train has to go uphill to get over the bridge. Another reason is that if the track is used less frequently than the waterway, a swing bridge can be kept in the open position more safely than a drawbridge. Generally, drawbridges are stronger because they can use a girder construction rather than a truss construction.

    Here are my drone photos:
  • First photo: Low altitude view of the swing bridge looking west. I don't know if it is still in use. I'm guessing not. The elevated road on the left is highway 295.
  • Second photo: Higher altitude view of the swing bridge. This area is very polluted. Do you see that small white island on the right? I was going to land there to fly my drone until I discovered that it is just a collection of floating plastic bottles and other trash.
  • Third photo: This view is starting to look a little more like the satellite view.
  • Fourth photo: Looking north. In the back is the Baltimore Inner Harbor. Just left of center is the M&T Bank Stadium, where the mediocre Baltimore Ravens play. The elevated road is highway 95. The one that leads into Baltimore is highway 395.
  • Fifth photo: Looking east. On the right is the Under Armour building. If you were to zoom in a lot, you'd see Fort McHenry in the distance. On the left is the Inner Harbor.
  • Sixth photo: Here's a zoom of the previous photo to show where I parked my boat. I'm just to the left of it.
  • Click thumbnails to enlarge.



    Mallows Bay
    On March 20, 2019, I celebrated the Spring Equinox by going kayaking at Mallows Bay. This area is known for its shipwrecks which lie in the Potomac River near Nanjemoy, Maryland.

    [There are] hundreds of ships whose remains still rest in the relatively shallow waters of Mallows Bay, on the Maryland shore of the river about 30 miles south of Washington, DC.

    Most are historic wooden steamships created for service in World War I, but many others lie among them - including schooners, workboats, barges, and what may be a longboat from the Revolutionary War.

    It has been called the largest collection of wrecks in the Western Hemisphere. More than 100 of the vessels are wooden steamships, part of a fleet built to cross the Atlantic during World War I.

    It was a pivotal point in U.S. maritime history. Until then, the United States was not focused on shipbuilding, but the war created an urgent need.

    "The idea was to build 1,000 ships in 18 months and we put one million men to work," Shomette said. "We had to create schools, build shipyards, expand the timber industry and prepare the railroad."

    The result was the start of the U.S. Merchant Marine and the rise of the United States as an important shipbuilding nation. But this early effort was a huge undertaking, and the war was over before most of the ships were built. There wasn't much use for them, because coal-burning ships with wooden hulls were quickly becoming obsolete.

    Most of the ships wallowed in the James River until the government sold them to the Western Marine and Salvage Company, which planned to strip the ships of their metal components. The company moved the ships to the Potomac River at Widewater, VA. In 1925, they were dragged across the river to Mallows Bay.

    - from Bay Journal - Ghost fleet may go from wrecks to recreation

    My first stop was at the Accomac. See first, second, and third photos.
    The [Accomac is the] only steel-hulled vessel in the Mallows Bay-Widewater area. She serviced the ferry route between Cape Charles and Norfolk, Virginia until she suffered a fire and was permanently taken out of commission. About 1973, the ship was hauled to the southern perimeter of Mallows Bay and abandoned.
    - from Chesapeake Conservancy - Map of Mallows Bay

    Many of the wrecks are filled with mud. Some have trees growing out of them. Maybe the one in the fourth photo will in a few more years.

    In the fifth photo, an osprey stands perched amongst the shipwrecks.

    Perhaps the most photographed ship in Mallows Bay is the Benzonia because it sticks so far above the waterline. See sixth and seventh photo.
    [The Benzonia was] launched into the Columbia River in Washington in 1919 and named after a town in Michigan. For a short period Benzonia was engaged in the war effort, but was sold to Western Marine and Salvage Company in 1922. In 2003, she was moved by Hurricane Isabel and in 2013, a mysterious fire took hold in her stern section.
    - from Chesapeake Conservancy - Map of Mallows Bay

    I landed at a northern section of Mallows Bay called Grady's Spit. What's in that big box on top of my boat in the eighth photo? A drone.

    I first kayaked at Mallows Bay on September 23, 2007. Back then, there was no park or launch site. I took a photo of the shipwrecks that later appeared on the Spring 2010 cover of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources magazine when they announced that they would be building a boat ramp.

    Paddling at Mallows Bay is not new for me. But seeing it from above via drone is. Why today?
    Wednesday will mark the third - and final - supermoon of 2019 when the moon is a few thousand miles closer to Earth than usual.
    When the moon is significantly closer to the Earth than average, it's called a supermoon. Wednesday evening, our moon will "only" be 224,173 miles from Earth, which is about 14,000 miles closer than average.

    - from USA Today - Supermoon, first day of spring are an astronomical doubleheader coming Wednesday

    Flying at low tide during the supermoon means the tide will be exceptionally low. This means I'll be able to more easily see the tops of the shipwrecks which sometimes reside below the surface. Actually, March 21 will yield a lower tide but rain is expected. High winds are expected for March 22. But March 20 is almost as good so I went with that.

    Looking down from above in the ninth photo, I noticed that the shape of the boats remains amazingly consistent. "Cookie cutter" is an appropriate term to describe their similarity.

    In the tenth photo on the lower right is Grady's Spit. The blue sliver on it is my kayak. The two dots below it are me and my drone carrying case. I am the gray dot.

    In the eleventh photo, Grady's Spit is the sandy peninsula at the top.

    Getting views like this is the reason I bought a drone. See twelfth photo.

    Notice the trees in the thirteenth photo growing out of some of the shipwrecks.

    I believe the boats at the top in the fourteenth photo are the Three Sisters Wrecks.
    The Three Sisters is a group of three wrecks: Dertona, the "Heron Wreck", and the Moosabee. Dertona was briefly in the coasting trade. The "Heron Wreck" is named for the frequent sightings of Great Blue Herons on and about the site. The Moosabee carried timber logs to Europe from 1919 until 1922.
    - from Chesapeake Conservancy - Map of Mallows Bay

    Here's a lower altitude photo of the previous view (fifteenth photo). And this is an even lower altitude photo of the same (sixteenth photo).

    It is a rare opportunity to get drone photos at Mallows Bay during such an exceptionally low tide (-0.16 feet). Having good visibility and low wind (for flying) makes it even more special. See seventeenth photo.

    This (eighteenth photo) is a satellite view from Google Maps. I can't fly my drone high enough (at least not legally) to get such a view.

    If anyone wants to learn about these ships in depth, read Ghost Fleet of Mallows Bay and Other Tales of the Lost Chesapeake by Donald G Shomette.
    Click thumbnails to enlarge.