Posts Tagged: Maryland

Log Canoe Races on the Chesapeake Bay


Originally built by the native Powhatan tribes along the Chesapeake Bay, these boats were adopted by early English settlers, who discovered that the sturdy craft could handle the rough waters of the Bay and carry a heavy load. For more than three centuries, thelog canoe was essential to life on the Chesapeake Bay, the United States’ largest estuary, for travel, harvest and trade. The suitability of this open, shallow vessel for navigating and fishing along the Chesapeake waterways led to its adoption and assimilation by European colonists using imported tools and technology.

Beginning in the 1840s, log canoe racing was a spinoff from workboats racing one another between oyster bed and market to get the best price for their goods. A massive sailing rig was added to a Tilghmans Island canoe hull, thinned to reduce weight, transforming the workboat into a racing vessel. The outrageous amounts of canvas to increase speed resulted in a problem: in a strong wind the boat can tip. This necessitated windward ballast upon which a canoe’s crew could sit on and use their body weight to counterbalance the craft.

The early 20th century saw the construction of purpose-built racing boats as well as organized racing competitions in the northern Chesapeake Bay.  These races became a annual organized competitions that were and continue today to be held in the Chesapeake Bay, where the crews pit themselves against each other and the wind in order to reach the finish line.

While there may not be many of these boats still racing today, those that do race they have a fearless breed of sailor for crew. In order to balance out the wind in the enormous sails these crews climb out on windward ballasts over the water with nothing keeping them there but their strength and determination. Though at times even that is not enough and the sails and the sailors meet the water instead of the finish line. If you ask them about their boats they will say there is no other like them and they are worth the challenge.


Garrett Island on the Susquehanna River

Garrett Island, which covers 198 acres, was originally inhabited and settled by the Susquehannocks – the   “tall, majestic” Native Americans to the north. John Smith may have visited the island in 1608 but there is no definitive documentation proving this. In 1622, the island was given to Edward Palmer as part of a land grant by King James I, and the earliest documented European presence dates to 1637 when William Claiborne established a trading post on the island. In the same year, Maryland troops evicted Claiborne’s Virginia traders from the Upper Chesapeake region and built Fort Conquest on what was then called “Palmer’s Island.”During the later colonial period, the island was farmed by a family named “Watson” and it eventually came to be called “Watson Island.” Watson Island was purchased by the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad (B&O) in the 1880s so a bridge could be built across the Susquehanna River at that point. The island was named after John W. Garrett, then president of the railroad.

Not much has happened on Garrett Island since.  Over the years there have been a number of schemes to develop the island in various ways: condos, amusement parks, etc. A lot of public pressure evolved to insure that Garrett Island would never actually be developed.

This protection came just a few years ago when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service purchased the island and designated it a wildlife refuge.  It is now part of the Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex. The Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex is located on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia.  It is the most complete network of protected lands in our Nation’s largest estuary. It shows the importance of the natural world to the quality of human life; the value of, and need for, fish and wildlife management; and the human role in preserving and enhancing wildlife habitat.  The Chesapeake Marshlands National Wildlife Refuge Complex includes the Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge (NWR), Eastern Neck NWR, Martin NWR and Susquehanna NWR. Other parts of the Complex are the Barren Island, Watts Island, Garrett Island, Bishops Head, and Spring Island Divisions.

United States Naval Academy

The United States Naval Academy on the Severn River, Annapolis, MD. This image is an aerial view from an altitude of 1300’ of the main campus of the USNA. Also visible are both Spa Creek and College Creek , the Severn River and downtown Annapolis, all surrounding the academy. A few other points of interest are: Rip Miller Field (upper right corner), the Annapolis Yacht Basin, Severn Sailing Association, the (undamaged) Annapolis Yacht Cub (bottom of the image), Halsey Field House and Bancroft Hall (center of the image).

Here is a link to a good map and a great cross reference for this image showing the USNA.

When the founders of the United States Naval Academy were looking for a suitable location, it was reported that then Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft decided to move the naval school to “the healthy and secluded” location of Annapolis in order to rescue midshipmen from “the temptations and distractions that necessarily connect with a large and populous city.” The Philadelphia Naval Asylum School was its predecessor. Four of the original seven faculty members came from Philadelphia. Other small naval schools in New York City, Norfolk, Va., and Boston, Mass. also existed in the early days of the United States. Since that time the naval academy has had a rich history.

This image was captured back in July of 2009. It is just one example of the many aerial images of the Chesapeake Bay area taken over many years by Aloft Aerial Photography.