Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Skipjack Learning



"Thought into action," my old traveling buddy (and fellow geographer) Mike used to say, whenever we actually followed through on some talked-about adventure, whether it be spelunking in Virginia or our 8,500-mile jaunt to Ensenada in his old VW.

That phrase came to mind as I prepared for a small adventure on Great Shellfish Bay, better known as the Chesapeake. It was near the Chesapeake that I first became a geographer -- as a student at UMBC -- and it is also where I was fortunate to experience learning geography in the field for the first time. Dr. Parker's courses on the Amazon are what drew me into geography, but he was not able to take us there (I of course went later on my own a few times, taking a student with me once).

But his colleague Dr. Miller was able to take classes to one of his study areas -- the nearby Chesapeake Bay. I took a whole course on the bay, reading Beautiful Swimmers and hearing from local experts who came to our class. A real highlight was going out on the bay itself, on a research craft operating from another University of Maryland campus. Little did I realize back then how important experiential learning would become in my own work as a geography educator.

A couple of years ago, I found out that only a few skipjacks -- which I had learned about in the course -- were still sailing, and that it was sometime possible to go aboard, in or out of oystering season. I have grown increasingly interested, as I continue to learn about the maritime history and coastal geography of my adoptive home from the seats of replica whaleboats. "Some day," I thought, "I'll do that." As I prepared for our latest visit to family in the area, I decided that this would be that "some day," and I put thought into action. As a bonus, I was able to bring my brother along, as we had the same day free.

We went to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michael's, from which we departed on a two-hour cruise aboard the H.M. Krentz. (Museum admission is included with the price of a sailing tour, but not vice-versa, of course.) The H.M.Krentz is one of a very small number of craft that continues to harvest oysters under sail, and its captain is a font of knowledge about the maritime history, ecology, and economy of the Bay. This is a very nice way to support regional ecotourism, learn about local fisheries, and get a bit of fresh air at the same time.

The H.M. Krentz is berthed aside a classic Chesapeake Bay lighthouse, many of which once dotted the shallow waters of the Bay. They were specially designed to be stable in soft sediments. This was the last of a couple dozen photos I took on board, all of which are in my Skipjack 2016 folder on Flickr.
I can also recommend grabbing a coffee at the nearby Blue Crab Coffee Company on Fremont Street.

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