If you look closely, you will see a man and his dog “in the middle of the water.” The Chesapeake Bay is filled with sand bars and natural jetties. In fact, container ships require Chesapeake Bay Pilots to help them navigate the shallow waters of the Chesapeake (Chess-A-Peak) Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay is the largest estuary in the contiguous United States. Legend has it that when Jamestown was founded (on the aptly named James River, a major tributary of the Chesapeake Bay), settlers could see their anchors at the bottom, much like the Caribbean. However, agricultural run off, “gray run off” from paved Earth and excessive Oyster harvesting have made the Bay’s waters murky. The most clear the water is now, it seems, is in the winter months and that stops after just a few inches.
Even with its present conditions, the Bay is a beauty to behold. I was reminded of this last week when I chaperoned a field trip with my daughter to release oyster babies that she and her classmates (really, her teacher) nursed in the Lynnhaven River. As Oyster Reefs help to keep the bay clean, many local classrooms work with The Chesapeake Bay Foundation & The Lynnhaven River Now Project to help restore the Bay. On the trip, I learned that the population of the filter feeders is just 1% of historically known levels.
DDT has also negatively impacted the Bay. It was banned commercially in the 1980’s. At that time there were virtually no Osprey, Bald Eagles or Brown Pelicans. Now it rare to not see Osprey or Brown Pelicans on an outing in the summer months. Bald Eagles continue to be somewhat rare to spot, however, with each passing year I see more and more.
Dolphins also spend time in the brackish waters of the Bay. While on our boating trip outside of the Lynnhaven Inlet, we spotted a large pod of them. You’ll just need to trust me on that one! They were too far away for the camera to capture… Though, look! Here is a sting ray that was caught in the drag net we used to capture fish. Croaker, Spot and a Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab (the tastiest crabs in the world, IMHO) were also netted. All captured creatures were returned to their home in the Bay.
Later, more crabs were retrieved from the crab pots. All were Sallies and Sooks. You can see the orange sponge-like material in several of their abdomens, these are their eggs.
The students were taught how to hold the crabs without getting pinched.
The Pirate Blackbeard use to hide his ships in these waters, as the tall pines would camouflage his tall masts, allowing him to surprise merchant vessels. A sister city celebrates the Blackbeard Festival annually. Ironically, this same city was where his trial and hanging occurred. We saw this interesting vessel while in Broad Bay, reminiscent of Blackbeard’s legacy.
It was an interesting and informative trip for me and it was a beautiful day to be on the Bay. The day before was filled with squalls & the next day with heavy bands of rain from the remnants of a tropical storm.
It was nice to connect with my daughter and learn new things while enjoying the Bay and the beauty of the day. It was a good reminder to enjoy life as it comes, you never know what tomorrow will bring and yesterday is already gone. At times during the trip I was overcome with emotions of joy and gratitude. Damn, I miss boating!