Changing Chesapeake

Trip Start Feb 15, 2010
Trip End Feb 14, 2011

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Where I stayed
Easton, MD Wal-Mart

Flag of United States  , Maryland
Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I spent today exploring the grounds and buildings of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, MD. 

The grounds have multiple buildings, and my first stop was to the boat yard where craftsmen still actively build and repair wooden boats.  They also hold weekend apprentice courses that people can sign up for to assist with a portion of building a new boat.  The man working in the building said they often have the same people return every weekend so that they can experience the entire process.

My next stop was the Hooper Strait Lighthouse.  A 1987 screw-pile lighthouse that was one of many that used to mark the coasts and sandbars around the bay area.  The lighthouse was relocated to the museum grounds to save it from being torn down or destroyed by weather like the others.  Only a very small number of these lighthouses remain, and of those, only one is in its original position.  The museum made the lighthouse a very interesting exhibit by keeping the lighthouse open and filling it with all of the things a lighthouse keeper and his assistant (if he had one) would have had when they lived out on the water.  There were also signs on the walls telling the stories of different lighthouse keepers.  Stories like, how one lighthouse keeper was stranded in the lighthouse when the bay froze over one year.  Having no food left and no other options, he took some of the wood from the sides of the lighthouse and made himself a sort of rescue device.  If he fell through the ice, the long wooden planks would hopefully not break through and allow him to pull himself back out of the icy water.  Another keeper recorded a memory of when boats carrying different produce used to go past the light house would toss quantities of their product overboard for the lighthouse keeper to retrieve.  Many other stories lined the walls of keepers who rescued fishermen from storms or fishermen who did the same for them.  It seemed most of the lighthouse keeper's time would have been spent on constant maintenance to the building.  Cleaning and checking the light, cleaning the house, and forever repainting because of the toll the winds and sea air took on the building.

Around the grounds the museum had various other smaller historic buildings, recreations of buildings that reflected the fisherman's lifestyle, and pieces of different boats.  They also had four gallery museum buildings that I visited next.  One gallery housed a display on the changing themes of Chesapeake Bay.  It covered the past hundred years or so as the major market in the area changed from fishing to tourism.  Another building housed the deck of a skip-jack boat.  Skip-jacks are relatively unique to the Chesapeake Bay area.  They are essentially a sailboat, but are designed to assist in the dredging of oyster beds.  I read at one point that this area has the only commercial fishing fleet in the America that still uses boats under sail power.  The next building housed a temporary exhibition of aerial photographs taken of the same areas of the Chesapeake Bay during drastically different time periods.  They showed how buildings and nature have changed, and in some cases, been preserved and also how the rising water levels have made some smaller islands disappear entirely.  Many of the shores in the area are very shallow, meaning if the water rises just a few inches it can move a long way inland.  Many people make predictions that a large number of present-day communities will be under water in the next century.  The last building was the smallest of the four, and it looked at the cultural history of the area.  It was a somewhat cursory glance at the history of the area from Native American times until today.  It also had a display with models of the various types of boats and ships that have been used in the area through the years.

After leaving the museum's grounds, I stopped at a restaurant that is almost right outside the museum entrance.  This would normally make me think it's nothing more than a tourist trap, but the parking lot was a lot more full than the museum had been.  Upon entry it was obvious the joint was full of locals, so I went ahead and got a seat.  The restaurant was called the Crab Claw, and I had made a point to myself that I would eat my first hard shell crab before leaving Maryland.  I ended up having oysters casino (topped with onion, pepper, spices, and cheese and baked) for an appetizer, and I ordered three Maryland Blue Crabs at $3 apiece.  I have no idea whether that's a good price for a crab or not, but they brought me four instead of three and said not to worry about it, so I technically got them for about $2.25 each.  After finishing my meal, I'd have to say I'm going to stick with my previous impressions about crab.  If the stuff tasted better I might agree with the other enthusiasts, but to me the meat isn't good enough nor is it plentiful enough to warrant the barbaric and involved process of literally dissecting your dinner.  I don't know if it was ripping off the legs, peeling open the shell, tearing off the lungs, attempting to clear out the bile (you never get it all), scraping the meat out from its bony chambers, or hammering a knife into the legs and claws to split them open, but I was glad to be done.  I did it for the experience, and it was an interesting one, but I think I'll stick to crab cakes from now on.

After learning all about the mysterious anatomy of the callinectes sapidus (blue crab), I headed northeast to Dover, Delaware.
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mom on

I absolutely loved your description of 'how to eat a crab'. I've never done it myself, but now I don't have to because you described it well enough for me. ; /

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