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Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Day 7: On the Chesapeake Bay Foundation Boat


Day 7: Aboard Captain Jimmy's Boat

Arriving at the Kings Mill Marina, Meredith did
not miss the opportunity to show off some muscle
as we loaded up our canoes and prepared to board
the CBF boat!
Enjoying a seafood feast right now, the group agreed that this morning's paddle was a rough way to start the day. We had to "dig deep" for every stroke, but ended our seven mile paddle, travelling past Hog Island and the Surry Nuclear Power Plant, in good spirits, knowing we were about to board one of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation learning boats. As soon as we reached Kings Mill Marina and go to meet Captain Jimmy, we realized we were in for an exciting ride.
Kristin gives the fishing net a kiss
for good luck!
Aboard the CBF boat, Captain Jimmy and his first-mate Ben taught us a lot about the Chesapeake Bay, and what roles the historic and modern fishing industries have played in the evolution of its ecosystem. First, we got a chance to throw a fishing net to see what kind of variety of fish we would get. We caught several perch, croaker, spot, hog chocker, and oyster toad. Pulling up the net, everyone was excited by how many fish we caught, but Captain Jimmy told us that fishing nets in the Bay have seen better days. We learned a lot as checked out our modest catch, like the fact that croaker are now the most common fish in the Bay. Jimmy explained that although the Bay was mostly fished for oysters in the past, oyster populations are now down to one percent of their historic levels (how many are estimated to have been in the Bay when John Smith explored it). Now the biggest fishing industry in the Bay is for croaker, from which we extract oils used in many cosmetics and dietary supplements.
Pulling in our fishing net
Checking out the biodiversity of our catch

Ben teaching us about pea crabs, which
live inside oysters
When we noticed a few oysters in our net and took the time to open one up, we had an amazing chance to see some environmental adaptation at work! Captain Jimmy's partner in crime, Ben, introduced us to the pea crab, which gets trapped in an oyster shortly after it's born, and spends its entire life suffering a dark, lonely existence. They mate only if another unlucky pea crab also gets trapped in the same oyster and are delicious grilled!

"We saw ships THIS big..."
For the rest of the day the shady boat was an inevitable nap central, but we tried our best to stay awake, especially because we got to fly by some watery wonders, such as the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, one of the largest shipyards in the world. In between moments of unconsciousness, we were learning cool things the whole day, like that fact that the safest place for a ship during a hurricane is a sea.
As if our senses were not running on overload already, for dinner tonight, we are being attacked by dozens upon dozens of crabs. We are very thankful for the Rotarian Club of Three Villages in Suffolk County for letting sleep in their community building, an old schoolhouse. We apologize for the Old Bay smell.

The Last Supper

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