Annapolis Sailing & Party Capital

Annapolis is known as the sailing capital of the US or at least one of the best places for sailors anyway. And we all know sailors like to party. We were invited to a party at the Annapolis Yacht Club so we rented a limousine for the occasion.

What a limousine. Have you rented one recently? Wow have they changed. Sure they still have the very staid Lincoln town cars but some are just incredible. Some of the party buses are even more amazing. We had a Hummer that had flat screen TVs, amazing color coordinated interior with a wild LED lighting scheme. Then of course there was the bar area. We must admit we did get the party started a bit before we got to the party. Heck, we could have just stayed and partied in the limo.

Then the party was amazing. There was a great band playing a mix of music. The location is just incredible. Even if you are inside, there are large windows so you can see the water and all the boats on moorings or moving around the harbor. There are balconies wrapping around the building. It was a lovely evening and it was fun to just go out there and look around. It was also a bit quieter and easier to talk.

The appetizers that were passed around were amazing. There were some potstickers, appetizers with smoked salmon, roasted figs with blue cheese, scallops wrapped in bacon and more. Plus there was someone shucking oysters for anyone who wanted raw oysters.

Then there were the drinks. Of course, all the usual drinks were available. But they also had jello shots. Best of all though was the ice luge. Not like in the Olympics, but for the tequila. There was a big ice sculpture and they would pour the tequila down a path in the ice and you would hold your glass at the end and get chilled tequila. But, before you did that, there was a salt lick, like they use for cows. It was a large block of salt that was somewhat hollowed out and moistened. You would turn your glass upside down and coat the rim with the salt. Then you got your shot of tequila. Not surprisingly, a few people were a bit too enamored with this and had a few too many.

The only thing I have heard of that tops this was a birthday party for a friend who is a urologist. Much to his embarrassment, his wife ordered an ice sculpture. Except this was an ice sculpture that looked like a penis and had a hole drilled down the middle. They were doing lemon vodka shots so when you poured the vodka down the hole and it came out, it looked like it was peeing.

In any case, it was a phenomenal party and we all probably drank and ate too much and were very glad we had decided to take a limo. Didn’t have to worry about driving and everyone got home with no problems. Sailors definitely know how to party.

Oh, and besides being a sailing and party capital, Annapolis is the capital of Maryland. From what we understand, politicians like to party too. And you may not know that Annapolis was the capital of the United States for a short while.

Floating Wetlands

Baltimore Harbor’s Floating Wetlands

If you have sailed or powered into Baltimore Harbor or been walking along the waterfront, you might have noticed small islands floating along the shore line. Some are in front of the World Trade Center and others next to the National Aquarium. More have been proposed and are awaiting approval.

The waterfront looks very different than it did two hundred years ago. Now it is all pilings and concrete and a very artificial man-made environment. Back then, there would have been tidal wetlands lining most of what is now the inner harbor, as well as the outer harbor which is now docks for freighters and other large ships. In fact now, it is almost impossible to tell that it is part of an ecosystem and part of a river. It looks more like a dirty Disneyland.

To try and replace some of the ecosystem effects of a tidal wetland, these floating platforms have been built. They are built with buoyant materials so the weight of the growing plants won’t sink them. They are planted with different wetland grasses including saltmeadow hay, saltmarsh cordgrass and marsh hibiscus.

A number of different companies make these floating islands. The one by the aquarium is made by Biohaven Floating Islands and is 200 square feet which sounds large but is only 10 x 20 feet. Others were designed by Biohabitats and students at the Living Classroom Foundation helped to build them.

Benefits

Despite their relatively small size considering the large quantity of tidal wetlands that have been lost due to development, they provide habitat enhancement and some improvements to water quality. A number of animals have been seen in, on and around the islands including otters, eels, blue and night herons as well as ducks. Insects and birds  perch on and hide in and generally use the plants for habitat.

Not only do grasses grow on the top but barnacles, mussels, and a variety of other plants and animals grow on the underwater portion. Also, the roots of the plants that stick down into the water and the island itself provide by shelter and shade for fish, crabs and other creatures. The general scientific term is nekton which is any marine organism which can move and includes everything from the microscopic to whales. (Obviously the islands are not going to attract whales.)

The barnacles and mussels are filter feeders and help clean the waters. The roots of the plants also absorb nutrients and remove them from the water. This includes heavy metals although due to the  size of the islands and the fact that is an open system it doesn’t have as much impact as if it was a closed system.

There are plans to add more of these islands but the best way to clean up the river is to control runoff at its source. Most of the trash and pollution in the river come from runoff. Despite the islands small ecological impact, they are very important as an educational tool. They are in very public places and help people realize that what they do on land has an impact on the water.