Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Witness to Sinking of Lady Mary?

The Cape May County Herald is doing yeoman's work on the sinking of the Lady Mary that I have been following. A witness to what was possibly the Cap Beatrice behaving strangely around the time of the Lady Mary sinking has come forward. Again, if you're interested in knowing what led to the sinking of the Lady Mary and the loss of life of men doing nothing more than what men have done since Cape May was founded (fishing for a living), I recommend this story. I hope the investigators successfully solve this mystery.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Six Days

It's been raining I know, but - hopefully - after a month of rain we'll be seeing a few of these spectacular sunsets...

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Fireworks July 2 & 4

If you're going to be in Cape May the week leading up to the 4th, don't forget that there will be fireworks in North Cape May on July 2nd, and then fireworks in Cape May "Proper" on July 4. Since my family and I have to skedadddle on July 3, we are looking forward to going out with 'a bang' on the Delaware Bay with the July 2 fireworks! From the Cape May County Herald website:

DRBA Announces Annual Independence Day Fireworks Display

By Herald Staff

North Cape May-- On Thursday, July 2, 2009, a fireworks demonstration will once again illuminate the skies above the Delaware Bay near the Cape May ferry terminal, the 16th consecutive year the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) has sponsored the area’s fireworks show.

The fireworks, which will be discharged from a barge approximately one half mile off-shore, are scheduled to begin at approximately 9:15 p.m. Weather and wind conditions may affect the timing of the fireworks show. Special Fireworks Cruise From Lewes, DE Terminal: For this fireworks show, Cape May - Lewes Ferry officials have scheduled a special fireworks cruise aboard the M.V. Twin Capes set to depart the Lewes terminal at 7:15 p.m. Passenger check-in begins at 5:00 p.m. and boarding will commence at 6:45 p.m. Photo identification is required to board the vessel. Live music will be provided by the band, “The Honeycombs” while “Just Kiddin’ Around” will supply children’s entertainment. The vessel will return to the Lewes, DE terminal at approximately 11:00 p.m. The cost of the tickets is $26.50 for adults and $15.00 for children under 12 years of age. Ferry passengers are not permitted to bring coolers, food, or beverages on-board the vessel. Because tickets to this incredibly popular event are limited, reservations are required by calling our Reservations Office at 800-643-3779 (FERRY).

Cape May, NJ Terminal Green: The public is invited, free of charge to enjoy the fireworks on the lawn of the Cape May terminal. Come early and relax, bring your beach chairs and enjoy the incredible fireworks display over the Delaware Bay. Live music will be provided and food and beverages will be old on the south patio area and at the Rock Pile Bar and Grill. Please note that the fireworks demonstration WILL NOT be visible from the Lewes, DE terminal.

For more information on the Independence Day Fireworks Celebration, please visit our website at

Friday, June 19, 2009

NY Times Story on Jersey Shore

Getting a story published in the New York Times has gotta be pretty darn cool when you're a free-lance journalist. Jen Miller, whose blog I have featured before, had a very nice story (click the link!) published today in the Times. The story focuses on some of the newer and swankier bars down the shore, including the Brown Room at Congress Hall and Martini Beach above Cabanas (photo above). Congratulations to Jen. Here's a snippet (but make sure you read the whole thing:

And at the state’s southern tip, Cape May, pockets of cool have been carved out amid the town’s hundreds of stately Victorians. In 2002, when Curtis Bashaw rehabbed and reopened Congress Hall, a rambling and glamorous hotel that dates back to 1816, he set out to avoid relying on the “12-week crash-and-burn season” that is typical of more traditional shore entertainment spots, he said.

The Congress Hall project includes the Brown Room, a 1920s-inspired lounge, and the Boiler Room, an underground dance club with live music some nights.

Overlooking the ocean on Beach Avenue is Martini Beach, a second-story tapas restaurant and bar that opened in 2003 with what could be called a tropical luxe theme. Alicia and Victor Grasso, Cape May residents who were high school sweethearts, were sharing drinks there recently.

The Grassos grew up in Sea Isle City and moved to Cape May after living in big cities — Ms. Grasso, 32, in Manhattan and Mr. Grasso, 31, in Los Angeles. Ms. Grasso is now the marketing director of Cape May Stage, an equity theater in town, and Mr. Grasso is an artist who shows in New York, Philadelphia and Cape May.

“It’s a social bar,” said Ms. Grasso, who counts Martini Beach and the Brown Room as year-round regular spots, “and has the class that a lot of people don’t expect to find down the shore.”

Neat story. I just hope it doesn't lead to an overcrowded Cape May week after next when my family and I are there!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ocean Putt Golf - Best Golf Course in Cape May

There are many golf courses in Cape May, and a few that have bit the dust but always hold a place in our hearts (I'm looking at you, La Mer). Despite the passage of time, and opening of new mini golf courses, my first love is still my true love: Ocean Putt Golf. I can remember when it was a dollar to play during the day, 1.50 at night. I may recall when it was .50 cents during the day but that may be my memory playing tricks on me. Anyway, Ocean Putt is on the waterfront across the street from the 2nd arcade (more or less). Stockton Golf, the new courses at the Point and at the edge of West Cape May, these are all wonderful courses that my family and I try to hit once a trip. But Ocean Putt will always be #1 in our hearts...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Lady Mary divers float collision theory

The Atlantic City Press has printed an excellent summary of how it is that the Cap Beatrice, a cargo ship, may have collided with the Lady Mary before the Lady Mary sank. The link:

Lady Mary divers float collision theory

and the key paragraphs:

CAPE MAY — The key to figuring out what sank the Lady Mary scallop boat may be its damaged rudder.

That’s the view of a seven-member volunteer dive team that has been exploring the wreck 65 miles off the coast. They believe damage to the Lady Mary shows it was hit by a large container ship whose unique construction would cause such damage under the waterline.

“If there is a smoking gun in this case, it’s the rudder,” said Harold Moyers, a member of the dive team. “We saw the port side of the rudder. We have not seen the starboard side. We feel the rudder has to come up.”

The divers have been negotiating with the U.S. Coast Guard for permission to retrieve the blue rudder that appears to have red paint on it. Moyers said the Coast Guard may hire a private contractor to retrieve it.

Coast Guard investigators exploring the March 24 sinking that took the lives of six Cape May County fishermen declined comment for this story, pending the active investigation. Coast Guard investigators did look at the Cap Beatrice, a Liberian-flagged container ship that was close to the Lady Mary at the time of the sinking, but not until two months later. They said they found no evidence of a collision.

The divers point to red marks on the damaged rudder that they say matches the protruding bow, called a “bulbous bow,” on the 728-foot Cap Beatrice.


Monday, June 15, 2009

The Lady Mary -- a mysterious loss

If you are a lover of Cape May as a tourist but don't keep up with local news during the off-season, you may not be familiar with the sinking of the Lady Mary earlier this year. The Lady Mary is a fishing boat which sank back in March, and led to the deaths of several crew members.

I had read a few weeks ago that some theorized another ship had hit the Lady Mary before the Lady Mary sunk, however, I thought that theory had been discounted. Based on this article published today in the Cape May County Herald, it appears that one person believes it possible that this is what happened. The article is a bit hard to follow but still worth a read. I hope they determine with certainty what caused this tragic loss.

The photo above is a photo of the Lady Mary at its undersea resting place, published by the Cape May County Herald.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

A Cape May Naturalist

Yesterday I described a blog maintained by a Bloomfield NJ science teacher in which he often writes of Cape May. Today I found his Cape May Naturalist Blog. It is actually this blog, not the one described yesterday, that I first found last year. Here is his first post, and here is the post of his that first caught my eye. My son and I have spent many hours fishing off the Cape May Point jetties he describes in that post, and I suppose I've seen a few of these "wharf roaches" the good science teacher describes (that's my son at sunrise last summer). I am going to pay more attention, however, the next time I am there. He began his Cape May Naturalist blog last year; I recommend going back and catching up on all his posts, there's not too many but they definitely make you think about how you are living your life, and to what you should be paying attention.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Another blog recommendation

My parents lived in Bloomfield NJ when I was born. This blogger is a science teacher in Bloomfield who uses Cape May to teach both science and life lessons. Here's an example and another example of the thoughtful way this teacher uses science to open up a way to look at life to his students. Who knew horseshoe crabs couldn't hurt? Your children are very blessed to have you for a teacher, Professor.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Breakfast Recommendations

Chowhounds is a great website for insider tips on places to eat. Currently people are discussing best Cape May spots for breakfast, and also great Cape May places for dinner. The author of this website likes all the places mentioned but would vote for McGlade's for first place (photos above) when it comes to breakfast. McGlade's is just about Heaven on Earth, when you combine its excellent tasty yet somewhat healthy fare with the breezes of the Atlantic at about 11 am any given day of the summer.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Walk this Way

Even if the weather is lousy I'd still rather be walking down this path to the Point than anywhere else...

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Inn of Cape May, going strong after 100 years!

The Inn of Cape May, after 100 years, remains a landmark hotel that all Cape May visitors should visit for an overnight stay at least once in their lives. Please click this link to read a little history and also find the phone number to make a reservation. And no, this is not a paid commercial endorsement!

Formerly known as "The Colonial," I have stayed their many times and it's probably my favorite hotel in the world. :0) Please do not hesitate to post a question about the Inn and I'll be glad to try and answer it. Although I haven't stayed there in a few years, I'm still pretty familiar with it.

Lastly, above you see my beautiful four children at the foot of the grand staircase in the heart of the hotel's lobby.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

D-Day veterans tell their stories 65 years after attack

This wonderful story appears in the Atlantic City Press today. More and more it's obvious that the Lookout Tower is going to be a must see part of any visit to Cape May Point. It's hard to believe! How many people have walked by without giving it a second thought. Not anymore --

LOWER TOWNSHIP - When Richard Baker helped liberate Paris during World War II, the French thanked him over and over as they celebrated in the streets.

But nobody was there to sing his praises, or pour him wine and cognac, 12 weeks earlier when he arrived. Baker, then 22, said it was the scariest day of his life as he joined 160,000 Allied troops storming the beaches of Normandy.

On Saturday, 65 years to the day after D-Day, an 11-year-old boy from Greenville, S.C., tried to make up for the slight.

"Thank you. Thank you," Joseph Bay said as he extended his right hand to Baker.

Bay has read about D-Day. He's seen it in the movies. He understands just what Baker did that day.

"I would have been freaked out," Bay told Baker.

Similar scenes played out over and over Saturday at the World War II tower on Sunset Boulevard recently refurbished by the Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts.

MAC wanted to do more than just restore a concrete World War II tower used to spot enemy submarines and plot artillery firing ranges to hit ships off the coast. It also wanted to bring World War II to life, and did this in part by bringing in veterans to talk to the public.

"They're the VIPs," said MAC Museum Education Coordinator Robert Heinly, noting that Baker, 88, of Wildwood, fought at D-Day, the Battle of the Bulge, Operation Tiger and the Battle of Paris.

Heinly made sure the tower had pictures displayed of all the local World War II veterans and video clips of their stories. On the anniversary of D-Day, he made sure several were on hand.

"The World War II veterans are in their mid-80s and won't be here much longer. What's really nice is they know at least in this one place they're not going to be forgotten. We wouldn't enjoy the life we have today without them," Heinly said.

The first thing most people said as they met Baker and other veterans was "Thank you." Then they wanted to hear what it was like. Baker didn't disappoint.

Baker explained how he thought they would sink crossing the English Channel. They turned back once due to inclement weather. The invasion was supposed to take place June 5, 1944.

When they finally did arrive at Normandy, Baker said, it was pretty much like the movie "Saving Private Ryan."

"It was pretty scary, especially when they put the ramp down and we got into the water," Baker said.

The soldiers waded ashore in chest-deep water, being peppered with German machine-gun fire. Some were sinking before they could get shot. More than 9,000 Allied soldiers were killed and wounded that day.

"I weighed 130 pounds, and I had 90 pounds of equipment on my back. Some of the shorter men went under when they got off the boat. We were grabbing them to bring them up until they could touch the sand," Baker said.

Baker survived D-Day but almost died five days later when a German shell exploded when he was in a foxhole.

"The dirt caved in on me. They started digging me out because they knew I was at the bottom of the hole. I was bleeding at the nose, mouth and ears. The medic gave me mouth-to-mouth and a blood transfusion on the battlefield. If it wasn't for him, I wouldn't be here," said Baker, who never saw that medic again.

Edward P. Kent, 85, a resident of Lower Township, was at the tower signing copies of his book "My Great Adventure to Normandy & Back."

Kent was 18 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. He enlisted in the Army the next day and found himself on a Landing Craft Tank on June 6, 1944.

The LCT was within sight of the beaches when the German artillery hit: "We kept going, didn't take evasive action or anything, just plodded right straight in," Kent wrote in his book.

They passed another LCT that was sinking and later found out 59 men from the artillery battalion just like theirs had perished.

When they got to the beach, German fire was rattling off the metal ramp they had to open to get out. Kent remembers thinking once that ramp opened they would get strafed.

Then they felt the lurch of the LCT grounding on the sand. They heard the anchors go down and the sound of the chains lowering the ramp. Their hearts were pounding.

"It was thrilling to hear that ramp go down because you know you're on foreign soil and somebody was doing his best to shoot you," Kent recalled.

A soldier Kent remembers only as "the Greek" led them to shore. Kent said on the beach there were burning vehicles, wounded and dead GIs, and the Germans kept shooting the boats and vehicles full of holes.

The division's goal was to take the town of Cherbourg, when Kent, a tank gunner, was wounded a couple weeks after D-Day. Shrapnel from a German mortar shell killed "the Greek" and wounded four including Kent. When the war ended, Kent was still recuperating from the injury at the Hotel Traymore in Atlantic City, where amputees and those with nerve injuries were taken. The shrapnel severed the main nerve in Kent's right arm.

"I was in the hospital for 16 months. I very nearly lost my arm, but they saved it," Kent said. "We took the city of Cherbourg."

Kent never recovered full use of his arm, but still had a long career as a carpenter and woodworker. He has a hard time believing D-Day was 65 years ago and doesn't think there will ever be another one.

"I don't think we'll have to invade any more beaches, but who knows. We may be going back to throwing rocks at each other the way things are going," Kent said.

E-mail Richard Degener:


If you go

The tower is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. today. Admission is $6 for adults and $2.50 for children. MAC has other events planned as part of World War II Weekend. Call 609-884-5404 for more information.
And thank you again to Joe Slattery, my grandfather, who fought in the Battle of the Bulge and won the war for us to live the way we live. RIP, Pop.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Updated Entrance to Cape May?

Word is the city is going to fix up the entance to the town as you drive in to town.

I don't know, I think the entrance is just fine. Very unassuming, and quiet. The beauty of Cape May has to be lingered over to be appreciated... slowly, quietly. Big signs announcing "CAPE MAY! YOU'RE HERE!" just strikes me as inconsistent with the serene beauty of the town. Save the fancy signs for Wildwood.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Memorial Day Weekend Photos

Although I was not lucky enough to hit the Cape for Memorial Day, through the magic of the Internet I bring you: photos from Memorial Day Weekend of Cape May. Enjoy (and thanks to this Cape May visitor for the photos...) Have a great Wednesday. I'm on deadline!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exit Zero Magazine for the serious Cape May addict

Exit Zero Magazine is a relatively new (i.e. less than ten years old) magazine that chronicles many of the goings-on in Cape May all year long. It is published weekly, and all but four issues are b&w and printed on newspaper-type paper. Four times a year, they print a more formal and color magazine-type publication. These are usually particularly gorgeous -- the photo above is the front cover of this year's Memorial Day issue, one of those color issues. As you can see, it does really catch the eye. I don't know all the participants behind Exit Zero, but I do know one of the principals, Jason Black, a great guy.

Exit Zero is filled with restaurant reviews, photos, reviews of upcoming events, and sometimes historical pieces. For example, the Memorial Day issue has a great piece on the history behind the Christian Admiral, which I've mentioned before.

If you're in Cape May on vacation or what have you, you probably know Exit Zero is free for the taking all over town. If you're out of town, they charge $47 for a year's subscription, which basically means they are asking you to pay little more than postage for a great little read and way to keep in touch with Cape May from a distance.

Lastly, don't forget to check out the website. They have several books for sale; I know that one of them, the Insider's Guide to Cape May, is a handy-dandy little book that give many insider tips about Cape May that I did not know before reading the book. I'm sure their newest book The First Resort-- will be a must-read, too.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Book Review #1: Season at the Point

I will regularly review Cape May-related books as part of the mission of the website. I'm not going to review 'new' books necessarily -- chances are many of these books will be 'new to you', so newness is not something I am going to worry about. To that end, here's my first review.

Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May, by Jack Connor


If you are anything like me, then your first thought when it comes to the topics of birds and Cape May is that – seagulls. Alternatively, you may be a Cape May visitor who is well-aware of Cape May Point’s distinction as a birder’s paradise. Either way, I highly recommend Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May, by Jack Connor.

Published in 1994, Connor tells a timeless tale that was years – evolutionarily-speaking, thousands of years -- in the making. Connor spent the late summer and autumn of 1988 living in Cape May, and observing one of the largest gathering points for birds of prey, or raptors, in the country. Each year, thousands upon thousands of hawks, falcons, eagles, owls, and other assorted birds stop in Cape May Point, on their way to parts southward. Why these birds arrive at the Point during their migration is a mystery, although Connor reviews all known rationales.

This book is not just about birds, however. The people, and history, of the Cape May Point Birdwatch are just as interesting to the reader as the birds themselves. If you love Cape May – and the fact that you are reading this column makes that self-evident – then you know there are characters up and down Cape Island’s coastline. This book introduces you to several of them; all are memorable in their own way.

One of the more remarkable characters is Al Nicholson, who Connor smartly introduces the reader to very early in the work. He must be read about to be believed:

[Al] Nicholson had been studying raptors at the Point since the 1930s, and he seemed a man from an even earlier age. He was a landscape painter who worked with oil on canvas, always outdoors under natural light. His favorite theme was the play of sun and clouds. When the weather was good, he painted outdoors as often as possible from May through November at various spots around the peninsula. On rainy days and evenings he pored through collections of nineteenth-century photographs and studied the clouds and trees in the background. ‘Look at that,’ he’d say, tapping a landscape from Miller’s Photographic History of the Civil War. ‘Look how the light is striking that maple. That’s really interesting.’ His most treasured book was Bird Studies at Old Cape May, Witmer Stone’s two-volume natural history of the South Jersey peninsula. . . . Nicholson spoke frequently of places Stone had known – Bay Shore Meadow, Two Mile Beach, Price’s Salt Pond – areas whose names only the oldest local residents now recognized because they had been changed beyond recognition or had disappeared entirely.

Away from his easel, Nicholson spent most waking hours, sometimes forty or fifty hours a week, battling and raging against countless adversaries . . . the joyriders who raced jeeps and four-wheel-drive trucks through New Jersey’s last remnant of dune forest at Higbee’s Beach, the County Mosquito Commission whose helicopters sprayed insecticides and whose ditches drained marshes throughout the peninsula, the County Planning Board which year after year allowed tracts of woods to be replaced by malls and shopping centers . . . the state of New Jersey which in 1954 had extended the Garden State Parkway into Cape May County and so encouraged destruction by increased population pressure, and the City of Cape May which in 1942 had constructed the Cape May canal and so cut off the City and the Point from the natural life of the rest of the peninsula like a man sawing off the tree limb he sat upon. Nicholson was tireless.”

A man like Nicholson should be remembered, and Connor’s book more than accomplishes the task. Through vivid descriptions like this one, Connor makes the people and places of Cape May Point’s bird chasing history come alive.

Connor matches these character studies and historical reviews with vivid descriptions of the here and now. Much of the book discusses the banding operation which goes on at the Point. Young men and women called ‘banders’ briefly capture the hawks, eagles, and other raptors, band them at the leg so as to track them should they be trapped in another part of the world, and then let the birds go on their way. One of the most vivid chapters in the book, simply titled “Golden,” details the ninth capture of a golden eagle at the Point in twenty-two years:

The eagle’s torso has an athlete’s lines – rounded muscular shoulders and a broad back above a narrow waist – and, as the bird spreads its huge wings for balance, it seems Stahler might find herself airborne if the bird flapped hard. But the bird looks self-assured, even haughty, as it folds its wings, shakes them into place, and turns its head left and right to look around at the crowd and then off into the distance. The plumage is dark, as black as a vulture’s, though here and there the edge of a white feather catches the light. The hackles on the back of the head are erect and pale gold. The gold continues over the crown of the head down in a V over the dark eyes, so the bird seems to be frowning. As the hackles blow in the wind, the eagle has the look of a long-haired conductor glaring at an audience that has interrupted his concert with their noise.

The excitement felt by the banders comes through on the printed page by way of Connor’s deft description. If you close your eyes, you can see yourself on the Point, watching the powerful golden-headed bird fly away, over the bay.

Connor does not just paint a rose-colored picture of the birders of the Point. He spends time elaborating on the disputes that make up any endeavor, even one that seems so peaceful as bird-watching. Among the raptor counters, there are longstanding disputes over how hawks should be counted, and whether the numbers of birds counted at the Point are inordinately high or low. Perhaps more heated, however, is the dispute among bird-watchers regarding the banding operation at the Point. Many counters consider the trapping involved with capturing a bird to be inhumane. In describing these different factions, Connor does his best to describe both sides positions fairly and without playing favorites.

At the end of the book, one is surprised to have learned there is so much going on up in the skies of Cape May of which the annual vacationer may not even be aware; much more there than just seagulls cawing and fighting over boardwalk grub. In looking forward to the next trip, it is hard to imagine not stopping by the Cape May Bird Observatory and meeting the men and women of the book firsthand, and hopefully seeing a sharpshin or two.

In Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May, Connor turns a topic some may consider at first blush to be dull into a page-turner by combining history, biography, geography, psychology, anthropology, and of course, ornithology. The result is a book which rewards the reader with new insight into the topic which brings you to CapeMay.Com – Cape May.

Season at the Point: The Birds and Birders of Cape May, by Jack Connor, was published by The Atlantic Monthly Press. You may find it online at Amazon.Com, and other on-line book retailers. Most likely, the booksellers of Cape May will find it for you, as well