Monday, November 30, 2009

Storm Birds by the Suttons

Clay and Pat Sutton, two nationally renowned birders, have a very nice Sunday column you can catch up on HERE. The reason they drew my attention was their very nice Storm Birds column, including the photo above and many others. They write about the recent Nor'Easter, and the article is worth a CLICK.

Washington Street Mall: Contest!

I'm not sure when this was announced, but the Washington Street Mall is having a CONTEST! The prize is two nights in Cape May at the Carrol Villa, breakfast at the Mad Batter, dinner at the Pilot House, and a Washington Street Mall shopping spree! Click the word CONTEST and you can go register to win; the contest ends December 29th and the drawing is December 30th. But I would register now to be sure you get in!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Al Alberts (1922-2009)

Al Alberts with the Four Aces (Al is in the bottom row, center)

Of course you know the song On the Way to Cape May but did you know Al Alberts, the song's writer and most-famous singer? Al Alberts was much more than just that song; he sang Three Coins in a Fountain, and Love is a Many Splendored Thing, among many others. Sadly, he passed away on Friday... he had moved to Southwest Florida later in life, and I have read reports that said he passed in either Port Charlotte or Arcadia. You will find a good obituary HERE and a very nice blogger's reminiscence remembrance HERE. Godspeed, Mr. Alberts.

A few days lost

I apologize for the dearth of posts these past few days. I am back in blog in a few minutes, beginning with a memory of a great fan of Cape May who recently left our Earth for sunnier Shores...

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thanks for Cape May

Cut and paste this link - http://www.capemaytimes.com/janekelly/november.htm - into your browser for a nice column by Jane Kelly about what Cape May lovers have to thankful for. i am posting via blackberry and have much to learn about how to successfully post with the 'berry, but that address should get you where you want to be... Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

From the AC Press, an update on the Nuns' tax dispute in Cape May Point I wrote about several months ago:

CAPE MAY POINT — A Pennsylvania-based order of nuns has been coming to this sleepy waterfront borough for 100 years.

Under the shadow of the Cape May Lighthouse, the St. Mary-by-the-Sea retreat sits on a peaceful corner of Lehigh Avenue, overlooking the vegetation-covered dunes and the ocean beating against the rock jetties.

This year, the Sisters of St. Joseph, who run the retreat, did something different — fought their taxes.

To some degree, their prayers may have been answered.

The sisters will receive a partial tax exemption — about a $10,000 reduction for the main portion of the three-building complex — in 2010 because of the organization’s efforts to transform the use from a vacation spot to a place serving religious purposes, said Michael Donohue, an attorney who represents Cape May Point.

The $6.3 million St. Mary-by-the-Sea retreat paid nearly $31,000 last year in property taxes. The group lost a tax appeal earlier this year, but borough officials said the order had a point.

“(We) said, ‘Look, we understand what you’re trying to do, and you may be entitled to something, but you haven’t really demonstrated that yet,’” Donohue said.

Sister Barbara Winnals and attorney Louis Dwyer, who represented the order in the tax appeal, did not return calls seeking comment.

Cape May Point has a mere $1.6 million budget, and most of its properties are single-family vacation homes. There are 223 year-round residents, according to census figures.

The partial tax exemption did not sit well with some homeowners in the borough, including Cape Avenue resident Joe Jordan.

“I have very strong feelings they should not have been granted any tax exemption. They’re an institution that is really turning into a hotel under the guise of a religious organization,” Jordan said.

Neighbors in the area have complained of parking problems exacerbated by the large facilities. Nuns used to take the train to the seashore before the train stopped running decades ago, and now most have cars.

Jordan and his wife, Sarah, live near another tax-exempt summer religious retreat — the Society of Marianists.

In the late 1990s, the Jordans entered mediation with the society regarding noise from their neighbors, she said.

“It is a conflict between what they believe their mission is and what they believe the zoning and the personality of Cape May Point is. It’s a single-family residential community,” said Sarah Jordan, whose sister was a Catholic nun.

“The whole issue of freedom from taxation from religious organizations is a much bigger issue that has never been well solved in this country, not just locally but nationally,” Joe Jordan said.

In Harvey Cedars, Ocean County, the Maris Stella Sisters of Charity received a tax exemption in 2005 when they opened the facility for other public uses.

The Maris Stella retreat center at 7202 Long Beach Blvd. is assessed at nearly $4.8 million.

Cape May Point is a postcard-pretty seaside town that boasts a home once owned by Philadelphia merchant John Wanamaker and St. Peter’s By The Sea, an Episcopal church dubbed “the gingerbread church.”

The Chestnut Hill, Pa.-based Sisters of St. Joseph, which bought the St. Mary-by-the-Sea retreat in 1909, sought a tax exemption earlier this year, saying the use of the building as a summer vacation home had changed several years ago and it now hosts religious retreats open to other denominations and lay people.

Donohue said the order — like others facing shrinking ranks — has faced challenges recently.

“They are being innovative in how they continue the order and religious purposes the order fulfills,” Donohue said. “I think traditionally they’ve had some religious aspect to their vacations, but it’s been understood for decades they’ve used it for vacationing.”

Making the places into a tax-exempt retreat means continuing to do some things the sisters have already been doing — developing a curriculum, having a permanent retreat director on site and providing more documentation of their efforts, Donohue said.

The facility consists of three buildings, including a 139-room, U-shaped building overlooking the ocean and two smaller houses across the street with another 21 bedrooms.

In a June hearing before the Cape May County Tax Board, Dwyer said that in 2004 the building started hosting religious retreats open to other denominations and lay people and that there are plans to expand the retreats into the fall.

“A retreat is a time for an individual person to come to a place that is quiet and look into their own life, reflecting on their own life to be a better person,” Winnals told the tax board in June.

In 2009, the Sisters of St. Joseph requested that Cape May Point exempt its convent and two residential properties across the street from taxes. Those requests were denied by the borough and the Cape May County Tax Board, Donohue said.

A 2009 tax reduction was off the table, but officials decided the sisters should have a 50 percent reduction on the convent part of the property — the largest and highest-valued beachfront property owned by the order, Donohue said.

Meanwhile, the two properties across the street remain on the tax rolls.

The sisters agreed not to apply for an exemption for those properties until after three years, when officials will review it again, Donohue said.

“It was a very amicable discussion, and the sisters have been a very good neighbor for 100 years. Everybody came up with what we thought was a very reasonable way to move forward,” he said.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Nature Blogs Never Get Old

Cape May Boat Tours is a fairly self-explanatory name for a blog, a blog I've linked to before. The photo above is one of many bald eagle photos the blog posted recently, taken during the excursions of the MV Osprey and its Captain David Githens. Click the LINK for some more fantastic photos.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cape May's Blind Side

The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock, looks pretty good -- and since I have never liked a Sandra Bullock movie, I can't believe I just wrote that! Anyway, Tim McGraw plays a major role in the movie, and he was interviewed by NJ.Com about the movie... it turns out that Tim (son of Tug) has a connection to Cape May. You can read the whole interview HERE, and here's a selection from it:

Q. When I saw you perform at the PNC Arts Center in 1999, your dad came out and sang with you.

A. He loved doing that. He was a ham. When I got to know him, in my early 20s, we spent a lot of time in Cape May. He had a place down there and that was one of my first experiences in the Northeast, driving around Cape May in a ’69 convertible Mercedes that he bought when the Mets won the World Series. I have that car now. Cruising around Cape May, that was my introduction to the good life.

Cape May = "the good life" -- yeah, I'd say that's about right!

Thursday, November 19, 2009


I've linked to Mike Crewe's birding blog twice previously. He hits it out of the park with his BLOG POST ABOUT REA'S FARM. The photos on the page are unbelievable, one of which you can see above. I highly recommend checking out his post to see parts of Cape May you may never have seen before (I haven't). Definitely going on the to-do list for the next visit! Thanks, Mike!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

How soon we forget

I have linked to a few Cape May discussion boards in the past, and if you like that kind of thing click this OLD POST to find links to some of the better ones.

Strangely enough, I've been doing this blog for almost six months now yet I forgot about an oldie but goodie discussion board: NJ.COM's CAPE MAY COUNTY Board. I can remember way back in the internet's good old days, like say '99 or 2000, when this board began. NJ.Com started a bunch of discussion boards for every community in NJ back then. I had forgotten about that board but you can still find good places to eat, etc., on the board, as well as a bunch of idiots arguing over idiocy. Nevertheless, when desperate for a morsel of Cape May information, you could do worse than look at the NJ.Com board.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Life on a Boat visits Cape May

Colleen and Jeremy have been living on their sailboat since January 1, 2009. You can READ HERE about their days in Cape May. They may be new to Cape May, but they checked out some of the most important spots, like the Lemon Tree, the Ugly Mug, and Dellas. What an interesting adventure for them!

Monday, November 16, 2009

10 Things that ARE My Jersey

Jen Miller, proprietor of the great blog Down the Shore with Jen, has an interesting survey up: 10 Things that ARE My Jersey

... I have to agree with her that sunsets at Sunset Beach, and the rocking chairs at Congress Hall, "ARE" New Jersey to me. And one of her commenters mentioned High Point, NJ -- have to agree with that one too. I don't know if I could come up with 10, but I would add the Wildwood Boardwalk on a July Saturday night, as well.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Friday, November 13, 2009

Nor'easter 2009

If you're looking to see what the storm did in Cape May, this may be your best live web cam location: Surfer Cam of Cove.

It's hard for me to tell what damage was done exactly, but the activity at the Cove makes me think that the damage was significant.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Veteran's Day

A beautiful article about Michael Scusa, American Hero... read below or CLICK HERE.

LOWER TOWNSHIP — Michael Scusa’s two silver dog tags dangled from his mother’s neck as a 21-gun salute broke through a rainy silence outside Lower Cape May Regional High School.

Cynthia Woodard sobbed gently as she and others planted a tree in her son’s memory on Wednesday morning — Veterans Day — on a grassy patch in front of the auditorium.

Army Sgt. Scusa, a 2005 graduate and former Villas resident, was one of eight soldiers killed Oct. 3 in Kamdesh, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked their outpost.

“Michael was very well-liked. It’s an honor he made this kind of an impact,” Woodard said.

Scusa, who was posthumously promoted from the rank of specialist, left behind his wife, Alyssa, and 1-year-old son, Connor, in Colorado, where he was stationed.

Woodard said she is keeping clips in a memory book for Connor, who shares a striking resemblance to his father and seems to display his mannerisms, too.

Scusa was killed on his second tour overseas. During his first tour, which was 15 months in Iraq and before his son was born, his vehicle ran over a triple-decker explosive device that for some reason never detonated, Woodard said.

“I think it was because he was supposed to have Connor, he was supposed to have his legacy,” she said.

She added, “He’s my only link left to Michael.”

Woodard had stayed in touch with her son over the Internet. His last message to her was on a Friday, shortly before he died.

“He said he was just getting ready to go on duty,” she said. He signed off like he always did: “Love you, mamma. Bye 4 Now.”

“I didn’t get him long enough,” said his mom, wiping away tears. “I wanted him longer.”

Scusa’s high school held the tree ceremony for Scusa and his family.

A school choir sang the Star Spangled Banner, and a bugler from the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, which also sent the honor guard, played taps beneath a flag flying at half-staff.

Principal Joseph Castellucci told the students gathered around him Wednesday that Scusa was like them — a student who walked the halls of the school.

“Those of us who knew Michael knew all too well about his dreams to become a soldier,” Castellucci said. “We share the loss with all of us who knew Mike.”

Castellucci said the tree planted in Scusa’s memory could be used as shade from the sun, as place to stop for a moment or as a place to remember.

“This tree will grow and flourish long after most of us are no longer a part of this school,” he said, adding, “It will always serve as a reminder to those who pass it, that this is Mike’s tree.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Abandoned Cape May?

Interesting shots of what the blogger calls "abandoned" Cape May locations can be found if you CLICK HERE... my posting this link does not mean I endorse the thought that these sites are abandoned!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

beautifully-told story of the meaning of Cape May

THIS STORY of the meaning of Cape May comes from a writer's website. Short but very touching, it's not surprising it came from a writer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Life is Like a Box of Chocolates...

Search for something about Cape May and you never know what you're gonna get!

"Stakes High for all in Lady Mary Probe" -- AC Press

Today's follow-up on the Lady Mary investigation, from the Atlantic City Press:

CAPE MAY - The U.S. Coast Guard has subjected the March 24 sinking of the Lady Mary to months of intense scrutiny in its quest to find out what sank the Cape May scalloper.

The stakes are high both for family members who lost loved ones as well as the commercial fishing industry, which could face tighter regulation over drug testing, navigational equipment and boat stability.

"We're just trying to determine to the best of our ability what happened so we can prevent it from happening again," Coast Guard Cmdr. Kyle McAvoy said.

McAvoy is heading up the Coast Guard Board of Investigation into the maritime disaster. The hearings were suspended Thursday and will resume once the panel has the results of lab tests on the stricken boat's rudder and stability.

McAvoy and his panel have the authority to recommend prosecution if it finds criminal culpability in an accident at sea.

But prosecution is extremely rare. The panel said it has not forwarded any of its conclusions to the U.S. Attorney's Office in more than 10 years.

Six people died in the accident, including brothers Royal "Bobo" Smith and Timothy "Timbo" Smith; their uncle, Tarzon Smith, and a Smith cousin, Frankie Credle, who lived on the boat. Crew members Frank Reyes and Jorge Arteaga also perished. Mexico native Jose Luis Arias was the sole survivor after he was plucked from the frigid ocean by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter.

For the boat's dockside manager, Royal "Fuzzy" Smith, who lost his sons, brother and cousin, there are financial implications as well. Smith's lawyer, Steve Weeks, said he thinks evidence will prove that a collision at sea sunk the Lady Mary.

"The best-case scenario is we determine which boat struck it. The families of the decedents can pursue legal remedies in court," Weeks said.

And for the fishing industry, the inquiry could lead to more oversight.

Dan Cohen, a Port of Cape May seafood dealer who owns scallop boats, said he has been following the progress of the investigation.

"Whenever an accident of this nature happens, especially of this magnitude with six men dying, it's important for the Coast Guard to determine what went wrong so we can all learn from that experience and minimize accidents in the future," Cohen said.

Depending on the findings of the Coast Guard, these hearings could result in stricter regulations in a number of areas, including:

Drug testing

Forensic exams on the bodies of two crew members found marijuana in their systems. McAvoy said the investigation found a broader incidence of drug use among commercial fisherman.

"Is it an area of concern there is drug use amongst vessel operators? Absolutely," McAvoy said.

Boat stability

When the Lady Mary was reconfigured with a new wheelhouse from a shrimp boat to a scalloper, the boat did not have to undergo stability tests. Federal law exempts boats 79 feet or smaller from these tests. The Lady Mary is 71 feet long and did not undergo stability testing.


Weeks said he thinks the Lady Mary hearing could prompt changes in international law requiring commercial fishing boats to install collision-avoidance systems called Automatic Identification Systems. These systems alert nearby boats about a vessel's location, speed and heading and are already mandatory for large passenger ships or international shipping.

On April 14, the Dictator, a fishing boat the same size as the Lady Mary, was struck from behind by the 965-foot container ship Florida. The Dictator survived the collision but required Coast Guard assistance to return to port in Cape May.

Weeks said he expects to subpoena witnesses in that accident.

Stacy Greene, of Middle Township, who lost her longtime boyfriend, Royal Smith, Jr., the father of her three boys, said the findings will not salve her pain.

"It won't bring them back. It won't replace my love," Greene said.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Painter of the Day Ken Frye

Painter of the Day Ken Frye "has been a consistent part of the Cape May, New Jersey artistic community for over 35 years, creating lasting images of Victorian architecture, beach scenes, and private homes. His works can be found throughout the town in Bed and Breakfasts, galleries, and gift shops." Check out his on-line store if you're interested in purchasing his work... note that the first link (THIS ONE) takes you to several of his Cape May paintings, including the one pictured above.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More on the Lady Mary

More on the Lady Mary hearing HERE, or read below from the County Herald:

CAPE MAY — This phase of the Coast Guard’s Marine Board of Investigations hearing into the sinking of the fishing boat Lady Mary closed Thursday Nov. 5 leaving more questions than answers as to whether the boat was unstable or was hit by a large ship.

The hearing this week concentrated on the condition and stability of the Lady Mary, a 77-foot former shrimp boat modified to become a scallop dredge boat.

Board Chairman CMDR Kyle McAvoy questioned Royal Smith, the Lady Mary’s shore manager Thursday on a number of details on the vessel such as why he installed a chaffing bar on a stay cable for the port boom, why a port flat bar had scrape marks on it and if the boat carried an anchor. Smith said the boat carried an anchor but never used it.

Bill Semrau, program manager of the Northeast Monitoring System of the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) testified at an earlier hearing in May. At that time he brought charts that tracked the movement of the Lady Mary and 22 other fishing boats that were nearby when it sunk.
The Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) tracks the movement of commercial fishing vessels by sending a signal to satellites every 30 minutes. The system is used to make sure boats follow federal regulations of where and when they can fish in restricted areas.

The Lady Mary was equipped with a Boatracs VMS system. Testifying by phone Nov. 5, Semrau said he examined data showing other vessels in the vicinity of the Lady Mary two hours before its final reported position from VMS March 24 at 5:10 a.m.

From 11:05 p.m. March 23 to 1:05 a.m. March 24, several vessels were in the area of the Lady Mary with the closest boat one and a half miles away. Semrau said he went back two hours earlier in time to from 9:10 p.m. to 11:10 p.m. March 23 and looked at the track of a boat he referred to as Vessel Y.
Vessel Y was moving at less than 2 knots while the Lady Mary was running at 2.5 knots, said Semrau. He said he estimated at 9:48 p.m. March 23 they came as close as 120 yards to each other although there is an error rate on VMS equipment of about 300 meters or less.

Stevenson Weeks, attorney for Royal Smith told the Herald the Lady Mary had too much damage to have been caused by another fishing boat. The Lady Mary sank about 5 a.m. on March 24. He told the Herald the Lady Mary has damage underneath as if it was struck by a large ship with a bulbous bow.

Semrau reviewed scallop catch reports from the Lady Mary transmitted to NMFS on March 22 and 23 that showed no catch on those two days. He said it seemed unusual not to catch any scallops for 48 hours unless there was equipment or weather-related problems.
Weeks told the Herald the two days where no scallops were reported to have been caught must have been a data glitch since Royal Smith Jr. reported to his father by satellite phone they had brought in 2,500 pounds on those two days. The Lady Mary was preparing to return to port the day she sank with 12,500 pounds of scallops on board, said Weeks.

LTJG Matthew Glazewski, a commissioned NOAA officer and meteorologist with the Ocean Prediction Center, offered a PowerPoint presentation looking at weather forecasts for the area where the Lady Mary sank from March 21 to March 24.
The forecast at 8 a.m. on March 23 called for winds from the north-northwest at 20 to 30 knots with seas of six to 10 feet, he said. On March 24, the weather was being influenced by high pressure over Quebec and a low pressure storm system off the Canadian Maritimes. A pressure gradient between the two weather systems was influencing wind and wave height where the Lady Mary was located, said Glazewski.

At 2 a.m. March 24, seas were 6 to 9 feet with winds 20-25 knots from the north-northwest. Those conditions were also present at 8 a.m.

Jorge Arroyo, a program and management analyst at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington D.C. explained Automatic Identification Systems (AIS), collision avoidance and coastal surveillance system carried by large commercial ships over 300 gross tons. He said AIS gives the ship’s position, speed, heading and rate of turn.

Fishing boats are not required to carry AIS, said Arroyo. He said it broadcasts the data over VHF radio signal with a range of 40 to 50 miles. Coast Guard Cape May’s radio tower was on the fringe of receiving a signal from the area where the Lady Mary went down.

Brian Curtis, a National Transportation Safety Board Investigator, asked if the AIS could be turned off by someone on a ship. Arroyo said while it is required to remain on, it could be shut off by turning off the unit or pulling its power plug.

Arroyo displayed tracking information for the cargo ship Cap Beatrice which is believed to have passed within a mile of the Lady Mary near the time of its sinking.Cap Beatrice's AIS signal was not available for six hours after the time the Lady Mary sank.

McAvoy said the hearing would resume at future date perhaps by conference phone calls. He said the National Transportation Safety Board was examining the Lady’s Mary’s rudder and working up a computer model to test the stability of the Lady Mary.

Weeks said he has renewed his request to subpoena the owner, captain and mate of the fishing vessel, the Dictator which was struck 22 days after the Lady Mary by the Marine Floridian, a large commercial ship. The Dictator suffering very similar damage to the Lady Mary.

A volunteer dive team that shot video and photos of the fishing boat 210 feet below the ocean’s surface has also gone on record as believing the Lady Mary was struck by large freighter, possibly the Cap Beatrice.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Lady Mary Daily Update

Lady Mary passed close by a vessel in the night - pressofAtlanticCity.com : Cape May County

CAPE MAY - The doomed scallop boat Lady Mary came as close as five boat lengths to another vessel hours before it sank March 24, according to testimony Thursday at a U.S. Coast Guard hearing.

William Semrau, manager of the vessel-monitoring system of the National Marine Fisheries Service, examined the global-positioning satellite tracks of the Lady Mary and another commercial fishing boat, identified at the hearing only as "Vessel Y."

Correcting for the margin of error in the beacons, Semrau estimated the two boats came as close as 120 yards of one another at about 9:30 p.m. the night before the fatal sinking.

"Vessel Y and the Lady Mary would have been operating very close to each other," he said.

Six people died aboard the Lady Mary, including brothers Royal Smith Jr. and Tim Smith. Their father, dockside manager, Royal "Fuzzy" Smith, has insisted a boat collision was to blame.

Smith's lawyer, Steve Weeks, said the close encounter March 23 was not the one that sank the Lady Mary. He suspects a collision with a cargo ship or other large vessel March 24 was to blame.

The U.S. Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation suspended its probe Thursday until it gets lab results back on the Lady Mary's rudder and a computer model examining the boat's stability.

Semrau said it was odd the Lady Mary reported catching no scallops for 48 hours during its weeklong trip. The boat reported hauling 4,400 pounds of its 18,000-pound quota of shucked scallops but reported none prior to the sinking.

"It seems unusual they didn't harvest a single scallop in a two-day period. Maybe there were weather issues or maybe there were equipment issues," Semrau said.

Weeks said the agency's catch totals were not accurate. Earlier testimony suggested the Lady Mary had nearly made its quota and was preparing to return to port the day of the sinking. Divers found a dredge loaded with scallops on the deck of the stricken boat at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean.

The U.S. Coast Guard also considered Thursday how stormy seas might have contributed to the accident.

The closest weather buoy to the Lady Mary was in the mouth of the Delaware Bay 48 miles away.

A weather expert testified the 71-foot Lady Mary would have been subjected to 30-knot northwest winds and seas with at least 9-foot waves the morning of the sinking.

This corroborates testimony from boat captains who were fishing in the vicinity of the Lady Mary when it sank 60 miles off Cape May in a scalloping canyon known by local fishermen as the Elephant Trunk because of its shape on topographic maps.

Lt. Matthew Glazewski with the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said the developing storm had been forecast for days.

Meanwhile, the panel examined how collision-avoidance systems might have prevented the accident.

The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea - enacted after the Titanic sank in 1912 and subsequently amended - requires container ships and large cargo ships to use Automatic Identification Systems. These devices continuously transmit the ship's position, heading and speed to other nearby boats, which do likewise.

But fishing boats such as the Lady Mary are exempt from this requirement. The Lady Mary did not have this collision-avoidance system.

Peter Genovese on Pizza

Peter Genovese is a writer for the Star-Ledger and also an author. I recommend his book The Jersey Shore Uncovered, which is a member of my Cape May Library and a book I need to review sometime soon. Anyway, by clicking HERE you can read his new review of some of the south Jersey pizza joints, including Sam's, Blue Moon, and Lucky Bones (the last one more than just a pizza joint, of course!). And if you don't want to click the link, here is the article:

Pizza Patrol hits the Jersey Shore: Good plain pies, sausage resembling 'hamster pellets'
By Peter J. Genovese
November 06, 2009, 5:30AM

The Pizza Patrol would rather brave evil seagulls than eat some of the sausage toppings we found on our Cape May County trip.An unseasonably warm day, blue skies, brilliant sunshine and the prospect of spending most of the day at a gloriously quiet Jersey Shore.

Sounds like the makings of a great Pizza Patrol trip.

Uh, not quite.

The Munchmobile driver temporarily misplacing his notebook may have been the first omen. Or maybe it was the flock of seagulls, which hovered over us, malice in their beady little eyes, on the Ocean City boardwalk.

“What are you writing down?” the owner of Three Brothers from Italy asked as we awaited our pizzas at the Ocean City boardwalk stand.

It was that kind of day. The “World’s Largest Pizza” made another appearance (three pizzerias have made the claim, so far), and so did some of the most inedible sausage on this or any other planet. When the sausage looks like hamster food, it’s time to ask yourself some basic questions, like “Why are we eating this stuff?”

Because we have a job to do, and, by golly, we’re going to finish it, murderous-looking seagulls or not.

“I hope this sausage doesn’t spread out of South Jersey,” team member Scott Weiner said at one point. “It’s a plague.”

The Pizza Patrol — down two members, one busy with a brand-new baby, the other using the lame excuse of work — did find quality pizza, even if it took several hundred twisty miles of driving to do so. Ocean City to Wildwood to Cape May to Vineland to Carmel — all in a day’s work. Carmel? Isn’t that in California? No, it’s in Pizza Jersey.

Step away from the sausage, it’s time to get down to business.

Cape May county

Mack & Manco PIzza (920 Boardwalk, Ocean City; 609-399-2548) is one of the heavy hitters on the Jersey pizza boardwalk scene, and the pizzeria, with three locations (one open year-round) on the Ocean City boardwalk, did not disappoint.

The plain pie is oily/greasy-good, with Weiner admiring the “creamy cheese” and the “great bite” to the crust. “A wonderful boardwalk pie,” Marty Schneider raved. The sausage? Skip it. “Tastes like IHop,” Weiner said, and we agreed.

But the white pie, shimmering with olive oil, is a winner. “Awesome, simple, elegant,” Weiner said admiringly. Schneider called it “a nothing cheese sandwich.” You’re wrong on this one, Marty.

Talk about incentive — or a sure-fire way to guarantee agita. If you eat a whole pie at 3 Brothers from Italy Pizza (944 Boardwalk, Ocean City; 609-398-6767) in one hour, you win 10 free pizzas. If you eat one pie in 45 minutes, you win 25 pies. One pie in 15 minutes? One hundred free pies. This is the “world’s largest pizza” — 26 inches in diameter — so have the Pepto-Bismol ready.

Hype and hoopla aside, the plain is a good pie, on or off the boardwalk. “Nice and crunchy,” according to Weiner. The sausage is better than Mack & Manco’s. Decent ricotta pie; nothing special.

Hopes were high as we parked across the street from Mario’s Pizzeria & Restaurant (1510 Bay Ave., Ocean City; 609-398-0490). Pizza Patrol Headquarters had received enthusiastic e-mails about the place.

But one glance at the pellet-like sausage was a foreshadowing of the mediocre meat ahead. ”Inadequate,” Schneider said. “It’s so far from sausage,” Weiner added. He did like the “nice fluffy crust” on the pie, though. Better: the tomato/onion pizza. An intriguing combination, and it works.

“Voted No. 1 in all of South Jersey” is the pitch at Walt’s Original Primo Pizza (3 Shore Road, Somers Point; 609-927-4464). Whatever. The plain is recommended — “greasy enough for the Shore, tasty enough for a second bite,” according to Weiner. Avoid the sausage at all costs. The Sicilian? No. 1 in Somers Point — maybe.

“Celebrating half a century of excellence” is the slogan at Sam’s Pizza Palace (2600 Boardwalk, Wildwood; 609-522-6017). The boardwalk legend makes a good plain; it’s oily/slippery, but there are signs of saucy life. Excellent crust. The sausage tasted like bland breakfast meat of some kind.

The white pie divided the crew. The Munchmobile driver liked its peppery tone. Weiner called the “dusting” of seasoning “great.” Schneider? “Redolent of bad garlic pie,” the grumpy one grumbled.

Another greasy plain pie at Carini’s Ristorante & Pizzeria (9854 Pacific Ave., Wildwood Crest; 609-522-7304). Weiner likened the crust to “cardboard” but said he was “fine with the sausage.” The Sicilian is undercooked, undersauced and underwhelming. But Schneider called it “a solid pie with a nice six-pack.”

Cape May is a lot of things: Victorian jewel, great beach town, home of the legendary Hot Dog Tommy’s. Pizza destination it is not, judging by our next four stops, in and around Cape May.

Loved the pleasantly grungy outer dining room with Naugahyde booths and faded
curtains at Tony’s Pizzeria & Restaurant (Route 109, Lower Township; 609-884-2020). The plain pie boasted a nice Italian breadlike crunch, but the sausage — of the pellet variety — is a mistake. The meatballs on the homemade meatball pie tasted as if they were made in someone’s backyard, not the house. Yuck.

”The best pizza in town!” heralds the menu at Louie’s Pizza (Gurney Street and Beach Avenue, Cape May; 609-884-0305). Seriously puffy crust on the plain — only Romeo’s in Orange rivals it — but there is a vein of uncooked dough in the crust. Not good. More unappetizing pellet sausage. The margherita is cooked but pretty much tasteless.

Apparently, the same distributor provides the sausage to this end of Jersey Shore, as we encountered more of the same sorry stuff at Blue Moon Pizza (301 Beach Ave., Cape May; 609-884-3033). The plain pie is just that, and eminently forgettable. The Grandma Sicilian looked impressive, with its raised browned crust and swirls of cheese, but mark it down as another undercooked pie. “A lot of thought went into the production,” Weiner noted.

Lucky Bones Backwater Grille (1200 Route 9, Lower Township; 609-884-2663) does creative personal-type pies, including the Skipjack, with arugula, prosciutto and mozzarella. The margherita featured a tasty tart sauce, but the sausage is inferior.

The Sofia pie, with shrimp, mozzarella, roasted garlic and olive oil, both disappointed and delighted. The shrimp tasted slightly off, but the rest of the ingredients worked. “If it was a white pie, it would be great,” Weiner noted.

em>Next week: Another South Jersey trip, including an encounter with a pizzeria owner with serious acting cred. E-mail pgenovese@starledger.com or call the Munchmobile Hotline at (973) 392-1765.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Lady Mary Hearing ~ Daily Update

From the Cape May County Herald

Satellite Phone Call May Have Been Received from Lady Mary

By Jack Fichter

CAPE MAY — During the fourth day of the continuing Coast Guard Marine Board of Investigation hearing into the sinking of the fishing boat Lady Mary, the mother of one of the crew member’s girlfriends recounted what may have been the last phone call from sinking vessel.

On Wednesday Nov. 4, Janet Greene, mother of Royal Smith Jr.’s girlfriend, testified she received a phone call the morning of the sinking, March 24, between 4:45 a.m. and 5 a.m. she believed was from Royal Smith Jr. The boat was believed to have slipped beneath the waves between 5 a.m. and 5:15 a.m.
Greene said the call was short and muffled and faded out into static.

“It sounded like him, I’m almost sure,” she said.

Greene said Smith would call anytime in the day or night to say hello to his children.
She said she did not sleep soundly when Smith or her sons “were out on the water.” Greene said Smith would call two or three times a day when possible.
Normally there was no problem with reception of calls that were placed from a satellite phone aboard the Lady Mary to her phone number, said Greene, but this call lasted only a second or two.

Paul Adams, a mechanic with Jersey Diesel testified that he installed hydraulic controls, gauges and replaced the power take off on the Lady Mary. He said “all-in-all, the Lady Mary was in good condition." Adams said there were boats in better condition and boats in a “lot worse shape.”

Adams said an undersea photo of the aft control station of the Lady Mary, showing the jog lever indicating the vessel was in motion before it sunk, did not prove whether the power take off of the boat was engaged or not. He said only a photo from the engine room would prove if the power take off was engaged. Volunteer divers did not descend into the engine room of the Lady Mary sitting 210-feet below the ocean’s surface.

Adams said the picture of the boat’s aft control station appeared to show the boat was in motion under a fair amount of throttle.

Steve Taylor, a senior marine electronics technician with MARTEK, testified as to the equipment he installed aboard the Lady Mary, in particular an autopilot system. He said the autopilot system on the Lady Mary was typical of many fishing boats. He looked at the underwater photo of the aft control station and said the jog lever was in a position indicating a port turn. A photo of the boat’s rudder indicator showed a 30 degree port turn, said Taylor.
He said he had installed data on underwater obstructions in one of Lady Mary’s on board computers.

Robert Rippel, a Coast Guard radio expert offered testimony by telephone on two reports he had prepared on HF and VHF radio signal propagation for March 2009. He said the Lady Mary was 57 nautical miles from Cape May when it sank.

Rippel said the 21.82 kilohertz (kHz) radio frequency the Lady Mary would have used to send a Mayday call, extends to about 60 miles off shore. During that time period, a lack of sunspot activity would have made the possibility of the Lady Mary communicating with the Coast Guard in Cape May “possible but challenging.”
Rippel said the signal to noise ratio would have made communication difficult. He said radio communication from the Coast Guard tower in Cape to the Lady Mary would have been very probable.

Attorney Stevenson Lee Weeks, representing the family of the deceased owner of the Lady Mary, Timothy Smith and Roy Smith Sr. who lost both a brother and two sons in the accident, questioned Rippel if the Coast Guard Cape May’s radio transmitter sends most of its energy skyward when a ground wave is needed to get the longest range from the 21.82 kHz frequency.
Weeks said most of the energy from the tower radiated at 23 degrees.

Rippel said the Coast Guard also listened for Mayday calls at night when transmission favor sky waves after the sun has set. He said the tower set a balance between ground waves and sky waves.

This phase of the hearing is expected conclude Thursday Nov. 5. Board Chairman Kyle McAvoy said the Lady’s Mary’s rudder had been recovered and was being examined by the National Transportation Safety Board.
He said an engineering model was being constructed to analyze the stability of the Lady Mary.

The hearing this week has concentrated on the stability, systems and modifications made to the Lady Mary. During the first phase of the hearing in May, testimony looked at the possibility the Lady Mary was struck by a large commercial freighter.
So far this week, that has not been a part of testimony.

Future hearings may be conducted by telephone, said McAvoy.

Cleveland Tips Its Hat to Cape May

A very nice article from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer starts like this:

Birding and listing go hand-in-hand. Birders tally the number of bird species they've seen in their lifetimes. They keep day lists, year lists, trip lists, state and county lists, yard lists, park lists, a list of birds seen from airplane and train windows -- the list goes on and on.

Every birder's list of the best birding destinations in North America should include Southeast Arizona, Texas's Rio Grande Valley, and Magee Marsh during spring migration.

But no list of birding paradises would be complete without including Cape May, N.J., and the surrounding vicinity.

For my money, there's not a more rewarding and productive birding location anywhere within an eight-hour drive of Northeast Ohio. Cape May is an old Victorian vacation spot on the southern tip of New Jersey that features salt marshes, woodlands, fields and beaches that attract the largest variety of birds imaginable.

Click the link to read the full article, and see some nice photos.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Christian Admiral pool

It's amazing what is out there on the web. Behold, the Christian Admiral Pool. Click the link to learn more about the artist and the story behind the artwork.

Star-Ledger on the Lady Mary Hearing, Yesterday

Tracking a doomed scallop boat
Wednesday, November 04, 2009

The owner of the Lady Mary said yesterday the scallop boat was turning left when it sank off the New Jersey coast in March, killing six of the seven crewmen aboard.

Analyzing photographs, videos and charts of the last movements of the ill-fated ship, Royal Smith Sr. told a Coast Guard investigatory panel in Cape May that it appeared the boat was drifting about a half-hour before it sank. Based on photographs of its final resting place 65 miles off the coast of Cape May, it appeared the position of the controls was consistent with the boat making a left turn, Smith said.

The photos, he said, also seem to show the boat had recently hauled up a load of scallops. However, he said the vessel would have been traveling straight -- not turning -- while pulling up the scallop load.

The Coast Guard's Marine Board of Investigation started its public inquiry into the Lady Mary's sinking in April and May but interrupted the proceedings until this week while it gathered more information. During Smith's nearly seven hours of testimony yesterday, the four-member panel questioned him on boat operations, safety equipment, fishing procedures and modifications he made to the boat.

Smith, 64, of Bayboro, N.C., became emotional when asked by his attorney, Stevenson Weeks, when Lady Mary was due back in port with her haul.

Smith said the crew was due back on March 24, the same day the ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean after being out at sea for six days on its first trip of the 2009 fishing season.

Smith choked up again when he reviewed records from the boat's satellite telephone showing two brief calls that were made March 21 from one of his two sons who died when the boat went down. Smith's younger brother also was among the dead.

Smith's sons, Royal Smith Jr., 42, and Timothy Smith, 37, were among three crew members pulled from the ocean after the 71-foot vessel sank. Neither survived.

Divers inspecting the wreck of the Lady Mary found the body of the elder Smith's brother, Tarzon ""Bernie Mac'' Smith, 59, on May 12. Two weeks later, the body of another crew member, Frankie Credle, 57, of Lower Township, was discovered in another boat's fishing nets. Still missing and presumed dead are Frank Reyes of Middle Township and Jorge Ramos, 23, of Cape May.

The sole survivor, Jose Luis Arias, was asleep at the time and could not provide investigators with details about why the Lady Mary went down.

Weeks contends the Lady Mary may have been struck by another vessel.

The Lady Mary was a former shrimp boat Smith bought in Mississippi and piloted to Cape May before retrofitting it for scallop fishing. He added a second control room above the existing one, installed larger outriggers, added a steel ramp to the rear and added 20,000 pounds of cement in the bottom for stability.

He said he and his son, Tim, discussed what needed to be done on the boat, but that Tim acceded to him because of his experience on the water.

MaryAnn Spoto may be reached at mspoto@starledger.com.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lady Mary Hearing, November 2, 2009

Lawyer: Doomed NJ boat was a hit-and-run case

CAPE MAY, N.J. — A scallop boat that sank off the New Jersey coast in March, killing six of the seven crew members aboard, may have been doomed by a fatal hit-and-run crash on the high seas, the lawyer for its owner said Monday.

Stevenson Weeks, the lawyer for Lady Mary owner Royal Smith Sr., said extensive damage to the boat’s rudder, propeller and other equipment indicates that some other vessel crashed into it and kept going.

Weeks said he based his suspicion on “the nature of the damage and the physics involved.”

Weeks spoke during a break in a Coast Guard hearing investigating the March 24 sinking of the Lady Mary about 60 miles off the coast of Cape May. He said striking another vessel and leaving the scene can be a crime, just as it is in a motor vehicle.

“If you can prove who did it,” he added. “It’s tough.”

Since the hearing began in May, the Coast Guard has heard several theories regarding the cause of the disaster. Besides the possibility of an at-sea collision, the panel also heard the theory that the Lady Mary’s gear may have become tangled on the ocean floor, or with another vessel.

As the hearing resumed Monday following a five-month adjournment that allowed divers to retrieve evidence from the wreck, a shipwreck diver testified about finding the body of one of the victims, Tarzon Smith, in the fish hold of the sunken vessel.

A survival suit, which protects against hypothermia, was found nearby, out of its packaging.

Gatto also testified he found a 6-inch hole punched into the port side of the ship just above the water line, and noted the rear of the boat was damaged, with parts bent inward.

“It was crushed in really good,” he said.

A key piece of evidence is likely to be the boat’s rudder. Gatto testified that the bent rudder had red paint on its edge, which could suggest a collision with another vessel.

Also Monday, Antonio Alvernaz, the captain of a Massachusetts fishing boat, told of hearing a brief, panicked radio transmission, lasting less than a second. The voice, with a southern accent, sounded scared and appeared to say a single word: “Mayday!”

Alvernaz said he did not call the Coast Guard to report his concern because no one in the dozens of other boats in the area indicated they had heard anything.

The hearing is to resume Tuesday morning. Witnesses are expected to include Royal Smith Sr. of Bayboro, N.C., the boat owner who lost two sons in the tragedy.

Drawing in Cape May

Ken Januski is a Philadelphia naturalist who loves the Point for all it offers a naturalist. At his blog post Sketching the Natural Wealth of Cape May he shares his nature sketches from the Point this Fall. A really wonderful post which I recommend highly.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Lady Mary Hearings Continue

CAPE MAY - The Coast Guard will reconvene today to continue its inquiry into the sinking of the Lady Mary, the scallop boat that went down in March and killed six Cape May County fishermen.

The public hearing, which was postponed in May to allow investigators more time to gather evidence from the wreck site, will take place at the Coast Guard Training Center. New evidence obtained by the Coast Guard and a U.S. Navy dive team from the Lady Mary is expected to be introduced, including the ship's rudder. The hearing also will likely feature testimony from the divers who visited the wreck, as well as testimony from Royal "Fuzzy" Smith, the Lady Mary's shoreside manager and father of two of the victims.

On the morning of March 24, the Lady Mary sank in the Atlantic Ocean, killing brothers Timothy and Royal Smith Jr., their uncle Tarzon "Bernie" Smith and Smith's cousin Frank Credle, as well as Jorge Alberto Ramos Arteaga and Frank Reyes.

Jose Luis Arias, the lone survivor of the sinking, told investigators that the Lady Mary took water over the stern, rolled to port and sank.

An Englishman in Cape May

Cape May Birding and Wildlife is the blog of an Englishman, Mike Crewe, spending the year in Cape May; I've linked to him previously.

Here you can read -- and see photographs of -- many of the birds that visit Cape May in the Fall on their way south. Those birds include the Black Skimmer photographed above. Mike identifies all the many birds which look similar but indeed are not the same. Thanks, Mike!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

October's Photographer

Steve Ingraham, photo blogger, has gotten links from me both HERE and HERE. Well, Mr. Ingraham has continued to put up great Cape May photos, including the one pictured above. Please click HERE or HERE for a few more. Definitely the photographer of the Month of October at the Cape May Blog! Now, it's time to turn to November!