Draketail, With Reduced Crew, To Set Sail

ROUTE 2 -- A weekly journey through Anne Arundel County

March 25, 1992|By Arthur Hirsch Lorraine Mirabella

You might remember the Draketail Maritime Project -- a barn full of kids and their parents in South County building a historic workboat under the supervision of boatwright John Gregory, the quiet octogenarian with the rough hands and the expert eye. You might remember that the project was designed with the boat as bait, luring the youngsters into lessons on navigation, ecology, marine biology and physics.

Well, the boat is about finished and only about a third of the original crew of kids remains. But if project director Robert Besse has his way, the lessons will continue for years to come.

You might call this phase Draketail II -- Voyages of the Mind, because the plan is for the 39-foot boat to become part of a marine science center, one of two draketails that will be used as research boats on the Chesapeake Bay.

Besse, an anthropologist who lives in Snug Harbor, said that 15 of the 40 families who began work on the project more than a year ago are still loyal members of the Draketail crew. Those who remain, Besse said, are "great, real good, they're solid." But he acknowledged that he expected fewer to drop out.

"I thinkI was unrealistic," Besse said yesterday. "I looked for half of themto drop out. It's a tough thing to do, to hang with this for so long."

They started with stacks of wood and a donated supply of tools in January 1991, in a barn on a hill in Deale. Besse figured they'd have the boat completed and out of the barn by year's end, but by fallthey knew they were months behind. Professional carpenters were called in to help finish the tedious work of planking the hull with cedar, and the boat was moved out of Deale in the fall.

The vessel -- modeled on a crab and oyster boat popular on the Chesapeake Bay in the1920s and 1930s -- sits in a shed now at the Casa Rio Marina in Mayo, awaiting installation of an engine, steering systems, an electricalsystem and wheelhouse. When that's finished, the boat will be ready to be christened the "John Gregory" in a May 30 ceremony in Galesville. The "John Gregory" will be used at the science center with the "Mary Edna," a draketail built by a South County man in 1933.

The science center will be housed in Churchton, in the former home of the Churchton Health Center on Shady Side Road. The single-story, block building and an acre of land north of Rockhold Creek were donated to theDraketail Maritime Project by the Southern Anne Arundel Health Association. The building will be renovated to include a marine science laboratory, computer room, office and library.

Besse said one environmental project is already planned -- a study of oysters and sea grasses in cooperation with the Smithsonian Institution for EnvironmentalStudies in Harwood.

DON'T CALL SHEENA YET

Don't sweat it, iron pumpers, Stairmaster steppers and indoor track joggers of Glen Burnie.

Contrary to rumors running rampant -- and notwithstanding management's predilection for stonewalling -- Bally's Holiday Spa on Ritchie Highway apparently is not about to close. At least not at the moment.

Members were upset last week to hear that the health club would shut its doors June 1, forcing hundreds of fitness buffs some 20 milesdown the road to Annapolis.

That might or might not have been just a rumor. Regardless, the news was out, taken as fact by one 30-yearmember who said an employee told her. Members, who dole out hundredsof dollars for the privilege of firming, slimming or bulking up in ahighly supervised atmosphere, felt they had a right to know how changes might affect them.

Bally's officials apparently felt otherwise.

Instead of dispeling rumors, if that's all they were, Bally's perpetuated them.

When asked whether the Glen Burnie spa would close, a woman who answered the phone in the Towson executive office said,"not necessarily," added that plans are in the works to relocate members and referred all further questions to attorney Earl Acquaviva.

Another employee said she knew nothing about a planned closing. When she was asked for the name of someone in a position to know, she hung up the phone.

Yet another employee relayed a message from Don Goldman, area director, who said he had nothing to say to The Sun.

Acquaviva, the attorney, also refused phone calls, then relented onlyto say he had no comment. When pressed, he added he was unaware of any relocations of members, who usually sign contracts for non-refundable memberships.

"If we have a new site, we'll certainly tell our members right away," Acquaviva said.

I was about to give Sheena Easton a call when, finally, a sales associate set the record straight.Although nothing has been settled, officials have discussed remodeling and/or expanding the Glen Burnie spa, which serves 800 to 900 members on some days.

He said they've even considered moving to another location within Glen Burnie, but said such a move would never forcemembers to go as far away as Annapolis, even temporarily.

Which, no doubt, comes as good news to Glen Burnie residents less than thrilled by the prospect of spending an hour fighting Ritchie Highway traffic to get to their 30-minute workouts.

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