EXPLORING THE CHESAPEAKE IN SMALL BOATS. By John Page Williams Jr. Tidewater Publishers. Illustrated. 190 pages. $12.96 paperback. JOHN Page Williams Jr., a resident of the Severn River suburb of Arnold, has run field trips for the Chesapeake Bay Foundation for close to 20 years and really knows the territory -- as this guide book demonstrates abundantly.
It is not, however, a book about how to explore the Chesapeake Bay proper in small boats -- as the title might lead you to believe. Its subject is how to explore the bay's numerous rivers and estuaries and their numerous tributary creeks from their saline mouths through their brackish and tidal-fresh parts to their sources -- and this is the time of year to do it.
Mr. Williams has gone up these lazy rivers -- a few far from lazy -- from historic Port Deposit on the mighty Susquehanna to suburban Norfolk on the tame Lynnhaven Inlet. He is familiar with every fish and fowl and mammal and reptile and insect and grass and tree and how they look and behave in every season at every twist and turn. He tells us how to see and enjoy them and which small boats are recommended for it.
He favors aluminum canoes for placid water and gives instructions on how to hold and use a canoe paddle. Skiffs with outboard motors are his choice for wide, strong rivers or if you're in a hurry. And he has some fairly detailed advice about appropriate gear and clothing.
Above all, be careful. Mr. Williams repeatedly warns us to stay away from thunderstorms and avoid sandbars, drop-offs and copperheads. He's obviously a conservationist and loves the bay rivers, bugs and all, but he doesn't forget that nature is red in tooth and claw.
Some of Mr. Williams' favorite waters are the upper Tred Avon and Marshyhope Creek on the Eastern SHore and the Chickahominy in Virginia -- the first two described as "jewels," the last as "a treasure." And some way, somehow, he has also beheld beauty among the automobile tires on the banks of the Patapsco at the Hanover Street Bridge in Baltimore and found harmony beneath the shrieking jets crossing the Potomac to land at National Airport in Washington. Nature lovers can see sermons in stones, you know.
This book, tastefully illustrated with maps and photos by William S. Portlock, should please nature lovers. Crowded and contaminated as parts of Maryland may be, the parts described in "Exploring the Chesapeake in Small Boats" are still pristine and pastoral for the most part. Explore 'em while they last!
EARLY BUILDINGS AND HISTORIC ARTIFACTS IN TIDEWATER MARYLAND. By H. Chandlee Forman. Eastern Shore Publishers' Associates. Illustrated. 348 pages. $28.
EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY BALTIMORE: VIEWS BY NEWSPAPER ARTIST JAMES DOYLE. Text by James Doyle 3rd and Sister Madeleine Doyle, SSND. J.H. Furst Co. 56 pages. $25.
H. Chandlee Forman, of Easton, is an authority of long standing on early buildings and historic artifacts in Tidewater Maryland (and elsewhere). He is an architect, archaeologist, artist and historian. He has been visiting early buildings, measuring and photographing and sketching and researching and writing about them since the 1930s.
This book is his 17th. It describes at least 100 old Eastern Shore buildings in chronological order -- with 600 pictures. They include his own reconstruction in Easton of a house named "The Ending of Controversie," originally built around 1670.
"Early Twentieth Century Baltimore" comprises 39 newspaper sketches of early 20th century Baltimore scenes by James Doyle. Mr. Doyle, who died at 82 in 1952, worked as an artist with H.L. Mencken and other reporters at the long-gone Baltimore Morning Herald and Baltimore News and the still-with-us Baltimore Sun. The book was put together by his children, James Doyle 3rd and Sister Madeleine Doyle, a frequent contributor to this page.
John Goodspeed writes from Easton.