OCEAN CITY -- It's a perfect day for a picnic -- breezy and sunny -- and the Coast Guard station in Ocean City is having the best lunch in town to kick off National Safe Boating Week.
Coast Guard cook Scott Silva is at the grill in the Coast Guard's back yard, at the southern tip of the inlet. Over his shoulder, you can see Sinepuxent Bay sparkling in the sun, and beyond it Assateague Island, where the ponies will swim next month.
Mr. Silva is flipping ribs with the smooth touch of an al fresco pro and he won't divulge what he's brushing them with -- "Mom's secret recipe," he says with a wide grin.
In front of the grill is a table filled with all the bounty of summer on the Shore -- fruit salad in watermelons carved to look like baskets, crudites with dip, pasta salad, rolls, deviled eggs, cake. And plenty of barbecued spareribs, courtesy of Mr. Silva.
"The idea is to bring all the people involved in safe boating together," says the station's Senior Chief Bob Bennington, the host for yesterday's lunch.
"We learned a secret -- just invite them to lunch! If you feed 'em, they'll come."
He's right about that; about 100 people have gathered in the Coast Guard's back yard. One of them is Ocean City Councilman George Feehley, whose has a lifelong interest in the water: he's a former surfer and member of the Beach Patrol, and he's talking animatedly to a Coast Guard Auxiliary member about the growing number of Jetskis in Ocean City.
Lining up for a walk down the buffet line are members of the Department of Natural Resources police -- they enforce state law on the waterways. The Ocean Pines police chief is in line, and so is Sgt. Chuck Martin of the Maryland State Police. "I'm here to suck on a rib or two," he says with obvious relish. "Yes, in- deedy."
Coast Guard members, Auxiliary members, their wives and friends have filled the tent -- and their plates, and the laughter and chatter blend with the scream of gulls and the hiss of the grill as Mr. Silva brushes another batch of ribs with Mom's sauce.
Mary Murphy is here for lunch, too. She lives in the condominium across the street from the station, and she's already been through the communications center in the main building before coming out to chat and eat lunch.
She likes having the station for a neighbor, she says.
"When we hear them run down the ramp, we know they're heading for a boat!" she says. When that happens, she listens to her scanner to hear what's going on, or goes out on her balcony to observe.
"Our boat doesn't move that she doesn't know what's going on," says Mr. Bennington, and Mrs. Murphy agrees.
But even a picnic lunch doesn't disrupt the Coast Guard's 24-hour-a-day monitoring of the waterways. Inside the station, Fireman Chris Ellenburg is listening to radio traffic from up and down the East Coast.
"All quiet on the Western Front," he says with a smile.
F: Except for the sizzle of ribs on the grill, of course.