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Month: August 2004

C.M.B.P. The Anatomy of a Rescue

Imagine this.

It is a quiet, peaceful afternoon at the beach. You are sitting in your beach chair, waiting for the tide to rush over your legs, thinking, maybe you should move your chair back a bit so your stuff doesn’t get wet when, suddenly, whistles are blowing, lifeguards are running and pulling everyone out of the water. And you’re thinking, what is this all about? Probably some kid mistook a dolphin fin for a shark. But then, you see a crowd forming and more lifeguards running. You are filled with a sense of alarm as you see all the lifeguards forming a human chain in the water. You see flailing arms way out in the ocean so far you can barely tell that they are the arms of a grown man.

That’s when it hits you – this person is drowning and these people – these lifeguards that you laugh and joke with every day – are this man’s ticket to life or death.

Now the sirens start and between the swimsuit clad bodies of the other beach goers who have crowded around the scene, you see the body of a middle aged man lying there –lifeguards checking his pulse to see if he is still breathing, others are administering oxygen.

That particular afternoon’s drama had a happy ending – EMTs rushed him to Burdette Tomlin Memorial Hospital for observation and the man did live.

So, how does a pleasant afternoon swim turn into a life and death rescue?

One of the lifeguards present at this particular rescue said it is pretty much always the same scenario. Ralph Atwell has been a member of the Cape May Beach Patrol (CMBP) since 1965. lgralph2Black clouds are all around us. Sunday beach goers are waiting to see if the rain, which has just stopped, will come again. Undaunted, kids are already going into the water.

“Do you see the wave the shoreline makes as you go along the beach?” says Atwell “You can see rip currents the same way. They make a path right up through the water. And the water becomes discolored. A rip current is the water washing out. How bad the current is depends on how strong the water is moving away from the shoreline.”

Some afternoons it seems as though the lifeguards are constantly blowing their whistles. When they spot a rip tide, and often there can be several within a small area, the lifeguards try to move swimmers either to the right or to the left of the rip current.

“Really,” says Atwell, “Our job is to prevent rescues.” But when there are too many people in the water, the chances are very likely someone will get into trouble. Getting into trouble, however, doesn’t always result in the person having to be rescued.

“What happened to the man on Thursday,” said Atwell, “is that he started to panic. If you’re a strong swimmer you’ll get out of it.” For one thing, the swimmer who runs into a rip current could swim further out because the current dies out in deeper waters or you could swim to either side of the current. “In this instance,” said Atwell, “the man panicked and took on a lot of water into his lungs.”

And just as he says this, another lifeguard spots a rescue one beach down.

This is an easy one, not, cautions Atwell, that any of them are easy – “Anytime you start to swim out to someone there’s a risk involved.”

It was Stephanie Budd, a student at Wildwood Catholic, to the rescue and she needed no assistance. A woman, she said, “got caught in a rip” and within two minutes she was back in.

The swimmer who doesn’t panic fairs best. If they can just tread water and not fight the current, the lifeguard can swim out alone and tow them in.

The CMBP uses a “torpedo” to bring swimmers in. It is an orange-colored plastic cylinder whichlgwalkingtostand the lifeguard brings with them to the rescue. The reason? Insuring the lifeguard’s survival as well as the swimmer’s.

One lifeguard, who recently participated in a rescue, swam out to the man in trouble. When she reached him, he immediately grabbed onto her neck pulling her down into the water.

Atwell smiled, acknowledging he too has been on the receiving end of a drowning swimmer. Hence the purpose for the torpedo – it gives the swimmer something else other than another human being to hold onto.

“Sometimes though”, says Atwell, “the rip takes you out so fast that you’re in front of the person before you have a chance to swing the torpedo over to them because the same current that takes the swimmer out helps you to rescue you them.” Atwell remembers a time when a very large woman got into trouble. He reached her before he could extend the torpedo and she grabbed onto him pulling him down into the water. “People just grab onto whatever to save themselves,” said Atwell. In this instance, Atwell went back down into the water with the woman and she immediately let go. Under the water is the last place a drowning person wants to be.

Just the day before, 20 lifeguards formed a human chain with their torpedoes to rescue a ten-year-old boy down at the Cove Beach. It took over 20 minutes to bring him in but the rescue was successful.

lgpaddlingCMBP, under the direction of Harry “Buzz” Mogck (pronounced Moke), frequently simulates rescue operations during the summer weeks to make sure his team is fit and well rehearsed. Gene Ladd of the CMBP said that statistics regarding rescue operations are tallied under two different categories – a “full-blown rescue”, in which each lifeguard along the beach leaves their stand to assist, leaving one lifeguard (not the usual two) in attendance – and a “sneak” rescue which only involves one lifeguard who swims out and brings the troubled swimmer back in.

CMBP averages between 5 and 6 full-blown rescues a day and 25 sneaks per day. Two years ago, they had 26 rescues within a two-hour period and were forced to close the beaches because the lifeguards simply couldn’t keep up with the demand.

Atwell, whose eyes are always on the water then he talks, said that the job of a lifeguard is physically demanding. Take the rescue Saturday, he says. His stand is one over from Grant Street. “Now I have to run all the way down to the Cove and then swim out to sea and then help drag someone in. You’ve got to be fit.”

So the moral of the story is – be nice to those guys and gals on the lifeguard stands – the life they save could very well be yours.


On Assignment: Searching for Whales in Cape May

whaleheader2Call me Ishmael. No, no. Call me S. Tischler.

whalewatcherfrontofboatSome days ago – never mind how long precisely – having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I might hop a ride on the Whale Watcher II, aka, “The Big One.” The ocean is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation. Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a simply gorgeous day and I can abide my office no more; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping onto the Washington Street Mall and methodically knocking people’s hat’s off – that is when I think I’ll take the three hour cruise and search for the elusive whale Slammer.

With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the Whale Watcher II.

The day is beautiful and the waters are going to be, according to Captain Miles, “very calm.”

I board the vessel at shortly after the noon bell and immediately go astern (toward the back of the boat) to climb the short set of stairs to the top deck.

whalewatcherleavingI’m looking over the side of 90-foot aluminum boat when I see Captain Paul, who is second in command of this seaworthy vessel, standing in the wheelhouse. The naturalist and tour guide on board, Christina, is also on hand. She said there were nurseries of dolphins along the shoreline. Care I about cute little dolphins? Nah. It is the Slammer I seek. She seems to be speaking in soft tones the way you would speak to a child. She tells me that other boats in the area are also looking out for whales and would alert the Whale Watcher II if they spotted any.

Captain Paul is leading us out of the dock and into the canal with Captain Miles as his guide. We are advised not to feed the seagulls so they don’t eat a bunch of blueberries and poop all over the poop deck.

whalewatchwtching“Aye aye, sir.”

He looks at me askance and turns his binoculars to the open waters.

The skies are clear blue. The only swell in the water is the one the boat makes. And it is a day of inspiration for other seafaring folk as well. There are many boats on the water this day – sailboats, fishing boats, commercial fisherman, dinghies, and sport fishing boats. As we pass the U. S. Coast Guard Base and round the shoreline at Wildwood Crest, Christina gives us a “thar she blows.”

whalewatchfinI turn toward the bow (the front of the boat), my camera in hand; thinking this is the moment. Now I shall see “The Big One” and capture it on my lens for all the world to see. Aye but mates it is but a nursery of dolphins that has been spotted. And the poor guide Christina is forced to use landlubber language. The dolphins aren’t at the port, the bow, or starboard – they are at 12 o’clock, six o’clock and nine o’clock.

It’s very crowded at 12 o’clock – Capt. Miles must be thinking of making his crew walk the plank – oh I see. The passengers are crowding the bow to get a closer look at the baby dolphins. The waters are warmer this summer, says Christina, so the mommy’s and nannies are keeping the wee ones closer to shore and away from predatory sharks.

Suddenly I see the fin.

“Aye, breach your last to the sun Slammer! Thy hour and thy camera are at hand. Down! Down all of ye, but one man at the fore. The boats! – Stand by!” I yell at the top my lungs.

Ah. Nevermind mateys.

whalewatchmomandbabyChristina tells me it is a dolphin not a whale. Dolphins, actually. Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swim in pairs or in pods. There must be 50 of them. For a few moments I am distracted from my mission and I watch these sea creatures. When they do their synchronized swimming routine, they look like a chorus line of dancers. Christina has names for them – There’s Tippy, who’s been summering in Cape May for 16 years and is the queen mother, and Nubby, Quasi Motto, and Camel who are also regulars to the Cape May seashore.

I keep trying to get their picture when they come out of the water and I’m never fast enough – I’m so busy running back and forth underneath the stairwell that I nearly crash my head into it. Maybe I should just stay still. So I do. Stay still that is. By this time I can see the Wildwood roller coasters in the distance. Finally I get a shot of them. The teen dolphins are plunging in and out of the water. The baby dolphins stay a little closer to their elders.

Suddenly, I’m all worried about them. What happens when they swim under the boat? Are they going to get hurt? What about fishing nets and fast moving sport boats? Are they really safe from the sharks? What happens when the summer is over and they have to go home? Yikes! Being a parent can be very stressful.

whaletalebyLeoKulinskiJrGet a hold of yourself mate. I say. You must not be dissuaded from your appointed task. You have an appointment with destiny in the form of the Humpback Whale. The captain agrees because we are venturing forth into the deepest parts of the ocean.

Other poets have warbled praises of the soft eye of the doe, and the lovely plumage of the Eagle; less celestial, I celebrate the tail.

Each Humpback tail is different. Scientists have identified individual whales in Tonga by photographing their tails. And the Humpback Whale can be spotted by their actions like jumping and tail slapping. When courting, they are known for their detailed love songs, which are sung by males. They usually hang vertically in the water as they sing. They are, on average, 45 feet long and have a life span of 77 years.

Dissect him how I may, then, I but go skin deep; I know him not and never will. But the picture is the thing. If I only have one shot let me make it a tail shot.

I’ve worked up quite a thirst and I think I’ll drop into Harpoon Hanna’s for a cold one. Whoops! No money. I have my camera. I have my notebook. I even have a pen, two in fact – but I have no money in my purse. The woman behind the counter is serving a nice, tall Coca-Cola with sweat forming on the side of the cup to the many customers in front of her. The fragrant aroma of frozen pizza fills the air and I lift my nose up to breathe in fully the smell as though it will satisfy my hunger.

whalewatchwatcherWell, it’s for the best. Drink and food will spoil my senses, dull them, leaving me vapid and languishing. I think I’ll go topside and continue my search. The excitement of the dolphins has worn off and the other passengers are settling in for the next adventure. When I look about me, I can no longer see the shoreline and Christina is pointing out some of the pelagic birds that follow the whales. Whales, she tells us, have lousy breath. How she knows this is beyond me but I’m thinking I won’t be asking that question – some things are best left a mystery.

I think about joining the crew in the wheelhouse. Instead I sit down and lean against the railing and wait for Slammer to appear.

It’s so quiet. All the passengers are sitting back and enjoying the beautiful day. As I look down at the deck below, couples are also leaning against rail, content to watch the sea as we move further out in search of the illusive Slammer.

The water is so calm, so soothing, so tranquil, so….

Whoops! Nodded off there for a minute and I suspect a few others on the boat have too.

Well, hard as Christina, Jenn (the other naturalist) and the rest of the crew look for whales, it does appear as though there will be no Slammer sighting today because The Whale Watcher II is heading into shore.

The ship tore on; leaving such a furrow in the sea as when a cannon ball, missent, becomes a ploughshare and turns up a level field.

whalewatchfishingboatBut the thing to notice, are the sights that we forget about so often. Cape May is more than beaches. Commercial fishing boats are also making their way home. We pass the Wildlife Bird Sanctuary, the U.S. Coast Guard Training Base (the only one in the country), and the wetlands, seemingly springing from nothing.

The drama is done and even though I did not see the Slammer, an afternoon spent at sea is an afternoon well spent.

Editor’s Note: Many thank to the crew and captain of the Whale Watcher II. The Cape May Whale Watch & Research Center is located at Wilson Drive and plays host to several island cruises a day.

Also many thanks to the obscure English author Herman Melville for his able assistance in writing this piece.


A Day at the Historic Cold Spring Village

horseandcarrigaesepiaIf you watched the recently aired PBS reality show Colonial House, you learned what life was like for American colonists in the “New World” in 1628. It occurred to our staff at CapeMay.com that we too could see first hand what life was like in  the 1800s Cape May County by just taking a visit to Historic Cold Spring Village (HCSV).

We walk over to the Transportation Center on Lafayette Street and climb aboard train No. 304 – The Mermaid – leaving Cape May. First stop? HCSV or The Village, as we like to call it.

Just a little digression before we begin our journey. The Cape May Seashore Line’s train is a wonderful way to arrive at The Village. If you have the time, you can hop back on and continue the train ride to the Cape May County Zoo, located at the Cape May County Park fairgrounds along Route 9 and the Garden State Parkway.

schoolmarmAs we descend from the train, and approach the Marshallville School, circa 1825, we already feel like time travelers. It is a quiet, perfectly clear Tuesday afternoon. The sun and blue sky peek through the trees and the only sounds we hear are those of Jake the Horse pulling a wagon full of visitors through The Village and two brother turkeys – Puffalup and Puffadown arguing about some territorial dispute.

Inside the school, the schoolmistress is explaining some of the history of education in South Jersey. And what is that you say? You can’t marry? Oh. Not if you want to remain the schoolmistress. Hmmm.

makingabroomcolorOur next stop is just across the way. At the Willis Barn, circa 1820, Lauren a junior apprentice, is tying sorghum stalks or broom corn together under John the Broommaker’s supervision. Inside the barn are the tools of the trade – a shaving horse or Schnitzer Bonk which acts as a vice block and makes the boom handle smooth – a broomhorse rope, a sail needle, a broom press and broom trimmer. All these tools are used to process the broomcorn and turn it into a functioning broom. No electricity needed.

And what is that woman doing with that copper pot over yonder? cleaningthepot2Her name is Heather and because it is Tuesday, she’s cleaning the copper pots with a mixture of salt and vinegar and as she puts it “elbow grease.” I thought Tuesday’s were for ironing. Well, Monday, Heather says is definitely for washing. I don’t think they do much ironing at HSCV.

But what is that huge cauldron for? For boiling the sheep’s wool. For making candles and for Monday’s washing. Heather uses lye soap made at The Village. The clothes are boiled and a scrub board is used to get the dirt out. Then they are hung on a line to dry. That pretty much takes up all of Heather’s time on Monday.

The Leaming House

The Leaming House

Historic Cold Spring Village reminds me of the nursery rhyme. Do you know which one I mean? “Here we go ‘round the Mulberry Bush…”This is the way we wash our clothes… so early Monday morning.” Each day of the week is set aside for a different chore. And “This is the way we sweep the floor, so early Friday morning.”

cardingwoolsepiaWhen we think about it, imagine how much of our time would be spent on one task without the modern conveniences. Inside the Spicer Leaming House (c.1800) Heather explains how long it takes just to light a fire in the hearth. Meals are cooked in hearth. Beef stew, oatmeal, flatbread, coffee, and jams, which are made with berries grown at HCSV.

When not baking, washing or scrubbing, Heather is combing the wool and preparing it for spinning.

dyedyarnThey are a very frugal people at The Village. Everything has a purpose – be it commercial or for the villagers needs. There is a Dyer’s Garden outside the Philip S. Hand House (c. 1825) The flowers are used as dyes for the wool which is spun inside the Hand house by, on this day, Jennifer. She is using the Drop Spindle to create a two-ply strand of wool. Scarves, hats and shawls are made here.

Pottery is another great source of craftsmanship at HCSV. One of the Cold Spring Potters, Marie Elaine shows us how to take a small portion of clay and, with the use of a kickwheel to moderate the base, turn it into a thing of beauty. As she talks, kicks and uses her hands to control the clay, Marie tells us “That this is how pottery was done long ago. It makes use of all your senses,” she says as she ever so gently smoothes and stretches the clay – shaping it into a vase that eventually will be fired in the kiln in the Pottery Shop. It’s very calming to watch her run her hands up through the pot shaping it and reshaping it.

beginningpot startingpot almostfinishedpot finishedpot

If we lived at the Village, we would always have a coffee mug and plates to eat on. Vases for the flowers we grew and urns to bottle our beverages. We would never want for clothes because of the sheep and the wool. We yarncould dye the wool using the flowers we grow. All the cooking would be done over the hearth and we would use the dried herbs hanging above the hearth to spice up the dishes. We would have plenty of vegetables to tide us over the winter because our garden is large and plentiful. Yes, it would be hard but far more doable than we thought before we came here.

woodworkersBefore we walk over to the garden, we take a side trip to the woodwright, hoping to find some little thing for the kids to play with. Nick and his junior apprentice David are hard at work in the Isaac Smith Barn (c. 1865) creating gingerbread woodwork to be used on the houses and children’s jigsaw puzzles. We want to stay and sit on the bench that they made, watching as David peddles the jigsaw but we’re anxious to see the new garden.

farmtoolsIf there was any doubt that a woman can hold her own at Historic Cold Spring Village, master gardener Melinda puts those doubts to rest. She tends the 8 acres of land herself and she has thought through the Village’s needs so they won’t be hungry or without the means to trade throughout the winter months.

Cotton is growing as well as corn, beets, green beans, tomatoes and sweet potatoes. There are beautiful sunflowers growing as well. Jenny Lynn melons, cantaloupe and squash, parsnips and cabbage. The crops are used by the Villagers and are sold to local restaurants.

farmIt is hot now and we are tired. We try to imagine what we would be doing right now if we lived at Cold Spring Village. One thing, we’d definitely be thinking about all the canning we would have to do to get ready for the winter months ahead.

It’s a great thing to go back in time and wonderful knowing that we can do so Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. through September 5th as well as the 2nd and 3rd weekends in September.
Be sure to visit www.hcsv.org for more information.