- Cape May NJ Travel Guide and Vacation Planner Blog

Month: August 2009

Offshore and Inshore, plus the MA500

The Charter Fleet at South Jersey Marina had some good catches both offshore and inshore. Big Game had 2 Wahoo ,1 Yellowfin and 2 Dolphin early in the week. Common Sense brought in 1 Yellowfin and 4 Dolphin plus released a White Marlin. Slammer had 2 Yellowfin in the 50 pound range and 1 Dolphin. Top Shelf limited out on Bluefish on 8/11.

South Jersey Marina will be hosting their annual MidAtlantic $500,000 tournament out of Cape May and Ocean City, MD from 8/16 to 8/22. The Captains Meeting will be held on Sunday, 8/17.

A Week for Blue Fin

hooked up tuna 8-6hooked up 8-4The story of the week at South Jersey Marina was Capt. John Sowerby and his Charter Boat Hooked Up II. He went offshore to the Lobster Claw for Blue Fin Tuna on 5 separate trips. On every trip he caught one large Blue Fin with an average weight of 150 pounds. The heaviest weighed 159 pounds on 8/6 and they also had 6 Yellowfin that day. On 8/4 they brought in 2 Bluefin and 3 Dolphin. It was quite a week.

On 8/8 George Pollis of Jupiter, FL weighed a 77 pound Wahoo caught on his 30′ Gillikin. Walt Palmer was the Captain.. This fish was caught at the Elephant Trunk.

The inshore fishing has been hot also. Capt. Clint on Common Sense limited out on Bluefish and brought in a Bonito as well. Slammer Capt. Joe Lehner had 75 Bluefish and 10 keeper Flounder on one of his trips this week.

Hot time for offshore fishing

Cape Queen with 6.8lb flounder

Cape Queen with 18 keepers

The offshore fishing for the South Jersey Charter Fleet has been hot this past week.

Cape Queen had a nice catch. A 131.5 lb. Bluefin Tuna and several Dolphin. Slammer had a Bluefin at about the same size. Hooked Up II had one a little larger, 160 lbs.

Flounder fishing has picked up this week also. Cape Queen went to the Old Grounds and brought in 18 keepers. The heaviest was 6.8 lbs. Porgy IV registered a flounder at 9.2 lbs. Plenty of meat on that one.

Summer time and the garden is growing!



Whether you garden in a pot or a plot, it is time to take notice and give the plants one last feeding if you do not already have time-release fertilizer on the plants. Clip or deadhead blooming plants so they will continue to flower. Trim back vegetables if they need it and plant some fall crops. Sprinkle seeds of lettuce, parsley, dill, other greens and even radishes for a cool weather garden this fall. My vegetable garden is my favorite outdoor spot and we all spend hours there each day if possible.

Real gardeners love all types of plants. They appreciate the coolness of shade trees and the winter hues of evergreens. They love the colorful blooms of spring flowering shrubs and the fragrance of lilac, roses, mock orange and swamp magnolia. They plant masses of vibrant annuals each spring as well as tomatoes and other vegetables to feed the family. They love the challenge to choose reliable, colorful perennials that will come up each year with dependable consistency. These best fill in a bed to look like an old-fashion cottage garden with color throughout the spring, summer and fall. A few perennials like Amsonia have golden foliage for a long time in fall. Others, like hellebores – the Christmas and Lenten roses – are evergreen with dark shiny foliage all year long.


Red phlox is an easy to grow perennial for sun or shade

There are perennial wild flowers and ferns that can create a woodland setting in shady or woodsy areas. There are colorful plants that will attract butterflies and hummingbirds and there are some perennials that bloom very early as well as some that bloom very late or even in winter. Although most perennials die back and disappear each winter they come back each spring. The root remains alive.

At the peak of spring there are poppy, iris, peony, anemone, wood phlox, lily-of-the-valley and mountain pinks in bloom. These old favorites are such signs of spring that most people recognize them.

Later in summer the number of blooming perennials is so large that even seasoned gardeners find new ones all the time. There are so many daisies that you can have them in white, red or pink, yellow, orange and many other assorted colors. Try Shasta daisy for white. Painted daisy for pink or red. Black-eyed Susan for gold. Gaillardia for shades of red and yellow and Echinacea for lavender, white, shades of orange, peach and coral. There are the lilies of summer as well as the blooms of many herbs such as lavender, mints, monarda. Don’t forget Yucca or prickly pear cacti for sunny dry spots. I love the dependability of yarrow in many colors, phlox, Cardinal flower and salvia.

Perennials can sometimes take over an area so it is a good idea to thin them every few years if they seem to be spreading too much. Always do this very early in the spring while they are still dormant. Mark where they are and remove clumps of roots. You can plant them in another spot or trade with another gardener.



Perennials need food to bloom. Prepare the soil well when planting. It is always a good idea to mix in some compost if you have it. High organic content in soils is a key to building a great perennial garden. I do not mulch them heavily since I like most to reseed. My black-eyed Susans, sweet Cecily, and even Christmas roses reseed. When there are a lot of plants in a bed it is important to feed them well. My husband usually feeds everything in the yard each spring with a handful of 10-10-10 or 5-10-5 granular ‘brown bag’ generic fertilizers. Then I fine tune by putting a scoop or two of my favorite time-release osmocote 14-14-14 (green cap) so they continue to bloom. Compost works best so be generous with it too. Remember that it is the middle number, the phosphate that increases bloom. Too much nitrogen (first number) makes lots of beautiful leaves but sparse blooms. We let the leaves stay in the beds all winter; this sure seems to protect the plants in a natural way.

Prickly pear cactus bloom - a perennial for dry sunny spot

Prickly pear cactus bloom - a perennial for dry sunny spot

To dead head or not to dead head, that is the question! Some people ask, “What is dead heading?” It is simply cutting off the dead blooms. I usually do this early in the season to encourage more bloom. It is often good to let some go to seed later so that more plants will grow. Seeds drop once they are ripe and fall naturally from the pods. The plants usually come up in mid summer and grow until next season when they bloom. Perennial seedlings grow for a year until they bloom. Ones purchased in a nursery are often one to two years old and ready to bloom.

Almost any time is a good time to prepare a perennial garden or to add a few plants to other plantings. Be sure that you find the right plant for each spot. Find out how much sun your gardens have and find the plant that will do best. A sun plant needs sun between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. for lots of blooms.

Black eyed susan - perennial for dry , sunny spot, but it will also bloom in part shade

Black eyed Susan - perennial for dry , sunny spot, but it will also bloom in part shade

Just like some perennials need sun and well-drained soil for success some need more water or moisture in the soil than others. An example would be the difference between lavender and monarda. Lavender, one of the oldest and favorite perennials of all needs a hot, sunny well-drained site. It does not need a lot of fertilize and even has less fragrance and fewer blooms when over fed. Monarda, with its large red humming bird magnet blooms, can tolerate quite a bit of moisture and will grow in sun or shade. A native cactus prickly pear is a wonderful perennial for a hot, dry spot where few others will grow. It is important to read about each perennial before making a choice. A good nursery should be able to guide you. A perennial book will help and the Internet will do as well, if you choose a good source. Remember too to make sure the writer lives in a similar climate as you do.

The lists of perennials are very, very long. It is often a good idea to look at perennials each month in a local nursery or at a botanical garden. Choose ones you like and plant them near each other so you have something blooming all during the season.

Landscape and herb classes offered throughout the year. Visit

Do you have a gardening question? Ask Lorraine in the comments section below!

Time for Variety

Photo by Jim Gatto

White Marlin. Photo by Jim Gatto

This article originally appeared in Cape May Magazine, August 2007.

August – the month when summer is at its peak. This is none the less true for fishing in Cape May. The month of August brings forth the largest variety of fish species caused by the large numbers of bait fish both inshore and off shore….and as they say “the big fish eats the little fish.” August is a great time for tournament fishing as well, boasting one of the largest and richest tournaments in the world – the Mid-Atlantic $500,000 (MA-500).

The ocean temperature inshore and offshore is at its warmest this time of the year. Offshore, warm bodies of water broken off by the Gulf Stream called “eddys” form a temperature break. Find a temperature break, there you’ll find a number of “pelagic” fish such as Tuna, Marlin, Wahoo and Mahi feeding on bait fish. It’s truly something, this circle of life out in the ocean. Most of the areas that are affected by these temperature breaks are from the 30-fathom line out to the canyons to the 1,000-fathom line.

Boats will fish these areas using a couple of different techniques. The two most popular are trolling and chunking. When trolling boats will fish five or more rods pulling lures and Ballyhoo, Spanish Mackeral and Mullet. The boat will be moving between five and eight knots. When trolling, you want to create what is called a “spread.” Your spread looks like a school of bait fish to the fish below, thus causing them to spark into feeding mode, and the next thing you know: “Fish on!” Expect to catch Longfin Tuna, Yellowfin Tuna, Wahoo, Mahi, Blue and White Marlin.

Photo by Jim Gatto

Dolphin fish (Mahi). Photo by Jim Gatto

The second method is called chunking, which can be done day and night, as opposed to trolling which is done at night. Chunking using bait such as butterfish, peanut bunker and sardines are most popular in our area. Many anglers will also jig, using a technique of jerking the pole up and dropping it down at a certain depth with a lure.

Another great idea when chunking is to fish live bait such as bluefish or spotfish. Most boats will fish four to five fishing rods with baits at different depths and drift or anchor over structures such as lumps, canyons and depressions. On the chunk, you’ll catch yellowfin tuna, longfin tuna, mahi, and, at night, swordfish. Both chunking and trolling involve running out 35 to over 75 miles offshore, and most trips run by charter boats are from 12 to 30 hours.

Fishing inshore is also a great way to spend some time on the water. It’s a great month for Flounder, Sea Bass, Bluefish and Bonita. Flounder can be caught in the back bays, Delaware Bay and in the ocean. In the back bays Grassy Sound and in front of the Coast Guard base are always great spots for Flounder. You’re fishing the bottom using Flounder rigs, live minnows or stripped squid as bait. This holds true for fishing the Delaware Bay as well. Areas such as Brown Shoal, and the light houses such as Brandywine, Fourteen Foot Bank Light, Abandon Lighthouse, aka the Oldhouse or Blockhouse, and Miah Maull Shoal are great spots.

Photo by Stephen Spagnuola

Wahoo. Photo by Stephen Spagnuola

When fishing for Flounder in the ocean, areas like the Cape May Reef and the Old Grounds are two of my favorites, except to catch larger flounder, but make sure you make your baits a bit longer. Do not be surprised to catch a mixed bag of sea bass and bluefish when fishing in the ocean, as well. The last couple of years have been banner years for inshore trolling for bonitas and bluefish at East Lump. FA buoy and Five Fathom Shoal are a few of the more popular spots. Both party boats and charter boats run inshore and offshore trips. Most trips are from four to eight hours long.

If fishing off a boat is not your game, try fishing under the Ocean Drive bridge and the back bay sod banks during the incoming tide. You’ll catch Bluefish and Striper using lures such as “bucktails,” plugs and jig head with artificial worms or sassy shads. On the ocean side fishing Poverty Beach and all the jetties down past The Point will produce just as well, both day and night.

Well, the month comes to the end with the MA-500 August 16th through the 21st. Boats from around the world come to compete in, boat for boat, the richest fishing tournament in the world! This is also one of the biggest White Marlin tournaments. In 2006 over 250 boats competed in the MA-500 with total prize money close to $2 million. Weigh-ins start at around 4 p.m. and are open to the public free of charge. It’s a standing room-only crowd with hundreds of people on the dock during weigh-in hoping to catch a glance at some of the biggest fish in the ocean.

So, if you’re ready to get in on some of the hottest fishing on the east coast the month of August in Cape May is where it’s at. Fishing not only makes great stories, it brings family and friends together for more than just the average everyday at the beach.

steve-spagnuolaStephen Spagnuola, a graduate of Visual Arts, New York City, worked as art director for many ad agencies in New York before leaving advertising to pursue fashion photography, and worked on such magazines as Stuff, Flatiron, and Zink. Stephen is a freelance photographer and marketing director for Sea Tow Cape May.. Visit Steve online

Blame it on Mother Nature

DSC_0512sm“Blame it on Mother Nature.”

According to City Manager Bruce MacLeod the sudden disappearance of the Cove beach is the direct result of “astronomical [literally] extreme high tides” over the last month and particularly during the full moon July 7. MacLeod said the Cove was never part of the state and federal Beach Replenishment program which has been pumping sand back into the beaches of Cape May since 1991. He said the sand was only pumped up to the jetty at what is commonly referred to as Third Avenue. The Cove is considered part of Cape Meadows. The fact that the Cove beach expanded to the point where city officials in 1995 felt compelled to put a lifeguard stand in has all been part of a natural evolution. And, it seems, what Mother Nature giveth, she has decided to take back. City officials are also worried about a mass of salt water that invaded the Mt. Vernon section of the beach and headed into the South Meadows. MacLeod said a swab of salt water some “30 to 40 feet wide” found its way into the Meadows last Thursday. MacLeod said representatives from the Army Corp of Engineers and the Bureau of Coastal Management are coming to Cape May in the next few days to inspect that site.

DSC_0524smLocals say the Cove is just going back to the way it was 20 or 30 years ago. In fact, MacLeod said longtime Cape May Beach Patrol lifeguard Lt. Harry Back predicted city officials would start seeing another jetty by the Mt. Vernon beach entrance reappear. “Sure enough, after the weekend, we spotted it,” said MacLeod.

According to MacLeod, Cove beachgoers will have to check the tide charts and make sure their bathing is at low tide until Mother Nature again decides to shine down on the little strip of beach at the end of Cape May. Don’t forget, at one time that area was the site of another borough, known as South Cape May. There’s a reason why it isn’t there anymore – Mother Nature.

Aerial view of the Cove beach in 2006

Aerial view of the Cove beach in 2006

Learn more about beach replenishment and erosion in Cape May

Rebuilding a Beach
Nature Meets Nurture at Saint Mary by the Sea
Cape May Beach Replenishment Project
What happened to South Cape May?

A Half-Baked Idea

There are two distinct clans in the culinary world. Hot foods chefs and baking/pastry chefs. Not exactly the Hatfields and McCoys. Nevertheless, there is a distinct line of demarcation between the two groups. They work differently and think about food differently. Both groups are creative to be sure, but how that creativity is expressed is very different. Hot foods chefs are jazz musicians they take basic themes and throw a little improvisation and solos in the mix. Each hot foods chef lends his/her own distinct licks to a basic repertoire.

rolling doughPastry chefs are classical musicians that must play the notes as written and each note must be played perfectly to achieve the desired result. One off note can destroy the whole piece. Pastries require precision, patience and practice. I have all but three of those skills. So this summer while on break from teaching, the opportunity to bake presented itself and I jumped at the chance to hone a set of skills I haven’t practiced since culinary school. Let’s just say baking isn’t exactly a piece of cake.

Even in a small restaurant hot foods chef work as part of a larger team of station chefs with specific tasks. If it’s a dessert or something baked, the pastry chef does it alone, often late at night or early, very early, in the morning. The first thing I learned quickly is I had to rethink what organization meant.

In hot foods, if a sauce is reducing too quickly, you simply adjust the heat. Baking is chemistry and once the reactions take place you can’t change or slow it down. Everything is time sensitive. Baking is patience. Icing a cake seems like a simple task, but in trying to even and smooth out the layers with a trim here and there, my first chocolate-layer cake ended up resembling a Hostess Ring Ding, rather than a triple-layer cake. I won’t be on the show, “Can you decorate a cake better then a fifth grader” anytime soon.

But not all desserts require advanced skills that take years to master. Panna Cotta, the classic Italian dessert is elegant, yet simple to make. If you can boil milk and bloom gelatin, you can make this dessert. Panna Cotta can be made in many variations of flavors from basic vanilla bean to honey lavender or flavored with fresh fruit purees. When working with gelatin don’t use fresh pineapple. The enzymes won’t allow the gelatin to set.

peachesSummer desserts can be simply prepared by featuring fresh seasonal fruits. Peaches are one of my favorite summertime treats and are very versatile. Cobblers and pies work well and peaches blend great with blackberries and raspberries. The tart berries and sweet peaches make for a great combo. Some selections transcend both hot foods and pastries. Flavors remain the same. The technique in blending them and bringing out those flavors is different. Peaches, for example, can also be grilled and layered with mascarpone cheese for a perfect ending to an August night of grilling.

Pies and tarts also straddle the hot foods pastry line. Most hot foods chefs can make quiches and savory tarts. Pie dough is as simple as 3-2-1 That is the ratio for basic pie crust: 3 parts flour, 2 parts fat (butter, shortening or lard), 1 part cold water, with a pinch of salt and sugar and you have a basic flaky pie dough. Armed with this all-purpose recipe, now you can make apple, peach, cherry or berry pies.

Pâté A Choux, the basic dough for éclairs, cream puffs and some types of fritters, is really as simple as making a roux. In fact, it is often referred to as baker’s roux.

Lemon Curd and pastry cream are both boiled liquids that have tempered (another technique used in hot foods, taking a hot liquid and mixing with a cold liquid then adding back to the hot liquid to minimize the risk of curdling) egg yolks added to them and are then brought to a second boil.

I am ready for a group hug. Hot foods and pastries have lots of techniques in common. There is no reason to fear baking. The real key in baking is following directions and measuring exactly.

Take time this month to get in touch with your inner pastry chef. Start slow. Try Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone Cheese, then progress to the kitchen for Coconut Milk Panna Cotta with Mango Sauce. Then it is time for real baking with Peach Blackberry Crumb Pie.

To quote the old commercial, “It’s time to make the donuts.” Until next month, Bon Appétit.

Coconut Milk Panna Cotta with Mango Rum Coulis

(Makes 8 servings)

  • 6 tablespoons water
  • 2 envelopes Knox gelatin
  • 2 14.5 ounce cans coconut milk, unsweetened
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 5 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Lightly spray eight five-ounce custard cups with Pam.

Sprinkle gelatin over water. Let sit 10 minutes to bloom.

In saucepan, heat, but do not boil, coconut milk, sugar, honey and vanilla, stirring to dissolve sugar. Add gelatin mix to coconut milk mix. Stir to dissolve completely. Pour evenly into custard cups. Refrigerate at least two hours.

Mango Rum Sauce

  • 2 mangoes peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum
  • 1 cup water
  • 4 tablespoons demerara sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger

Place all ingredients in sauce pan. Simmer on low heat until mango softens. Puree with stick blender. If sauce is too thick, add more water. Taste and adjust sugar if necessary. Strain and cool.

Place a 1½ ounces of sauce on plate. Unmold Panna Cotta. Loosen lightly with butter knife and invert. Top with toasted coconut.

Grilled Peaches with Mascarpone

(Serves 6)

  • 3 large ripe peaches, pitted and quartered. DO NOT PEEL.

Heat grill to medium, lightly brush with oil. Grill peaches 3 minutes per side until soft.

In bowl, mix 3 tablespoons demerara sugar, 3 tablespoons brandy and 1½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice. Remove peaches from grill. Toss in bowl with brandy mix. Let marinate 15 minutes.

In separate bowl mix, 1 cup Mascarpone and ½ teaspoon vanilla until smooth.  In large red wine glasses, place ¼ peach. Pour chilled Riesling over top. Place a dollop of Marscapone on top. Top with another ¼ peach. Serve and garnish with fresh mint.

Peach Blackberry Crumb Pie

  • 6 peaches
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 12 ounces blackberries
  • ¼ cup cornstarch
  • One 9-inch pie crust

Crumb topping

  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • Pinch cinnamon
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

Line nine inch pie tin with pie dough.

In bowl mix 6 peaches, peeled and sliced thick. Add ¾ cup sugar, juice of 1 lemon, 12 ounces blackberries and ¼ cup cornstarch. Let sit 20 minutes. Pour into pie shell.

Prepare crumb topping in mixer with paddle attachment. Mix brown sugar, flour, pecans, nutmeg, cinnamon, and butter. Mix on low until mix is the size of small peas.

Top pie with crumb topping and bake 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake 30 more minutes. Cool slightly. Serve

Island Surfing

Island Surfing originally appeared in Cape May Magazine‘s July 2007 issue.


In the days of the ancient kings, when King Kamehameha lorded over Cape Island, the brave men of the Hui Nalu rode hardwood surfboards – alaia – through the breaking swell off Broadway Beach wearing little more than loincloths. Surfboard riding was an ingrained part of Cape Island culture for centuries and when Captain Cornelius Mey first sailed past the tip of the cape, he was fascinated by the slim and muscular Cape Mayans riding the waves, as noted in his logbook…

The Cape Mayans’ most common diversion is upon the Water, where the Sea and surf break on the Shore. The Men lay themselves upon a flat piece of Wood about twice their size; keeping their Legs close together and using their Arms to guide the Plank. They wait until the time of the greatest Swell and then push forward with their Arms to keep on its top. It sends them in with a most astonishing Velocity – the great Art is to guide the Plank so as always to keep it in a proper Direction on the top of the Swell and direct it to avoid any Obstacles.

DSC_1245Maybe that’s not exactly how surfing was born in Cape May, but it sure makes a good story. As far as I can tell, surfing first hit the beaches of Cape May in the early 1960s. The city and its inhabitants were never the same.

Trying to describe the impact of surfing on Cape May is like trying to describe the impact of baseball on America – it’s an incredibly broad topic. Many locals have built their lives around surfing, embracing careers that allow them the luxury of ditching work whenever the surf is pumping. For some, surfing defines their lives, chooses their friends for them and shapes the way they see the world. For others it’s a later-in-life hobby that’s now a passion. Anyway you look at it, surfing, even in Cape May, is nothing short of a religion for its most ardent followers.

Surfing was probably born in the Polynesian culture of the eastern and south Pacific. The exact timeline of when men first paddled into the surf on planks of wood is uncertain, but it’s a good guess that the modern version of surfing was perfected in Hawaii. When Jack London wrote A Royal Sport: Surfing in Waikiki in 1907, surfing’s reputation as “the sport of kings” was cemented. Even today Hawaii remains the spiritual center of the surfing universe.

DSC_1276The birth of surfing in Cape May is just as mysterious but perhaps less romantic. Steve Steger, whom I might be so bold as to describe as a living local legend, claims his father was one of Cape May’s original surfers.

“My dad was one of the first surfers in town,” said Steve. “A guy from California introduced him to surfing. My dad owned a store across from the beach, and he sold sundries. He was so into surfing that in 1962 he made the store into a surf shop and called it ‘Steger Sun and Surf Shop.’ ” Steger even has a stretch of beach at the end of Perry Street in front of his former store named for him; good surfing beach, too.

Cape May’s demographics made surfing a hugely popular sport in the late ’60s and early ’70s. In those days, Cape May was still an affordable town and was filled with families and kids. What Little League was to other American towns, surfing was to Cape May.

“There used to be a lot more kids in Cape May,” said Steve. “If you lived in Cape May you hung at the beach, and if you were at the beach you surfed. We used to walk down the street to go surfing and then walk home. The guys I surfed with were Terry Randolph, Paul Gibbons, Jim DeScala, Joe Gilmartin; that was the four musketeers, and there were a few others. That was my generation.”

Mike Owen was 12 years old when he started surfing. Now it’s a part of his DNA.

Mike Owen riding a tube. Photo by Susie Owen.

Mike Owen riding a tube. Photo by Susie Owen.

“I started in 1970 – I was 12 years old – a kid from Texas taught me. He was a Coastie (U.S. Coast Guard family member). In the 70s surfing was growing; we hit it at a great time. Through high school surfing became who I was, I suppose. I didn’t join sports because you had to drop what you were doing to surf,” said Mike.

The surfing lifestyle is a familiar theme in the surf community. The surfing lifestyle, for lack of a definitive description is simply the need to surf. They call it “the stoke.” It’s got to be some kind of chemical thing in the brain that grabs hold of a person and bends the brain patterns so that there is nothing more important than the right combination of wind, sea, and tide. People build their lives around surfing, and Cape Mayans, being so connected to the sea, are no exception. Mike Owen is hardcore.

“Surfing is my lifestyle. I married who I married because of surfing. I wouldn’t go to weddings because the waves were good. My wife understood that – she surfs. The family understood,” said Mike. “So yeah, surfing is pretty important. It’s what I know. My whole family surfs, my friends surf. Surfing has given me great friendships and taken me on great trips.”

surfing dudes 015

Stephen Coon

Sue Lotozo has the stoke. Sue was a 40-year-old mom watching her daughter surf the Cove at Cape May’s western-most edge and decided she wanted to try it. “My daughter Eliza was learning to surf and she was having so much fun. I didn’t want to be on the sidelines. I stayed away from people at first and it took me awhile to learn, but it’s just so much fun being in the water. I fell in love with it.”

Sue has been known to close up her clothing store on a brilliant autumn day when business is a little slow. She injured herself a few years back – tore her knee up at the Cove – and every time I saw her I’d ask how her rehab was going. There never seemed to be any doubt she’d be back in the water.

“The first time you stand up on a board you think you’re a surfer until you realize you know nothing. The first time is thrilling but there’s so much nuance. Surfing is an ongoing journey, it’s a whole lotta fun and I love being out there with my kids. I’m more in tune with nature, you know? What’s the wind doing today, what’s the water temp, where can I fit this in to my day?”

Stephen “Buckethead” Coon grew up on New York Avenue. He’s hardcore too.

“I used to be able to check the waves by lifting my head off the pillow,” said Stephen. “All I had to do was look out the window; if it was high tide I could see the waves, if it was low tide I had to get up and look. My room was on the third floor, so if I could see the waves from the second floor, it was really good. This was at Trenton Avenue. There used to be a jetty at Trenton and it used to be a good break. Not anymore.”

Stephen and I talked one night for almost an hour about surfing. We talked about the basics like history, changes, good beaches, and surf culture, but what I began to realize was that Stephen’s life is all about surfing. Everything he does revolves around the ocean; whether it is the ocean’s impact on us, or our impact on the ocean, Stephen seems tuned to an oceanic vibration.

november 9 2006 072a copyWe talked about Cape May’s 50-year beach replenishment program, which pumps untold cubic yards of sand onto Cape May’s beaches to keep them from eroding. Stephen’s not so sure it’s a great idea. Even though he was a business major in college he wrote his research papers on surfing: the economics of surfing, the statistics of surfing, the Oedipus Rex syndrome of surfing (okay – maybe not that one). You’ll have to talk to him about the physics of barrier island development, but in a nutshell Stephen claims that all that sand is eventually going to just blow away.

“I’ve studied the ocean and it’s important to keep a long-term view,” said Stephen. “It’s all about doing your homework and being willing to broaden your horizons. Sand bars are shifting and changing.”

Surfing, it seems to me, has a deep connection to the past, and surfers have no problem looking back in fondness. Nobody I talked to was complaining but they all seemed to pine for the days when the water sloshed up under the boardwalk and the jetties stabbed way out into the water. It’s like baseball afficionados who still debate whether the designated hitter is a good idea. Cape May surfers also apparently miss trying to splatter themselves on a wooden piling under Convention Hall.

“We used to shoot the pier,” said Stephen. “The water used to come up under Convention Hall and we used to surf under that. We called it the ‘backyard;’ it was the right that came in from the Stockton Avenue jetty. We jumped off the back of Convention Hall. You had to know where the pilings were. It’s not there anymore.”

“There was a lot less beach back then,” added Steve. “The waves used to be longer.”

Joe Grottola. Photograph by Susie Owen.

Joe Grottola. Photograph by Susie Owen.

“Technology has progressed so much compared to when I started,” said Mike. “For one, it doesn’t hurt to be out in the water anymore. My first wetsuit was just a vest. I was still freezing but I thought that was enough. Jake Lincoln gave us these big thick diving suits. They were so heavy we couldn’t carry them.”

“The kids today just don’t have the access to waves that we had,” said Steve. “It’s not so affordable in Cape May anymore so there are fewer families. They’re all in Lower Township. That extra three miles to the beach makes a big difference.”

But for all the hindsight, some surfers are always looking for that next ride. And whether there aren’t as many kids in town any more doesn’t mean surfing is going to wither away. Jason Reagan is one of the few Cape May surfers who was able to turn pro and make a living surfing. I couldn’t find him for this article but I remember talking to him once and he summed it up nicely.

Jessie Owen riding a wave at the Cove. Photo by Susie Owen.

Jessie Owen riding a wave at the Cove. Photo by Susie Owen.

“Cape May has always had a strong surfing tradition – always had, always will.”

It seems that for many of these local guys, surfing is never a problem. Whether the sand bars change or the beaches get replenished or whether real estate prices change the shape of the neighborhood, it’s still all about the surfing. Generations have found that surfing can be more than a hobby, and more than a passion. It becomes a way of life, a religion almost. Surfing is never a problem. Not surfing? Well now there’s a problem.

“Surfing is such a good clean life,” said Mike Owen. “I met some of the greatest people through my surfing. One of my teachers, Carl Toft, was a surfer, I looked up to him. We had a connection in surfing, and my daughter went through his classes too. He was still around, probably teaching the same stuff. He’s great with kids, had a surf shop too. He’s probably 65 – he’s never stopped. It’s nice to see him out battling the strong current. When I see him it’s an inspiration, I realize I don’t have to stop. I worry that I may have to stop. What am I gonna do if I can’t surf anymore?”

5th Annual Best of Cape May Survey

The Best of Cape May 2009 - Presented by

Welcome to the 5th Annual Best of Cape May™ survey! We want real opinions from real people who have REALLY visited Cape May! The winners are chosen entirely by you, the readers. This survey takes about 10 minutes to complete, and we ask that you vote in as many categories as possible. There are 5 required categories you must complete with Real Answers (they are very general categories, we promise). The more information you share with us, the better the final results will be.

Voting Rules

By submitting your votes for the Best of Cape May™ survey, you certify that you understand the following rules. Voting is open August 1 through August 26, 2009 at 5:00 p.m. EST. You may vote once. You must supply a valid name and email address. We will not publish your name or email address, but we may need to contact you to clarify an answer.

The following will disqualify your entire submission:

  • Writing “n/a” or “I don’t know” or “I’m not familiar with Cape May” or anything similar in a required category
  • Voting more than once
  • Fake names & email addresses
  • Blatant promotion or cheating

Vote for the Best of Cape May

You may nominate one business per category (we have to toss out multiple votes, so please pick one). Be as specific as possible. If you’re not 100% sure about a business name, give us as much identifying information as possible.

Christine: A Fresh Beach Wedding

Growing up with annual summer visits to Cape May I had always dreamed of my own Cape May wedding. When Jeff and I started discussing our wedding plans I knew I had to at least throw the idea out there and Jeff bought it right away! We love Cape May. I have been coming since I was two and Jeff fell in love with the town when I introduced him to it 5 years ago. We knew we wanted a small wedding and I knew I wanted a Cape May beach wedding. We started throwing numbers together, and Cape May it was! I’m proud to say our amazing Cape May wedding did NOT break the bank! It CAN be done!

Knowing we were going to keep our guest list to close family and friends we began looking for a home to rent for the reception. Cape May is known for its amazing architecture. After much perusing online and visiting several houses in person, we found the perfect match with “Majesty by the Sea.” Once we met Mary McKenney, owner of “Majesty by the Sea” and several more homes in Cape May, and took a walk through her beautiful house, we knew we had found it. I felt like we were in a mini-castle. (On our wedding day, I had my hair done by my step-sister who happens to be a talented hair-dresser, in the upstairs sitting room of one of the “towers” overlooking the ocean!)

Our wedding date was April 25, 2009. And with the weather gods looking down on us we had the summer wedding we wanted in April! The temperature was high 70s, low 80s. The strong wind from the night before had abated leaving a light breeze, just enough to keep everyone comfortable. Our ceremony was officiated by Reverend Robert Steenrod at Mt. Vernon beach at 3pm. From my first contact with Bob I knew he would work with us to develop the ceremony we wanted. Weddings by the Sea provided chairs for our guests and even placed them exactly where I had been picturing, at the request of friends already at the site. We rented a trolley from Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts, a last minute decision that made the day! The trolley made two runs from the house we rented on New Jersey Ave, “Majesty by the Sea,” to the other side of Beach Ave, where Mt. Vernon Beach is located. The first run brought most of the guests and the groomsmen down to the beach and then the trolley, driven by Buddy came back for a few guests, our mothers, and bridesmaids. While the first group of guests awaited our arrival, local dolphins were apparently providing the entertainment!

The minute I got to the top of the wooden pathway at Mt. Vernon Beach, with my beautifully hand wrapped bouquet of red tulips from Cape Winds Florist, I realized my dream wedding had come true. The sky was bright blue, the sun was shining, and everyone waiting had smiles on their faces.

After our short but sweet ceremony, which included my mother singing “Feels Like Home” by Chantal Kreviazuk, and pictures taken by our close friend, Jennifer McCann of Jennifer McCann Photography, we returned to “Majesty by the Sea” via trolley to join our guests who were already enjoying appetizers from Vanthia’s. Demetria at Vanthia’s created a delicious buffet that everyone raved about. Pies and cookies were enjoyed afterward from Cape May Bakers.

Many guests claimed one of their favorite surprises was being presented in their hotels and Bed and Breakfasts with a “Welcome Pail” which included a list of our favorite places and activities in Cape May, as well as a map of the town, Cape May magnet, a candle with shells inside it from Sunset Beach Shop, some bottled water and snacks. All hotels were very accommodating of our guests. The majority of the guests stayed at La Mer which was right around the corner from “Majesty by the Sea” and offers spacious ocean front rooms with sliding glass doors opening up to a porch overlooking the ocean.

Everyone we did business with in Cape May was more than accommodating in helping to make our day a dream come true. It was truly a fairytale beach wedding (and done on a budget!).