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Rebuilding history: A new Dove soars to life at CBMM

ST. MICHAELS — Imagine loading stones for ballast into a wooden ship and then sailing it across the perilous sea in 1633. It was a five-month journey. People died on the way. The Maryland Dove, at 40 tons, was small. This ship along with the larger Ark, which was armed, sailed forth to found Maryland. Cecil Calvert, as in Calvert County, owned the Dove. The black and gold Calvert coat of arms is now part our Maryland flag.

About 60 descendants of this voyage gathered at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum to talk with the head shipwright about the construction of a new Dove being paid for by the state of Maryland. It is a marvel of traditional boat building techniques. There is a team of master craftsmen toiling beneath the fifty foot mass of the ribs, keel and decking.

The descendants came from as far away as Elon, North Carolina, to learn more about their heritage and to see old friends on Sept. 18 who are members of the American Dove Society.

Margaret Puryear from Dunkirk, Maryland, who is the registrar of the Society, said, “It is historically significant and incredibly wonderful that I know where my ancestors came from. It’s wonderful watching it being built ... Our 11th great grandfather was the governor of Maryland.”

A gaggle of descendants gathered in front of the ribs of the incomplete hull. They sat on benches in front of the Maryland Dove. The ship building process was explained by Joe Conner, lead shipwright. He also explained some of the history, like the ship which first made landfall in St. Mary’s City in the lower Potomac in 1634.

“I started this project three years ago. We laid the keel in June of 2019. The original was built with 300 or 400 people — I have 10. We’ve partnered with Maryland State Forest, the DNR and a lot of private donors to get the timber. White oak and osage orange are really rot resistant species. It’s like a whiskey barrel, once it gets wet, those staves will keep it nice and sealed,” said Conner. The average life span of a vessel with good wood is around 50 years until rot sets in. That is just what happened to the 1970s Dove — it got old. The men building the new boat harvested 280,000 pounds of live oak for the framing. This does not include the keel. Iver Franzen is the naval architect who drew up the plans the shipwrights work from.

Conner studied his craft in Maine, and has worked on projects in New Zealand, Panama and New York. From start to finish, this project will take three years. This is the biggest project he has worked on to date. Not only do they work with wood, they also cast bronze, making their own bolts with an on-site foundry. One can crawl down the rabbit role with all the shipyard lingo.

“The gudgeon is attached to the transom and it is what accepts the pintle for the rudder. The Dove has two gudgeons that change with the transom’s hour glass figure. They both serve to hold the rudder in place,” said Jenn Kuhn, shipyard education programs manager at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Not only does she take the time to explain how their foundry works, she also works with the molds and liquid metal. She has intimate knowledge of how casting nautical parts work.

The settlement used the two boats in different ways. The Dove was one tenth the size of the Ark. The settlers used the Dove to trade goods like corn and fur with other settlements, like the more prosperous northern settlements in Massachusetts.

“I believe three or four years after the settlement was founded it left and headed for Europe and it was never heard from again. That’s the way it was in the first British colonies. The colony would put together the money to buy a small ship. You would rent it and give it back, similar to how renting a U-Haul works today. They were doing the same thing in the early 1600s. Most of the early colonies were set up that way,” said Conner.

Since 1910, there have been 867 members counted as descendants. About 300 are still active members now. Some of the members wear little pins and ribbons on their chests proudly declaring their connection to the Calvert family. The descendants of these settlers have come to the new Maryland Dove like a beacon.

A previous version of the Dove, built in Dorchester County in the ’70s by Jim Richardson, will be decommissioned and either broken up or sunk. There are some differences between this original Dove and the one being reconstructed now.

“The main difference is underwater archaeology. They have researched underwater shipwrecks of British built vessels. They worked to make this as historically accurate as possible with the one caveat that it has to meet modern safety requirements. One thing that is different from the ’70s vessel and the original is that we have 18,000 pounds of external ballast,” he said.

This new boat has a very heavy keel. The original boat was expected to last two or three years. The ’70s version has lasted around 50 years. The new Dove is designed with silicon bronze and it should last 50 or 60 years. The metal on wooden ships is notorious for corrosion.

This whole project is funded by the State of Maryland.

“This is a state of Maryland project. So is the whole settlement, 800 acres, that is St. Mary’s City. We have a 50-year-old boat in great disrepair. We’re talking the keel, the stem and the stern post is rotten. They figured it was cheaper to build a new boat that is up to Coast Guard certifications, then to try to fix the old one,” said Conner.

The price tag? $5 million. But the payoffs are infinite because it allows them to teach kids about Maryland history, and keep the art of shipwrights relevant as it gets passed down to the next generation. And it doesn’t hurt that St. Mary’s City gets a 50-year tourist attraction. The CBMM gets to use its campus to engage and inspire.

As these 50 descendants know, history made real is something to be excited about.

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Talbot chamber honors Silverstein, welcomes new chair

EASTON — The Talbot County Chamber of Commerce held its annual membership meeting and chairman’s luncheon at the Talbot Country Club on Thursday, Sept 29.

Chamber President Amy Kreiner recognized Deborah Walsworth of BSC Group, LLC for her leadership as chair of the chamber board of directors in 2020.

The chairman's gavel has been passed to John Horner, senior vice president of operations and COO at Easton Utilities.

Horner applauded Walsworth's leadership. “Debbie demonstrated an engaging, intelligent and collegial leadership style during the early stages of the pandemic, navigating the board through a very turbulent time, which ensured the chamber would not only survive, but continue to thrive," Horner said.

Retiring board members Ed Heikes with Belle Aire Farms and Frank Gunsallus with Konsyl Pharmaceuticals, who each served two three-year terms, were also recognized for their service

New chamber board members for 2021 include Dr. Cliff Coppersmith with Chesapeake College, Kristen Greenaway with Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, Arvin Singh with University of Maryland Shore Regional Health, Jaime Windon with LYON Rum Distilling, and as an ex-officio member Cassandra Vanhooser with Talbot County Economic Development & Tourism.

Horner also recognized recently retired chamber president Al Silverstein, for his 20 years of service to the the local business community. The Talbot chamber is creating the Alan I. Silverstein First Responders Scholarship Fund to honor the former chamber president who now serves on the Easton Town Council. 

The scholarship will help graduating Talbot County students seeking to enter the police, fire, and emergency medical services fields.

Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, who is running for governor in 2022, was keynote speaker for the event. She focused on efforts to bridge digital divide issues on the Eastern Shore and statewide. “Equitable access to broadband is a necessary and vital component to the success of our business community and our schools,” Schulz said.

To view the video recording of the Chairman’s Luncheon, visit talbotchamber.org

Local social media personality Yvng Swag joins Washington Wizards Dancers

CHESTERTOWN — Many kids dream of growing up to be in the NBA. For Chestertown’s Tyshawn Johnson, also popularly known as “Yvng Swag,” that dream has come true — sort of.

He’ll still be on the court, but rather than dribbling, he’ll be dancing as a Wizards Dancer.

Before he was the popular internet personality Yvng Swag, Johnson grew up in Kent County playing basketball, soccer and football. His dream was to play basketball in the NBA.

“I always wanted to go to the NBA to play basketball, but I realized I was too short and that wasn’t my calling,” Johnson said in an interview on Friday, Sept. 24. “So now I’m still in the NBA but dancing and doing what God’s called me to do.”

When he was 15, Johnson began posting videos on social media of himself dancing. Around that time, he said he started paying attention to what people were telling him about being a good dancer.

He said that during school assemblies, the guests would ask who the best dancers at school were and everyone would point at him. It was because of that encouragement he started posting videos online of himself dancing. Since then, he has become widely known for his dance videos, rap music and appearances on MTV’s “Wild ’n Out.”

“I’m an entertainer. I do it all,” Johnson said. “I enjoy everything the same — dance, I enjoy that as much as I love making music as much as I love drawing. It’s all the same love for it because it’s like a passion — it’s a passion for all of it, all those things.

“Every morning I wake up and I dance, every day. Make music every day. I feel it every day in my spirit. I’m always thinking about something and different ways I can elevate my moves, creativity,” he said.

Typically Johnson dances freestyle. As a Wizards Dancer, he is learning choreographed routines and different styles, including jazz, Latin and ballet.

He said working with a choreographer is different and faster than he’s used to, but the dances have been easy to pick up and have pushed him out of his comfort zone and are making him a better dancer.

“At first I thought it was going to be hard in auditions, but I don’t know — I’m just born from a boom box,” Johnson said of his ability to pick up the dances quickly. “They honestly said they couldn’t tell the difference if I took classes or not.”

Johnson said there were three rounds of auditions followed by a training camp. The first audition was a freestyle from which 40 people were eliminated. The second was a choreographed hip-hop routine from which 50 more were eliminated. The last audition was a choreographed jazz routine. The final 28 dancers from that audition were invited to a training camp where eight more were cut, leaving the final team with 20 dancers.

The choreography for the auditions was taught to them quickly — they were given only 30 minutes to learn the routine and the tempo at which they were dancing was faster than a typical eight count.

“They really wanted to see how skilled of a dancer you were to pick up those moves with it being taught really fast,” he said of the auditions.

During the audition process, Johnson said that if he made a mistake during a routine, he would keep dancing and make it look like he never messed up. That is how he approaches his regular dance videos as well.

“Even if I was to mess up in like a regular dance video I still play it off and still dance. Even if I’m performing, I don’t show that I messed up,” he said.

Johnson had never been on a dance team prior to being a Wizards Dancer. He said being on the team means that he is a great dancer.

“It does mean I’m a great dancer, because that’s the NBA you know, they’re very strict where they pick the best of the best. That’s what it means to me: I’m better than I think I am,” he said. “It’s definitely rewarding. I definitely don’t give myself that credit that I do deserve, that’s just the humbleness in me.”

When Johnson found out he was on the team, he said he was jumping with excitement because of the opportunity.

“I feel like I’m a new excitement to the team — I bring different moves and energy,” Johnson said.

Johnson hopes the opportunity to be a Wizards Dancer leads to more opportunities in the future, including potential movies, other dancing gigs, commercials and anything else that will lead him “to the top” and to being “number one.”

“Number one as a dance team too, like as the Washington Wizards being number one as a dance team,” he said.

The Wizards Dancers practice twice a week on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Their first performance will be on Oct. 22, the Wizards’ first regular season home game against the Pacers.

“I will be at every home game dancing on the court,” Johnson said of his future as a Wizards Dancer. “We do events, meet and greats and stuff like that.”

Johnson will head to New Jersey in two weeks to begin filming his seventh season of “Wild ’n Out.”

He is also featured in an episode of the Netflix original “Droppin’ Cash: Los Angeles,” which he said “shows my personality and all.”

“After COVID, I plan on bringing the toy drive back,” Johnson said of his annual toy drive and community concert that benefits families in Kent and Queen Anne’s counties. “That’s something that I always do to give back to the community and it’s been put on hold.”

The Talbot County Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual chairman’s luncheon. Pictured left to fight: Reza Jafari, Chair-Elect; Amy Kreiner, President/CEO; Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz; retired Chamber President/CEO Al Silverstein; Chairman of the board of directors John Horner; retired board member Frank Gunsallus; Senator Addie Eckardt; Delegate Johnny Mautz