October 22, 2018

Torpedoes Remembered in Piney Point: Message From the Captain

torpedoes

Message From the Cap’n is a compilation of  history, fishing advice, waterman and weather insights, Chesapeake lore, and ordinary malarkey from the folks who keep their feet wet in the Potomac and St. Mary’s rivers.

It wasn’t only Cedar Point, Jarboesville, and the Patuxent River changed by the arrival of the US Navy. Piney Point, St. George Island, and the waterways from whence originates Message From the Captain, held a Navy torpedo testing station.

The Navy and the influence of the Torpedo Testing Station on Piney Point and St George Island.
“The Navy acquired the property in 1941,” according to a 2013 site assessment report by the Maryland Department of the Environment, “and constructed the Piney Point Torpedo Test Center to test munitions being supplied by the Alexandria Torpedo Factory located in Alexandria, Virginia. The property was excessed in 1959 and transferred to Piney Point, Inc. in 1960. The property was transferred to the Harry Lundeberg School in December 1969  and remains under their ownership.”

The torpedoes were tested from a barge anchored in the Potomac River at Piney Point, according to Warren Wince, 97, who served at the testing station during World War II.

Each torpedo was fired three times past a series of range markers on a southerly course to test for accuracy, Mr. Wince recalled. They were propelled by steam with counter rotating propellers and had gyros to aid in plotting their course. After each run the torpedoes were retrieved by Navy Landing craft from the base where the Paul Hall Center (formerly HLSS) is today. When satisfied that the torpedoes would run accurate and at the right depth, they were sent to the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria armed with warheads and sent to the fleet.

Many of the range markers are still standing today, serving as witnesses of a bygone era when over a thousand enlisted men and their families helped to diversify this small community. Many descendants still call Piney Point their home to this day and even some of the homes themselves come from that era.

In a historical property inventory collected by St. Mary’s County in the mid-1990s, Elizabeth Hughes, historic site supervisor for St. Mary’s County Planning and Zoning, provided these surveys of some of the existing homes

CURRENT RIVER STATUS:

As summer approaches, the lower Potomac water temperature is on the rise at 71 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the Interpretive Buoy System, and salinity is 11 parts per unit.

The Spring Trophy Season which opened mid-April was a “bust” this year due to the cold water temperature, their typical migration pattern was interrupted.  Here is the Striper Migration Map.  Rockfish prefer water temperature in the mid 60s, and that usually occurs at the time the Chesapeake is full of bait  (Menhaden) upon which to feed the entire spring. This year the striped bass migration was off-kilter because the water temperature was too cold in the rockfish spawning areas. Yet the water temperature did not impact the bait fish which arrived on time.

The crab season opened April 1,  but the crab business is regulated by the water temperature. After being buried in the mud all winter, the Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab begins its “moving cycle” when the water temperature reaches about about 50 degrees. Before the Internet became widespread, Capt. George Poe and his son Alvin Haynie used  a simple thermometer attached to a string to gauge the water temp to tell when its time to put pots overboard. As of mid-May 2018, crabbing has been very slow. A fair amount of little crabs are beginning to show up now but will need another molting cycle before they will be big enough to keep.

Weather wise, we are in the midst of the “Locust Storm” or “Turkey Blast”(myth of old St. George Island) when the weather is cool, rainy, and drizzly.

This spell lasts for almost a week in May after which it will get straight into hot summer time

Till next time, remember “It’s Our Bay, Let’s Pass It On.”

Reach Cap’n Jack at arster694@gmail.com  or 240-434-1385

To learn about tours and trips into the Chesapeake, get more information on Fins + Claws’ Leader member page

Comments
One Response to “Torpedoes Remembered in Piney Point: Message From the Captain”
  1. James Gardner says:

    Interesting Jack. love the history.

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