Books & Essays
Landfall Along the Chesapeake in the Wake of John Smith
Johns Hopkins University Press 2006
In her book, LANDFALL, Susan Schmidt compares the beauty of ancestral legacy and childhood memory to her observations on a 100-day voyage in a 22-foot boat. Scientists and waterfront characters share their hopes and despairs for the Bay's fisheries and water quality. LANDFALL is a cruising guide for Chesapeake boaters and a field log for naturalists.
In 2002, Susan Schmidt retraced John Smith's 1608 voyage on the Chesapeake Bay. In Landfall along the Chesapeake she recounts her hundred-day, 2,500-mile mostly-solo adventure navigating a 22-foot boat. Her daily ship's log weaves history and science, weather and seamanship. As she circles the Bay counterclockwise from Jamestown, she explores Smith's encounters with Native Americans and the Bay's ecological changes in four hundred years. On each river and creek, she quotes Smith's journals on matching wits with Powhatan, meeting Pocahontas, surviving thunderstorms, ambush, and a stingray barb. Anchored on wild creeks, Schmidt observes swans and dragonflies, lightning and sunsets; in port she interviews colorful characters and working watermen about blue crabs and oysters. Scientists explain the Bay's nitrogen overload, water-level rise, anoxia, Pfiesteria, Kepone, and the Ghost Fleet. Native American chiefs discuss their heritage then and now. Ashore, Schmidt walks on her ancestor's farm, now a military chemical dump, and climbs a grandfather's lighthouse. Despite her despair at bad air quality and diminished fisheries, and her dread of high wind and rough seas, Schmidt expresses gratitude for small-town hospitality and the navigation skills her father taught her. On the Chesapeake, Schmidt said, "I encountered angels everywhere."
Book Review #1:
"A delightful read. Quotations from John Smith's voyage of 1608 are coordinated with events, locations, and the contemporary ecological problems of the Chesapeake in an engaging fashion."?Bryan MacKay, author of Hiking, Cycling, and Canoeing in Maryland and Baltimore Trails
Book Review #2:
"A stirring chronicle . . . recommended for sailors, boaters, and anyone wanting to study the mastery of artful nonfiction."?Delmarva Quarterly
Book Review #3:
"Weaving history, environmental concerns, and personal memoir, Landfall along the Chesapeake should find a welcome place on many bookshelves."?William Bland Whitley, Virginia Libraries