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 Small Craft Warnings

  Story and Photographs by Chris Poh

 Striper Bites in Lewes, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
Striper Bites in Lewes,Delaware

My first brush with overhead boat decor occurred at the long gone Gleason’s Public House in New York City. There hanging above the bar, in what appeared to be a design taken from the sword of Damocles school of structural support, was this magnificent racing skull similar to the one that adorns the ceiling of Jack’s Firehouse in the Fairmont section of Philadelphia. My customary distrust of management’s mechanical skills in conjunction with my constant trust in the force of gravity generally causes me to be wary of heavy objects suspended over my barstool. But my own somewhat suspect history of boatmanship, which has included such feats as the near completion of a cheerleader like split between the end of a dock and the bow of a sailboat while in the act of casting off, and the countering of the shortest course approach to navigation with the frenzied flailing circular technique employed during an attempt to row a dinghy across Maine’s scenic Boothbay Harbor—strongly suggests that I am actually much safer sitting under a boat than in one. Thankfully, Striper Bites in Lewes, Delaware houses a fine collection of small craft that provide the perfect cover for celebrations and socializing, or if need be, just a place of refuge and rejuvenation

Lewes Harbor in Lewes, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
Lewes Harbor

Cape Henlopen, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review
Cape Henlopen Delaware

Over the last several years, the slow, easy pace of Lewes and the calming seas surrounding Cape Henlopen have come to be the preferred tonic for the turbulence and tribulations that at some point occupy a portion of all of our lives. But this peaceful breakwater against those unfriendly tides has not always been so tranquil. During the 16th century, early Dutch settlers to the area would fall victim to the territorial ambitions of both the English and the local native tribes. Ultimately, British authorities would have the last word on the matter. That is, until their own kind would summarily dismiss their presence in the colonies as a result of the American War of Independence.

Lewes Harbor in Lewes, Delaware as seen in American PublicHouse Review
Cocktail Hour

But on April 6, 1813, as part of actions aimed against strategic Mid-Atlantic ports during the War of 1812, a contingent of ships from His Majesty’s Royal Navy would attempt to reacquaint the population of Lewes with a significant measure of English autocratic behavior. When the demand that food and supplies be delivered to the flotilla anchored at the mouth of Delaware Bay was not acted upon, the town was subjected to a 22 hour bombardment by cannon and Congreve rockets. Despite the intensity of the attack, there was no loss of human life, and only nominal damage to property. After the departure of a very frustrated and unsupplied British squadron, the defenders and inhabitants of Lewes could settle back to a fairly serene way of life. And for the better part of the next two-hundred years, the only thing that might on occasion interfere with that serenity would be the rough and tumble ways of those commercial fishermen that accounted for an exceedingly large share of the community’s business and prosperity.

Bar at Striper Bites in lewes, Delawre as seen in American Public House Review

Bar at Striper Bites in Lewes, Delaware as seen in American public House Review

Bar at Striper Bites in Lewes, Delaware as seen in American Public House Review

Striper Bites speaks to the spirit of those intrepid individuals that hunted the whale, harvested the oysters, and hauled in the menhaden—not only in the waters of Delaware Bay, but in the waters from Florida to Maine. Owner Matt DiSabatino has created a space that captures the diversity and character of the entire Atlantic coast. Its inviting interior is a mix of Key West and Kennebunkport with perhaps just a slice of Coney Island thrown in, but without the annoyance of taffy and Tilt-A-Whirls. So whether one finds their way to Striper Bites by land or by sea—one can always expect to find safe harbor and superior hospitality.  

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