On the Fourth of July, a team of Dewey Beach revelers and everyman scientists revisited the classic question: Will This Float? For three whitewashed lifeguard stands, the answer was yes – one floated five miles to Cape Henlopen State Park, and the other was recovered in nearby Seashore State Park. The third remains missing.
Nose-smashing games of midnight football played on the beach post-curfew are one thing; the stands incident is property loss. Accordingly, Dewey Beach Police assigns one officer the lonely duty of weekend beach patrol.
I met Seasonal Patrolman Michael McDowell at the town’s single gas station, topping off his Polaris ATV for a night on the sand. His job, he said, is mainly to keep drunks from taking a potentially life-ending swim. Roll up, shine a light and they disperse, mostly. It’s hardly glamorous, he told me, but it’s peaceful.
But sometimes it gets interesting. Several years ago, he said, officers came upon an Asian man lying prone in the sand, his head pressed to what looked like a sneaker. When they alerted him, he jumped back in terror. Noticing what was in his hand, the officers saw why: it was a camcorder, equipped with night-vision. He was filming a couple having sex about 100 yards away.
In fact, the cinematographer ran a website devoted to post-curfew beach tumbles. In the course of an informal beach sweep, two officers had busted up a minor porn racket.
“That,” McDowell sighed, “is when we started enforcing beach curfew.”