Canoeing through Chesapeake Bay marshes.

A dig into history in the middle of a 17th-century Maryland village.

The chance to meet a flock of sheep, whose raw fleece you can spin into yarn for a sweater.

Beer and all the crabs you can eat at a "feast" under the stars on the bank of St. Mary's River.

This sample of life old and new in richly historic St. Mary's City on the bay is part of a five-day "learning vacation" for adults, "Creation Around the Chesapeake," scheduled for June 21-26 on St. Mary's College campus.

The cost: an escape bargain at $175 per person for workshops, cafeteria-style meals, most recreation activities and a private (air-conditioned) room in a campus residence hall.

An "informal, informative, nurturing experience," the conference seeks "to deepen our appreciation and awareness of the legacy of the bay," says coordinator Martin Townsend, rector of Trinity Church of St. Mary's City, sponsor of the event for the third year.

Founded in 1634, St. Mary's City, about 75 miles from downtown Washington, was the first colonial capital of Maryland. That colonial atmosphere remains in this quiet, out-of-the bustle community in the reconstructed State House of 1676 and in a replica of the Dove, the small English ship that brought the first settlers to Maryland.

When Townsend and his family first moved there about four years ago, "I was struck with the beauty of the place." Because of its setting by the water and its history, "I felt it was an ideal setting for the conference. tIt would allow people to learn -- and at the same time have a relaxing week. We want to stimulate people's spirits, minds and bodies."

The "theological aspect" of the conference, co-sponsored by the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, Townsend says, is "overt -- we've got a theologian in residence -- but it is low-key.In no way is it denominational." Each morning the theologian will lead discussions on such things as work and play.

The week's schedule allows several hours daily for traditional summer recreation -- swimming, tennis, canoeing on St. Mary's River and hikes along the shores of the river or bay. For an extra fee, there's a mid-week afternoon fishing excursion on the bay.

Eight workshops focusing on life on the Chesapeake Bay comprise the learning portion of the vacation. Each will be held two hours for three afternoons. The 100 or so participants expected (mostly couples in their 40s through 60s, says Townsend) will be able to attend only one."You have to choose," he says. "That's the trauma."

Townsend's wife, Barbara, who raises sheep, will lead the section on "Wool, Wheels Warp and Weft" for vacationers who want to create a knitted product from start to finish. In doing things from scratch, she believes, "the spirit is nourished in a profound way."

Millie Fletcher, who has been cooking in St. Mary's for 50 years, will teach basic recipes of Southern Maryland dining in "Crab Cakes, Soft Shells and Stuffed Ham." Townsend sees this workshop as "a bestseller."

"Another big one," he anticipates, is "Deciphering the Chesapeake Wilderness," waterside instruction -- including exploring the marshes by canoe -- in the "complexities of the bay ecosystem." The leader is researcher Joe Mihursky of the Chesapeake Biological Labs in Solomons, Md.

Among the other workshops:

Lessons in photographing the bay and environs.

An archeological dig led by Burt Kummerow, general coordinator of the St. Mary's City (Historical) Commission.

A look at the area's history, guided by St. Mary's College history professor Fred Fausz.

Evening entertainment includes the crab feast, a night of Renaissance music and artist Tom Wisner's interpretation of the Chesapeake in a program of his photographs and music. Lawyer Arthur Sherwood, a founder of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, will lecture on learning to live sensibly in our environment.

And, in a one-man show, an actor will recreate the life of 17th-century St. Mary's tobacco farmer Dan Clocker. Townsend describes Clocker as "funny and irreverent -- a tough-minded old settler."