The shore is playing host to the usual summer hordes this year, including one family nobody wants to see--the Rhopilema verrillis.
"Sounds like some kind of spaghetti," chuckled Andrew Manus, of the University of Delaware Marine College.
What it is, in fact, is stinging jellyfish, which last week wreaked vacation havoc along the seaside from Lewes, Del., to Assateague Island, Md.
The good news is that the great jellyfish invasion of 1983 appears to have eased, at least temporarily.
Last weekend the floating pests put the kibosh on two classic beach days, washing ashore in such numbers that few dared swim for fear of stings. On Sunday, when beach temperatures topped 100 degrees, the jellyfish-strewn waters were so uninviting that the Ocean City beach patrol was reduced to performing land rescues, hauling off heat-stroke victims.
Joan Molaison, who runs the Rehoboth Beach Patrol's first-aid station, said she kept busy administering to the weekend wounded. How busy? "Try 10 people every five minutes," she said.
Treatment for a jellyfish sting, said Molaison, is to rub ammonia and meat tenderizer on the spot, although lifeguards say toothpaste also makes a nice balm. At worst the stings are a minor irritation, gone in 15 minutes, even if untreated. But it's enough to take the pleasure out of swimming.
The source of discomfort is the so-called "mushroom jellyfish," which has a clear, mushroom-type top and stringy white stinging tentacles underneath. It is one of four varieties common here in summer.
Why it chose last week to wash up in great unwanted gobs is unknown.
Like all jellyfish, the mushroom is essentially motionless, a captive of the winds and tides that send it hurtling to its fateful collision with sun-baked humans.
The jellyfish began washing up early last week. On Monday some beaches were unswimmable, said Delaware fisheries biologist Roy Miller.
By Wednesday, 12-year-old Jason Batt of Wilmington was watching Rehoboth bathers digging pits in the sand and burying jellyfish by the dozens. On Saturday, Teresa Lannon, 18, of Northwest Washington, went for a quick dip at Bethany and came out with four jellyfish-caused welts.
After more of the same on Sunday most vacationers departed, and as it turned out, so did the Rhopilema verrillis. By Monday moderate offshore breezes apparently had dispersed the jellyfish concentrations.
A hard storm like today's is thought to bode well for jellyfish-free swimming in the short term, because it disperses them, but everyone, even the eternally optimistic Chamber of Commerce, agrees the stinging nuisances could be back any time. And there's nothing anyone can do about it.