Commercial Watermen is a term used to describe the men and women who make their living from harvesting the fish and shellfish of the Bay. These Watermen are hardworking, adaptable people with a love for the water and a focus on family. The life of a Waterman is as much driven by the tides as it is by the season and the day’s weather. During a beautiful, calm day, Watermen work harder than most folks. But, when a ‘stink’ blows in or the day has turned cold and blustery, the Watermen work even harder. We have these hearty, dedicated men and women to thank for the seafood treasures from our local waters. For without them, none of us could enjoy the great crabs, clams, oysters, scollops, mussels, shrimp and fish that make our region the culinary envy of the nation and the world.
But, we gain even more from these tough-as-nails Watermen. They offer us insights into families that will stand by each other no matter what nature or man throws at them. We see people that can smile as they prosper through good seasons and also as they endure those harvesting seasons that are not as plentiful.
Like the Farmer, the Watermen’s Fishing Season begins long before the harvest. It begins long before the equipment engines are started on a dark and chilly morning. During the middle of the winter there is much to do. Boats and their engines must be repaired or overhauled. Crabbing, oystering, clamming, and fishing equipment must be inspected, repaired or replaced as necessary. Maps, regulation changes, catch limits and other ‘administrivia’ must be researched, understood, and acted upon. And, as winter loosens its hold, many weeks before the first farmer plows a field, a Waterman’s work begins.
As we add the next few pages, we hope we can adequately portray the lives and the rich culture of these hard-working people and their families.