Heeding the Water's Call
The water is calling, and throughout Chesapeake Country we hear and answer.
With the windows open for the first time this spring, I woke to watermen’s voices rising uphill through cherry blossoms. Crabbers Steve Smith and Billy Scerbo, both at the job for decades, lifted bright red and yellow unfouled pots onto their trucks, joking their way into the new season.
Sure, as Smith told me a cold week earlier, the scarcity and the high price of the best bail, soft clams, were sure to make crabbing fool’s work. Two or three bushels — all you might catch early in the year — wouldn’t pay for the bait. Not to mention the price of fuel, just spiked up by the General Assembly. But this day, the call of the water was louder than the voice of disaster.
Watermen, of course, have been working the water all year. Many finfish are caught year-round. And oystering is a winter job just ending. But April starts many seasons.
Along with crabbers, April draws charter captains back to the water. The opening of spring trophy rockfish season on April 20 marks the jubilant return of the Chesapeake’s most popular fish — and the return of income to charter captains, who carry most casual recreational anglers to the fish.
Dedicated anglers are also eager to get back to the water in time for the rockfish opener. Big boats fitted for rockfishing are the first in line this time of year. As we scrub, paint, polish and refit, they’re counting the days till the boatlifts roll their way to raise them from land and blocks and dunk them back into the water.
There ahead of them are thousands of trailered boats — many belonging to fishermen like Sporting Life columnist Dennis Doyle — free to return to the water at will. For whenever a good day calls them, some fish is sure to be in season — though not sure to be biting.
The many marinas of Chesapeake Country are buzzing this time of year as water lovers hear the call.
Sailboaters hear the call early. Some have taken advantage of this spring’s propelling winds, disregarding the chill. The Bay is probably dotted with them this hot day, when I’m not looking. This weekend’s anticipated 60-degree temperatures will bring many more sailors the experience The Bay Gardener says he’s about to reap: “The solitude of being in the sailboat, being propelled by a warm gentle breeze and listening to the waves lap the hull.”
Wednesday night racing begins this month, too: the Southern Maryland Sailing Association started up in Solomons on April 10. The West River Yacht Club races out of Galesville begin April 17. Both Annapolis Yacht Club and Herrington Harbour Sailing races begin April 24.
For more demanding races, read this week’s story about Polish sailor Krystian Szypka’s singlehanded run across the Atlantic on his Dickerson Farr 37, the sloop Sunrise.
In this week’s feature story, cruiser Lynn Teo Simarski reminds us that discovery is another reason to get back on the water. She and husband Guy Guthridge made the discoveries chronicled here by trawler for the big and kayak for the little.
Each return to the water gives us a little of what Captain John Smith surely felt when he saw the wonders of the Chesapeake and its rivers. On the water, we are all discoverers, and few of us recreational boaters have to work as hard as Smith’s crew did.
You’ll read this week how the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail helps us share at water level in his journey.
It’s perfect weather for a paddle, too. In this week’s paper you’ll read how a new law, the just-passed Waterway Access Bill, will make bridges into waterways for you and your small craft.
We’re all feeling the call of the water. I hope you’ll answer it.
Sandra Olivetti Martin
Editor and publisher; firstname.lastname@example.org