Farewell: Capt. Bob Slaff
“I’m the only Jewish redneck captain on the Bay. What could be better?” Captain Bob Slaff liked to say, with a huge smile beneath his signature handlebar mustache. Capt. Bob was an icon in Maryland’s recreational and commercial maritime communities. He was also my good friend, mentor and colleague.
Bob and his wife Ester ran a successful marine business in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., that included distributing British Seagull outboard engines and Avon inflatable boats, Marlow rope and other supplies. Then one day 31 years ago, he called on Fawcetts in Annapolis and Wilkes-Barre was history. He and Ester never looked back. His company, Inland Marine, merged with IMTRA Corporation, and he and Ester later retired.
He loved the Bay and boating, and he treasured his life in Annapolis and Eastport.
Retired meant nothing to Bob.
Soon after he came to town he was asked to join the board of directors of the Maryland Marine Trades Association, where I served as executive director. He served two terms as president. I had never met anyone so enthusiastic about his life — or the marine trades.
He and I were in the group that founded the Eastport Yacht Club for sailors and boaters who didn’t want to live under the rules of the Annapolis Yacht Club. He was a happy member of the club for 27 years. Appointed to the Maryland Boat Act Advisory Council, he served for over 20 years to make sure boaters were not hampered by overly restrictive regulations.
Bob touched the water in every way he could. Into his 80s, he wrote on boating topics for The Capital, the Mariner and the Baltimore Sun. For his “significant and extraordinary contributions to the maritime community and the promotion of recreational boating and fishing in Maryland,” Gov. Martin O’Malley honored Bob with the title of Chesapeake Bay Ambassador.
A strong supporter of the Maryland Watermen’s Association, he would always ask me “does the MWA need a little hit?” By which he meant financial help. “Because if you do,” he added, “I’m good for it.”
Captain Bob Slaff passed away peacefully at age 89 on March 8.
He was good for it, as his friends, colleagues, devoted family and wife of 65 years surely knew.