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Farewell: Capt. Larry Simns

No. 1 waterman leaves a Chesapeake legacy

Word spread fast across marine radios from New Jersey to North Carolina, via e-mail, telephones and cell phones, Facebook, the Internet and Twitter on March 14. Captain Larry Simns, president of the Maryland Watermen’s Association for 40 years, passed away at age 75. Watermen, environmentalists, seafood processors, politicians, state bureaucrats and many more of us stopped in our tracks. I did, though I knew Larry’s passing was coming.
    Larry was known throughout the country by commercial fishermen and members of the seafood industry. But in Maryland he was known as a leader, visionary, environmentalist and mentor to many, especially to watermen.
    He was my mentor and friend for more than 25 years. Many times when I ran the Marine Trades Association of Maryland or served as a vice president of the National Marine Manufacturers in D.C., he would give me advice, ask for help, make a suggestion or just check in. We talked politics, regulation, the state of the Bay, the Maryland Watermen’s Association, whatever was on his mind.
    Larry’s was a great mind, always processing and digesting information and how he could use it to help the Bay, fisheries and watermen and their community. Many times his thinking led to controversy with other watermen or environmentalists. But after the issue was resolved, he could sit down and have a Coke with his temporary adversary.  Years ago, when I was particularly upset over someone’s promoting a regulation that would not be good for boating businesses, he advised me, “Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer. Slowly drag ’em over to your side.”
    I couldn’t keep up with the awards, citations and honors that Larry Simns gathered over the decades. But I think two highlight who he was and what he accomplished. One is the coveted Highliner recognition by National Fisherman magazine for a commercial fisherman who is top of the line in his profession and also a leader in his community and the seafood industry. The second is the recent recognition by Gov. Martin O’Malley, who named Larry Admiral of the Chesapeake for his “role in promoting changes to ensure the sustainability of commercial fishing in the state of Maryland.”
    I was happy that Larry’s book — The Best of Times on the Chesapeake Bay: An Account of a Rock Hall Waterman — came out a few months before his death. I am glad that this fourth-generation waterman passed peacefully and that his legacy will continue to touch people in the Chesapeake Bay watershed for many years to come.
    Rest in peace my old friend and mentor: You have been a great influence on a great many of us.