The Stanly News and Press (Albemarle, NC)

Features

October 18, 2013

Soaking up the wisdom of the watermen

Ten minutes into my tour with Chesapeake Bay watermen, and I'd just asked the landlubber question of the century: What's the difference between a male and a female blue crab?

"How could you stand there and say that?" joked Calvin "Pee Wee" Matthews, a third-generation waterman who had just hauled up a net of wriggling crabs from his boat on Maryland's West River, a tributary of the bay, which is surrounded by Maryland and Virginia and is the largest estuary in the United States.

"She's from D.C.," my tour guide, John VanAlstine, said helpfully from our boat, the Patricia Anne, which we'd brought alongside Matthews's Little Rascal II.

The matter was soon cleared up, thanks to some Washington landmarks, no less: VanAlstine showed me that the female crab has a rounded abdomen — the shape of the Capitol dome — while the male's is needle thin — think the Washington Monument.

It's not every day that you can shoot the breeze with some watermen — the shrinking group of men and women who make a living oystering, crabbing and fishing on the bay — but the Watermen Heritage Tours program has made it possible.

In 2008, after a decade of plummeting crab populations, the federal government declared a fishery disaster, and Congress designated money to support the bay's 5,200 licensed watermen — a group that's far smaller than in the past, although historical numbers are unknown, according to the Maryland Watermen's Association. Some of those funds went into a tourism-training program, led by the Chesapeake Conservancy in partnership with the Coastal Heritage Alliance and other bay organizations, which since 2010 has certified 80 watermen to lead trips throughout the bay. (Another training course may take place in 2014.)

The idea is this: Tourism opens up another source of income for watermen while giving the public a chance to experience such centuries-old practices as baiting crab pots and tonging oysters. Or, if you're the less hands-on sort, listening to a fish tale or two on a sunset cruise or a kayak trip. "When I think of the Chesapeake Bay, there's nothing more iconic than a waterman on the water in his white workboat," said Joanna Ogburn, director of programs for the Chesapeake Conservancy, when we chatted before my tour.

Text Only
Features
  • dog-sunglasses.jpg Do animals have a sense of humor?

    Right now, in a high-security research lab at Northwestern University's Falk Center for Molecular Therapeutics, scientists are tickling rats. Their goal? To develop a pharmaceutical-grade happiness pill. But their efforts might also produce some of the best evidence yet that humor isn't something experienced exclusively by human beings.

    March 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140317-AMX-DESIGN-FOOD178.jpg Fun and beautiful maps of the world made from signature regional foods

    Food stylist Caitlin Levin and photographer Henry Hargreaves have collaborated on a series of food-based country maps composed of signature national ingredients.

    March 19, 2014 3 Photos

  • AvengerExt.jpg Avenger an American value

    If you’re someone who appreciates the golden age of domestic sedans — those big, comfortable, heavy-feeling cars with a uniquely American sense of style — this one ought to pique your interest.

    March 7, 2014 2 Photos

  • Screen shot 2014-02-27 at 4.27.26 PM.png The glitz, the glamour and the movies: 3 apps for Oscar weekend

    With the Oscars approaching, this is a weekend for movies. Download these apps, then watch a few movies, create your own and settle in for the awards show.

    March 1, 2014 1 Photo

  • 20140218-AMX-DESIGN-HOTEL182.jpg The rise of the hotel bakery

    One of the key trends in hotel design in recent years has been a sharp focus on creating a hotel lobby that is a destination, not just a pass-through.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • How the U.S. government spends millions to get people to eat more pizza

    WASHINGTON - It all adds up to a lot of calories: On an average day, the report notes, pizza provides 6 percent of the total caloric intake for American children and 4 percent for American adults.

    February 18, 2014

  • Mazda3Int.jpg Redesigned Mazda3 among best new small cars

    Mazda must be dabbling in black magic.
    How else can you explain the fact that this relatively small Japanese company is doing what no one else in the car industry seems to have figured out? They’re building cars that get amazing gas mileage and are exhilarating to drive at the same time.

    February 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • SoulExt.jpg Soul is still stylin’

    Starting under $15,000, the Soul has always pegged its success on buyers who want a trendy, contemporary, eye-catching car without spending a ton of cash. And now that an all-new Soul is out for 2014, it shows that Kia is doubling down on this recipe of combining funky looks and an affordable price.

    February 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 01.jpg US News names its 'Best Cars for the Money'

    WASHINGTON - U.S. News & World Report Wednesday announced its annual Best Cars for the Money list on its Best Cars website.

    February 13, 2014 1 Photo

  • You're doing it wrong: how to make better ramen

    NEW YORK — The finer points of instant ramen preparation may be up for debate, but the noodle cakes and flavor packets bequeathed to the world by Momofuku Ando are un-mess-up-able.

    February 10, 2014

House Ads
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Featured Comment
Twitter Updates
Seasonal Content
Poll

Will you participate in March Madness?

Yes I watch the games and complete a bracket.
Yes I complete a bracket.
No
     View Results