Saturday, July 3, 2021

The Last Watermen

 From Chesapeake Bay Magazine:

For centuries, any visit to Annapolis City Dock guaranteed two things: the sight of workboats and the opportunity to buy some of their fresh-caught seafood. Indeed, more than a dozen oyster-canning and crab-picking houses, most notably the Annapolis Canning Company and the Chesapeake Seafood Company, dominated the area in the late 1800s. The Annapolis Market House at Market Space— where I fondly remember being periodically taken as a boy in the late 1980s to buy a fried fish lunch—was built in 1857. We’d eat our meal sitting right on the seawall, likely within sight of whichever workboat caught the fish.

 But those days are long gone. In April 2002, the city ordered Alexander “Skip” Parkinson, a crabber, to leave his permanent slip under its first-come, first-served docking policy, making him the last waterman, and his boat the last workboat, at City Dock. In many ways, Parkinson’s departure signaled that City Dock had officially become “Ego Alley”, a nickname that reflects the constant flow of sailboats, yachts, and paddleboarders on the harbor. And to many, it suggested that the centuries-old tradition of watermen in Annapolis was gone as well.

One Saturday last August, I paddleboarded from Spa Creek in Annapolis to Back Creek in Eastport, landed on Cap’n Herbie Sadler Watermen’s Park (next to the Annapolis Maritime Museum), and walked barefoot across a short stretch of gravel to Wild Country Seafood. There, I met Pat Mahoney, Jr.—the “last waterman of Annapolis.”

Mahoney not only owns Wild Country, along with his father, Pat Mahoney Sr., but he catches the seafood they sell and takes great pride in keeping the “last waterman” title in the family. For him, the word means more than just making a living from the Bay. “It’s about keeping a tradition alive, adapting to challenges, and loving the water,” says Mahoney. (Read more.)


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