Did you know? You could shadow a local Waterman for an authentic connection to the History, Culture and Maritime Heritage of the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland.
The Chesapeake Conservancy in partnership with the Coastal Heritage Alliance, the Maryland Watermen’s Association and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has trained more than 120 watermen to provide working tours of the Chesapeake Bay through the Watermen Heritage Tourism Training program.
The training provides Chesapeake Bay watermen with the resources and information they need to serve as tour guides. Watermen Heritage Tours connect people with the natural and cultural resources of the Bay by providing visitors with an authentic experience shadowing a waterman on a workboat or on the shore. The watermen share their own stories about the area and waters in which they work, and tour guests leave with a greater knowledge and appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay.
“Watermen and their families have played a crucial role in our treasured Chesapeake Bay. Their unique identities have influenced the history, culture, and economy of the Bay for generations. What better way to experience the waters than accompanying a waterman for a day to learn his daily routine?” Project Manager Carly Dean, Chesapeake Conservancy, said. “The tours also offer a great opportunity to learn more about the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, the nation’s first all-water National Historic trail, as well as the Star-Spangled Banner National Historic Trail.”
As a group, watermen have experienced times of lost income because of the decline in shellfish and finfish populations. Their participation in heritage and geo-tourism can help to supplement some of this lost income.
In May of 2009, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce officially declared the Chesapeake Bay commercial blue crab fishery a failure, and an economic disaster. The original funding for the Watermen Heritage Tourism Training Program comes from the federal Blue Crab Fishery Disaster Fund created by U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski and distributed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The Conservancy has received additional funding from the George B. Todd Fund through the Mid-Shore Community Foundation and through State Funds from the Maryland War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission (an instrumentality of the State of Maryland).
Tours range from crabbing adventures with trotlines and crab pots, to scenic kayak tours, to photography trips, sunset sails and traditional skipjack charters. Some offer “water to table” seafood tastings.
Land-based tours offer participants the opportunity to learn about other aspects of the waterman trade, including the ins-and-outs of the soft-shell crab industry and oyster seeding, as well as the opportunity to explore new places.
Many of these tours allow the participants freedom to customize the tours to highlight aspects of the Bay and watermen’s life that are of most interest to them and to accommodate various ages of participants.
Tours are available throughout different regions of the Chesapeake Bay. For more information click here and find out more about each tour as well as search interactive maps.