A Waterman’s Life
From the Collection of George & Suzanne Hurley
I was about 16 years old when I got the urge to take to the water to make some money. I had grown up seeing people come and go on the bay and ocean making their living. On the dock up the road a head boat called the Reliance docked. A head boat is the boat that takes people out over the wrecks and they usually fish for Sea bass; Black fish or toug as the locals call them and flounder. It is a seasonal job as the boats usually follow the fish south in the fall of the year.
If I turned the other way down the road my friends the Elliott’s lived. Their family has a long line of watermen in their family. One of my best friends was Jim Elliott. He and I are the same age and mostly liked the same things as we grew up. We always would help Jim’s dad Harvey go up the marsh in the summer to catch minnows that he would sell to different bait shops in the area.
Jim had three uncles. They were all men that made their living off of the bay. They each had a boat. Every morning at dawn they would load their clam rakes and inner tubes with a basket in the middle of them burlap bags and their lunch and drinks and head up or down the bay to rake clams. At the end of the day they would size the clams and bag them accordingly. It was hard work but they were accustomed to it .We then took them to the fish docks to sell.
The choice clams called nicks would bring about twenty dollars a thousand and a good day raking would bring about between thirty and forty dollars a day. Not bad back then and great for a young man like me. This for me was an education. It was the beginning of understanding a way of life that has almost passed by. The people places and lessons learned I will try to share with you as the pages turn. After all if you live close to the water on the Eastern Shore sooner or later you will be enchanted by the bay and the sand bars full of their bounty and share the life of a waterman.
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