By mid-afternoon we need to work our way back to the docks. We pass the house owned by the retired guy on the mailboat. It’s surrounded by ankle deep water and tall reeds waving in the wind. This corner of the island is lower. I remember even 40 years ago the streets here flooded at high tide, and yards carved from a sea of reeds.
We have to find the Sharon Kay III and the dock she leaves from, neither of which is easy as it sounds. We’re looking for a much bigger boat, and simply don’t realize she’s at the end of the pier we’re walking on.
Not at all like the substantial mailboat, this is a modified deadrise workboat – about half the length of the boat that brought us, with low sides for working nets and crab pots. With the likelihood of another rough crossing this could get interesting. We four are the only passengers.
The captain works the boat alone. He’s a Haynie, a family with a long history in this part of the Chesapeake, watermen that go back generations. I knew a girl in college who was a Haynie from Reedville, and her father was captain of a menhaden boat there. He does a variety of things throughout the year to make a living. Does some crabbing and rockfishing in season, describes how by himself he manages both the boat and hauling aboard the big drift nets, letting the boat drift under the net as it slides across the gunnels. He also runs the drink vending machines we saw on our walk around the island – some standing incongruously by the side of the road by the side of the marsh like totems. Maintaining them is a constant challenge. And he helps out at Hilda Crockett’s Chesapeake House, run by relatives.
Despite the wind and chop the ride across is amazingly smooth. It’s immediately obvious how well adapted this style of boat is to this water. Spray shoots up from the bow and blows against the sides, grey waves roll past under a grey sky, but I can still walk, if a bit unsteadily, to the stern and back. Very impressive.