Food & Drink

Delicious Dining & Dinghy Adventures


I recently visited a waterfront restaurant with a serious craving for crab dip. In fact, every summer when I hit a bar for appetizers or sit on a dockside patio where people crack open crabs, I recall childhood days of feasting on fresh-caught crabs.

My mind also drifts back to a time when a routine crabbing excursion went south for the worst. My childhood best friend’s family owned a beach house in the Swann Keys waterfront community just off Fenwick Island in Selbyville, DE, that I frequented almost every weekend during high school summers. Docked out back of the house was a pontoon boat for family cruising, as well as an Army-green dinghy for the kids to take out.

We often cruised around the waterways with her parents for classic “cage crabbing,” which requires dropping bait-filled cages in the water and quickly reeling in crabs as they climbed into the trap. It’s a fast-paced task that takes some power, but we had it down to a science and enjoyed every moment. Her family often hosted huge crab feasts to steam our fresh catch for dinner afterward.


The kids on the beach in north Ocean City, MD, near Fenwick Island | Alexa Zizzi

One summer day, we ventured out to hunt for crabs. Three of us set forth on the dinghy from Dirickson Creek that pours into Little Assawoman Bay. I steered the boat while my best friend and another girlfriend manned the crab pots.

As we approached the ideal spot a few nautical miles from the neighborhood, we began our mission. As I lowered the speed, we slowly approached our target and dropped the pots into the water. As just enough crabs filled the cage, we used all our strength to reel in as quickly as possible. All you could hear was yelling. “Go, go, go!” — “Pull, pull, pull!” And then, success! With all our might, we yanked up a heavy cage full of Maryland blue crabs and dropped the snapping crustaceans onboard into a bucket.

Just as we began to pull off with our catch, I must admit I wasn’t doing my best job as dinghy captain, and I must’ve been distracted — most likely from the pandemonium we caused onboard. I somehow let the dinghy get a little too close to shore where waterfront houses lined up along a pier, and just like that — the dinghy was stuck.

I remember hearing my friend’s mother in my head as she always told us the Number One Rule: “Don’t get too close to the shoreline; you’ll get stuck if it’s too shallow!” Yet of course, we did, and the next thing you know, we heard sounds of puttering. Panicking, we instantly started arguing, because why not boost the level of chaos at this point? With live catch onboard, this was no time for foolery.

I continued to crank it as the boat went nowhere. My other crewmate and I made a drastic leap of faith into water that was shallow enough to push the boat out while my best friend jumped behind the wheel.

With adrenaline pumping at a hulk level, we slid around on sandbanks, got mangled in debris, and got a few scrapes here and there, but we gave it our all to push that bad boy out. Grunting, panting and using all our might, we went from handling crab pots and yelling “Pull, pull, pull!” to yelling “Push, push, push!” while manhandling a 15-foot dinghy. I also think a few crabs managed to escape and scatter — probably looking up and laughing at us. We’re lucky they didn’t come back with vengeance.

Alas, two teenage blondes in bikinis managed to get the boat back afloat while the captain steered clear. Once again — a victory! As we cheered and tried to leave, we had one major issue... the dinghy still wouldn’t start. Jumbled with debris and all jacked up, the motor stalled.

Quick... think, think... what do we do!? Do we wave another boat down for help? Do we dive in and swim to shore? Terrified that we demolished the outboard motor, we lifted it up out of the water. By some sudden miracle, we remembered that her family always kept paddles stowed on the dinghy (which we never used). Ah, finally one good idea for the day, and it actually required listening to parents! Lucky for us, we were close enough to paddle our way back to shore, even though we anticipated the immense amount of parental trouble we faced upon our return.

But what can I say? Kids will be kids, and we must live and learn. Every summer, I think back on this memory and laugh, and I toast my best friend’s mother, Ms. Sue, who taught me boat safety and how to cook some of the best crab dishes I’ve ever known.

In honor of our crabbing days and our parents’ need for a cocktail (or two) after a stressful day of dinghy kids and dilemmas on the water, here’s a crab dip and Bloody Mary recipe inspired by this moment in time.

Bloody Mary | vladans from Getty Images Pro



2 ounces Old Bay Vodka

4 ounces Finest Call Premium

Bloody Mary Mix or homemade

1.5 ounces lime juice

3⁄4 teaspoon Old Bay Hot Sauce

Lemon and lime wedge

Sliced celery


For an Old Bay rim, fill a small plate with lime juice and another plate with Old Bay seasoning. Swirl your glass rim into the lime juice, then swirl it into the seasoning. Squeeze a lime wedge into the bottom of a tall Collins glass. Fill with ice and the other ingredients. Use a shaker to blend and shake ingredients and pour into a glass. Garnish with lemon and lime wedges and celery sticks.


Adapted from Flavor of the Chesapeake Bay Cookbook by Whitey Schmidt

Crabs | beemore from Getty Images Signature


1⁄2 cup chopped chives

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1⁄4 cup mayonnaise

1 tablespoon capers, minced and drained

Dry white wine

1 tablespoon horseradish

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon lemon rind, minced

Tabasco sauce

Salt to taste

Black pepper

1 pound crab meat

Bread crumbs


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix chives with cream cheese, mayonnaise, capers, wine, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, lemon rind, Tabasco sauce and seasonings. Fold in crab meat. Transfer to 1-quart baking dish. Sprinkle with breadcrumbs and bake until bubbly.

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