This small but happenin’ point of land at the mouth of the Patuxent River was largely undeveloped until Baltimore businessman Isaac Solomon saw its potential. Solomon recognized its proximity to the popular, deep-water harbor off Drum Point, and by 1868 he had constructed an oyster cannery with employee housing, a wharf, lime kiln and marine railway. Soon shipyards, grocers, chandleries and other services sprouted up to support the new town and its fishing fleet. While Solomon eventually failed as a businessman, he established Solomons Island’s reputation as a boating center.
In addition to its proud heritage as a center for Chesapeake watermen, Solomons was home to America’s first naval amphibious training base. More than 68,000 men were trained at this base between 1942 and 1945. Many of them took part in World War II landings throughout the Pacific-including at the Solomons Islands. The Harbor at Solomons, a condominium complex, now occupies the former site of the base.
Solomons is the home of the Calvert Marine Museum, the Annmarie Garden Sculpture Park and the Chesapeake Biological Laboratory. The town is also just a nice place to go enjoy some seafood and the waterfront setting.
I did, but not in the direction I am in now. When I was in college, I planned to get a job as a cruise director on a big ship, like Julie McCoy on the Love Boat. It seemed like it would be fun and you would get to meet a lot of people.
That's actually a funny story. Our family had just relocated from Idaho to Maryland and my husband went to interview for a temporary job as a dockmaster until he found a permanent job in his field. After talking to the marina manager for 10 minutes, he said, You really need to talk to my wife Terry. She would be perfect at this. I got called in for an interview, and here I am, still at Zahniser's, 15 years later.
Well, the one I remember the most happened within my first few years at Zahniser's. I was docking a small powerboat in a slip, when my foot slipped on the finger pier and I fell right into the water. Thankfully, the captain stopped the boat right away, I climbed out and finished getting them into the slip. They have become regulars, returning once a year, and we get a laugh about it every time, saying remember when ...
My ability to meet, greet, and get along with anyone and everyone.
What I have found is that the marine industry has given me the opportunity to interact with customers who have also traveled the world, cruising, vacationing and living on their boats. Listening to their experiences and stories, I feel like I have been places, seen things explored waterways without ever leaving Solomons Island.
Salmon stuffed with crab. Definitely. I don't have to go anywhere. My husband has it perfected on the grill, complete with cedar plank.
I think I would like to be an elementary school teacher. I love being around people, especially children.
It would have to be St. Michaels on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. It is not too far away and there is plenty to do ashore, much like Solomons Island.
Feeling Good by Michael Buble. It's very upbeat, and I wake up most days feeling pretty positive about my life. I am surrounded by family and friends, am in good health, enjoy my job immensely and learn something new almost every day.
My sunglasses, because I can't be outside without them! A knife, for practical reasons. And, a family member, because I am definitely not a loner.
The fun side of me would pick a dolphin, because I love anything that has to do with being around the water. The practical side would say an osprey. They have the same partner for life, return to the same home if possible and travel extensively every year.
If someone tried to take away your plate of fresh Chesapeake oysters, would you pull out a gun to defend your shellfish? Well, you wouldn't be the first person to react that way to an oyster thief. For decades, the Chesapeake Bay felt like the Wild West, where deadly boat chases and gunfights were commonplace along the shores. And all the conflict was over one innocent creature: the oyster.During the Oyster Wars of the Chesapeake Bay, says Jeff Holland, executive director of the Annapolis Maritime Museum, oysters were so valuable that people needed artillery to protect them from pirates. It's astonishing that people would kill each other over a bivalve.For thousands of years, the bay was a dream breeding ground for oysters. English settlers in the early 1600s were amazed by 12-inch-long oysters and beds so large that ships would run aground on them. Captain John Smith ate them. George Washington relished them. And as America grew, so did oysters' popularity. By the late 1700s, Chesapeake oysters were served on tables from Norfolk to Boston.Things started getting nasty in the early 1800s, when over-harvesting in New York, Rhode Island and Connecticut depleted those oyster populations, and Northerners started licking their chops over the Chesapeake's bounty. When New England oyster boats floated into the bay looking for fresh waters to plunder, locals did not hang up a welcome sign. To protect their treasure of oysters from Yankee intruders, Maryland and Virginia passed laws that only allowed fishing by local residents.By the mid-1800s, a new steam- canning process meant that people as far away as the Pacific Coast and the Colorado gold mines were gobbling up Chesapeake oysters that were delivered long-distance by train. Baltimore became the country's oyster-packing epicenter, with more than 100 processing houses along its harbor.Sleepy waterfront towns such as Cambridge and Solomons turned into bustling ports built upon discarded oyster shells. When railroad tracks extended down the Eastern Shore to Crisfield, the town erupted with oyster shucking plants, brothels and saloons packed with thirsty workers and watermen. The bay and its rivers became jam-packed with skipjacks and boats of all shapes and sizes, and the oyster supply seemed endless. By 1875, a total of 17 million bushels of oysters had been removed from the Chesapeake, reports Dr. Henry M. Miller, director of research at Historic St. Mary's City. Yet harvesting continued to increase. At its peak in the mid-1880s, more than 20 million bushels of oysters were taken from the bay each year, When a massive oyster reef was discovered in Tangier Sound, things started to really heat up. With such a plentiful resource, you'd think there'd be enough for everyone to be satisfied, but fierce clashes occurred over who could harvest oysters.In shallow areas, watermen leaned over their boats using long wooden tongs to lift their catch from the water by hand. In deep waters, large ships pulled dredges with iron teeth along the bottom making a clean swipe over oyster beds. Maryland allowed dredging as long as ships stayed away from the shore and riverbeds. When dredgers ignored the laws and invaded the tongers' space, big problems started brewing. To protect their oysters and livelihood, tongers appealed to Annapolis for help, but the lackluster response forced them to handle matters on their own. Gruesome gunfights and unruly water disputes became regular events.To make matters worse, the border between Maryland and Virginia wasn't clearly marked or well-defined. When Virginia watermen heard about the plethora of oysters in places like Tangier Sound and the Eastern Shore rivers, they felt they had a right to them. Maryland oystermen heartily disagreed. Violence and anarchy escalated to such a point that in 1868 the Maryland Oyster Police Force was formed, with Hunter Davidson elected as its first commander. He received a side-wheeled steamboat named Leila to restore ordernot a fleet of boats, just one. Imagine policing that expansive bay with just one boat.The Oyster Police were outnumbered but still put up a valiant fight, says the Annapolis Maritime Museum's Holland. In one incident, a dozen illegal dredging schooners chained their boats together and floated defiantly on the Choptank River. When this rag-tag flotilla prepared to shoot, the Oyster Police steamer barreled forward and rammed those schooners like a bowling ball. Two ships were sunk, two were taken captive.The Oyster Police added more ships and armed them with stronger firepower, but the oyster pirates remained bold and brazen. Dredgers moved through the Chesapeake with cold efficiency and shortsightedness. They stripped more oysters than the bay could produce and then plundered the tributary rivers. The Oyster Police caught some pirates, but many dredgers worked at night posting lookouts to watch for patrol boats. The Little Choptank River was especially hard hit and lost thousands of oysters a day to dredgers. When Cambridge formed a militia to defend its oyster bars, dredgers fired on the town and promised to torch the entire city if they met resistance again.By the 1890s, the bay's oyster population had fallen into steep decline, and in 1900 more oyster packing houses closed on the bay than opened. Over-harvesting brought the annual yield to around three million bushels in the 1920s. In 1942, decades after the bay's oyster population had plummeted, a vast bed was discovered on Swan Point along the Potomac. Maryland police had a tough time protecting their state's treasure from Virginia watermen, because many Mary- land boats were at the time being used in World War II efforts. By the late 1940s, oyster pirating kicked back into high gear, and Virginia dredgersnicknamed the Mosquito Fleetbuzzed away from Maryland police in high-speed power boats. Gunfights and dramatic chase scenes ensued between Virginia daredevils and frustrated Oyster Police, now armed with rifles and machine guns.The final Oyster Wars skirmish took place in a quiet waterfront town called Colonial Beach. If you've ever cruised up the Potomac River, you might have noticed a funky border between Virginia and Maryland. Dating back to colonial times, Virginia's state line ends at the southern shore, and Maryland has the rights to the Potomac. That means oysters in the Potomac belong to Maryland. One night in 1959, a Virginian named Berkeley Muse decided to dredge oysters. When he realized he'd been spotted by a police boat, he sped toward the safety of Virginia's Monroe Bay. Maryland police took off after Berkeley, and bullets flew. Berkeley was hit in the chest and bled to death at dawn in his boat on the shore of Colonial Beach. His death proved to be the last straw. The two states worked out legislation that eased tensions, and after nearly a century of bloody conflicts, the Chesapeake Oyster Wars were over.CHESAPEAKE OYSTER RESOURCESIf you've got Chesapeake oysters on your mind and want to cruise around the bay to learn more about them, check out the following places and resources:Annapolis Maritime Museum723 Second St., Annapolis, Maryland; 410-295-0104, amaritime.orgLocated in the old McNasby Oyster Co. building, the museum is dedicated to Chesapeake oysters and houses an amazing relic from the Oyster Wars: a cannon from one of the Oyster Police steamships. Mariners Museum100 Museum Dr., Newport News, Virginia; 757-596-2222, marinersmuseum.orgThe museum's Chesapeake Gallery displays scores of artifacts and has hands-on activities about the bay's nautical heritage.Tidewater Oyster Gardeners Association8218 Hell Neck Rd., Gloucester, Virginia; 804-694-4407, wmpeople.wm.edu Farming, not fighting, is the new wave in oyster production. Use this site to locate a Virginia oyster farm and see how the bialves grow.
Baltimore is a great starting point for your journey this summer exploring parts of the middle and upper Chesapeake Bay. The city has been through a tough time lately but we love it as much as ever. Now is the time to visit! You could spend several days in the city, checking out the National Aquarium and its award-winning blacktip reef exhibit, visiting the Science Center, exploring the American Visionary Arts Museum or cheering on the Orioles at Camden Yards all of this is within walking distance of most of the area's marinas.
Baltimore is famous for its distinct, unique neighborhoods that line the waterfront, including Federal Hill, Inner Harbor, Harbor East, Little Italy, Fells Point and Canton. No matter which marina and neighborhood you choose, it's easy to get around water taxi, bike, dingy and regular taxis abound, and a seven-mile pedestrian promenade wraps around the waterfront. Marina options are plentiful, too there's BMC at Harborview near Federal Hill; BMC at Inner Harbor in the Inner Harbor; Harbor East Marina in Harbor East, the closest to Little italy; the Crescent Marina and Henderson's Wharf in Fells Point; and BMC at Lighthouse Point Center and Anchorage Marina in Canton.
It will take a little more than an hour to get to Kent Narrows from Baltimore. Kent Narrows is used by boaters as a short cut for accessing the Miles and Wye River or Eastern Bay, rather than going under the Bay Bridge. However it is also a destination in its own right, with an array of seafood restaurants, bars and marinas, and it's a convenient stopping point before cruising to St. Michaels.
If you are craving the bay's fresh seafood, you will not be disappointed by the choices here Harris Crab House, the Narrows Restaurant and Bridges Restaurant are just some of the top-notch spots, many of which allow you to dock and dine. If you are ready for some good people watching and a lively crowd, head to Red Eye's Dock Bar for the live music, bikini contests and potent frozen-drink concoctions. And don't miss Big Owl's Tiki Bar, where the locals gather to enjoy the gorgeous sunsets.
Dock at Piney Narrows Yacht Haven or Mears Point Marina. Another good option is Castle Harbor Marina, only about two miles northeast on the Chester River.
From Kent Narrows, head north approximately 15 miles to the town of Rock Hall and find dockage or an anchorage on Swan Creek, located behind Rock Hall Harbor. There are several excellent marinas on Swan Creek, including Haven Harbour Marina, Gratitude Marina and Osprey Point Marina. All are on a shuttle route that takes you around Rock Hall.Rock Hall is still a town of watermen who bring in oysters, crabs and rockfish daily. Visit the Waterman's Museum at Haven Harbour to learn more about that maritime history. A great way to explore this quaint town is by bicycle. Many of the marinas have free bike rentals. Main Street is dotted with numerous antique shops, clothing stores and boutiques, such as Smilin' Jakes Casual Apparel. On Saturday afternoons, hit the Farmers & Artisans Market to pick up fresh local produce and browse the many craft stalls. For a relaxing evening, stop at The Mainstay and listen to jazz, or head to Waterman's Crab House to devour crabs and groove to live music on the outdoor deck. The nearby Waterfront Harbor Shack is a local favorite and offers live music and good food. during the summer there's a stream of fun events, from the Log Canoe Races (July 18-19) to the infamous Pirates and Wenches Weekend (August 7-9).
If you need to reprovision, Bayside Food is right in town. and if your vessel needs any type of service or maintenance, you are in the right place Rock Hall has several top yards (including Haven Harbour and Gratitude) that can perform work on your boat.
Make a 30-mile run the next day to Havre de Grace in the Upper Bay. Havre de Grace sits on the Susquehanna River at the confluence of the Chesapeake Bay at Concord Point and has undergone a revitalization in the last few years. It is now filled with restaurants, galleries, jewelry shops and historic B&Bs.There is plenty to do, no matter what your interests. For the golf aficionados there is Bulle Rock, located just a few miles from town and ranked by Golf Digest as the best public course in Maryland. The many dining options in town include Laurrapin Grill, known for its locally sourced menu, and McGreggor's, known for its outside deck and colossal crab cake. Tidewater Grille, also with an outside waterfront deck, serves up everything crab from crab dip burgers to cream of crab soup. Check out the many museums in town, which include Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, Concord Point Museum, Susquehanna Museum at the Locke House and the Decoy Museum. Every Saturday, there are historic walking tours and you can stroll along the riverside promenade any time you like. If you can, catch one of the great events held each summer, such as the Seafood Festival (August 7-9) and the Havre de Grace Art Show (August 14-16).Dock at Havre de Grace Marine Center's Log Pond Marina on Concord Street or at Tidewater Marina both are just a short walk from town.
Chesapeake summers ease you into such a laid-back state of mind that your big decision of the day can be choosing cold beer or crisp wine to accompany a dozen fresh oysters. That cool combo of bivalves washed down with a favorite drink is a beloved Bay ritual. The options were once simple: Natty Boh or Bud for brew fans; red or white for wine lovers. And oysters were only eaten in cold months. Today's Bay oyster scene has evolved dramatically. Now, 100-plus bivalve brands are harvested, and aquafarming makes them available year-round. The steady supply has sparked a raw bar renaissance with new oyster houses opening all over the region.
Could so many choices complicate a relaxing Chesapeake baycation? Not if we can help it. Marinalife teamed up with Chesapeake Oyster Lovers' Handbook to create a pair of oyster tours where Virginia wine and Maryland beer are coupled with local bivalves for a tantalizing bay-to-table event. Visit these 11 destinations and chart a flavorful course for sipping and slurping your way around the Bay.
Pass the Bottle, but Hold the Bubbles Your Chesapeake oyster crawl starts in Virginia amid historic characters, rolling countryside and award-winning wines. Its vino tradition dates back to Thomas Jefferson, and centuries later, more than 250 wineries are curling their vines around 3,500-plus acres of land. The success is partly due to nurturing grapes that thrive here but fail in other places. Local vintners also defy the old adage that champagne and oysters are the ultimate couple. Instead, they pair fine wines with scrumptious bivalves that are cultivated in the same area and complement each other's flavors.
This bivalve quest also takes you to aquaculture sites that are bolstering a lucrative rebirth in the Chesapeake oyster biz and turning Virginia into the East Coast's top seafood producer. Its 2014 season jumped 31 percent by selling more than 40 million oysters, offering a wide range of flavors -- Rappahannocks to briny Chincoteagues. If you're ready for great grape and bivalve adventures, cruise to these five destinations.
When you lounge on the restaurant's deck soaking in a gorgeous view of the Bay, you might see workboats chugging by and gently dropping spats on shells (baby oysters) into the water. It's a pleasant reminder that oyster beds are right in front of the eatery, and you get to witness the infancy of the process that delivers fresh oysters to your table. Usually two or three local bivalve brands are presented with a smooth chardonnay grown about 15 minutes away at Chatham Vineyards. On Watermen Wednesdays, Eastern Shore aquafarmers give talks about their oysters and shuck them for tastings. (theoysterfarmatkingscreek.com)
Just a stone's throw from the Atlantic awaits an unforgettable experience where harvesting and eating oysters is not a spectator sport. At this aquafarm, guests tug on tall waterman's waders and step into the Lynnhaven River where briny bivalves lie beneath the waves. With the current swirling between your feet, the Chef 's Table Tour presents a feast of oysters and other local seafood served on tables in the water. Nearby vineyards, such as Boxwood, Williamsburg and Chatham wineries, make bringing your own wine easy. Two other guided tours offer oyster tastings, regional history sessions and hands-on activities with fishpots, oyster cages and aquaculture gear. (pleasurehouseoysters.com)
Two 40-foot-tall corkscrews at the entrance welcome guests to an award winning vineyard that specifically cultivates wines to pair with Chesapeake oysters. Bottles of white, rosé and red are sampled in the Wine Stand, while the Oyster Stand dishes out Windmill Point and Kellum oysters, soft-shell crabs and other seasonal seafood. The canine component of the name honors the sweet rescue dogs that roam the grounds to protect grape vines from deer and other hungry critters. Docked nearby is the Faded Glory, a Chesapeake Deadrise workboat that gives tours of oyster beds along Carter's Creek. In early November, the vineyard hosts the Virginia Wine & Oyster Classic, which features 15 of the region's top wineries. (dogandoyster.com)
Where to dock: Tides Inn Marina (804-438-4418, tidesinn.com)
This little hidden gem has played a big role in the Chesapeake oyster resurrection. Merroir is owned by Croxton family members, who were early pioneers in aquafarming and are now growing world-class oysters. Their 250 acres of oyster beds lie just a hundred yards away from the charming eatery. These oysters grow in cages on the Rappahannock River bottom, but when they're pulled from the water, you relish a spectacular farm-to-fork experience that pairs beautifully with Virginia wine. Three types of oysters appear on the menu Rappahannocks (sweet), Stingrays (mild) and Olde Salts (briny) and they're prepared on outdoor grills with a variety of seasonings or presented simply on the half shell. (rroysters.com/restaurants/merroir)
Built in 1730, the luxurious inn overlooks the Potomac River with 1,900 acres of exquisite gardens, fields andforests. Four outstanding wineries are located nearby, creating noteworthy wine and exceptional cuisine. The chef at this oyster haven serves only Chesapeake oysters, often shucked on the half shell, baked with local bacon and parmesan, crispy fried or roasted with wasabi butter. Tasting the paired wine before the oyster is his preference, because guests find it's hard to resist a chilled glass placed on their table. Stratford's September Wine & Oyster Festival is a must-go event. (innatstratfordhall.org)
Let's Raise a Frosty Mug to Brews & Bivalves Migrating north on the second leg of the journey, your oyster quest meanders to Maryland's farmlands, urban pockets and quaint Eastern Shore towns. You'll savor the rewards of folks who blend hops and barley to brew beer that couples well with Bay oysters. The state's long tradition of raising frothy mugs dates back to 1703, when the first brewery opened in Annapolis. From the iconic Natty Boh to today's craft ales, Maryland digs suds with bivalves.
Steamed crabs garner the most notoriety in the Bay's current seafood scene, but oysters have been major players in Maryland's commerce and culture since colonial times. These bivalves grew so abundantly and were devoured so voraciously that towns such as Crisfield and Solomons were built upon discarded shells. By the 1800s, Chesapeake oysters were the delicacy that everyone wanted to bring to their lips. Now, Maryland aquafarmers are rekindling the global oyster mystique by branding Bay bivalves with alluring labels such as Skinny Dippers, Chesapeake Golds and Sweet Jesus oysters. If you want to discover the bliss of beer and bivalves, then head for these six destinations.
Located on the narrow causeway to St. George Island and flanked by the Potomac River and St. George Creek, Ruddy Duck gracefully blends into Southern Maryland's serene landscape. Next to the deck, a solitary loblolly pine guards a secret that's hidden beneath the gorgeous waterfront view: Oysters are growing just beyond the shore under the waves. These sweet bivalves are harvested daily for the restaurant and are a perfect match for the beers made fresh in house. A collection of brews are offered year-round from pale ales to stouts and traditional German festival biers. (ruddyduckbrewery.com)
Where to dock:Haskell's Marina (301-994-1008)
Sailors, yacht owners, engine mechanics and anyone who loves the Chesapeake Bay gather at this lively Eastport pub. Tales of sea adventures and fishing conquests fill the air, while shuckers place fresh oysters on icy trays and bartenders drop the delicate meat into petite shooter glasses. Chilled mugs are filled with an impressive list of beers from across the country, including Maryland-made favorites such as Flying Dog, DuClaw, Fordham Copperhead Ale (from Annapolis) and the Boatyard Lager, specially crafted to highlight thesubtle flavors of oysters harvested in local waters. (boatyardbarandgrill.com)
Discover a destination that toasts Baltimore's industrial heritage while quenching Maryland's thirst for good beer and bivalves. This waterfront seafood house resides in the former facility of Tin Decorating Co., and its towering smokestack used to rise among scores of oyster processing plants that once lined the shore. Today, it hovers above the deck where guests nibble on oysters and watch ships zip around Inner Harbor. A glass case at the bar is filled with Bay bivalves such as Skinny Dippers, Choptank Sweets and Chincoteagues. Happy hour buck-ashuck oysters and Wednesday Craft Draft Night featuring Maryland brewsfit the bill without busting the wallet. Don't forget to check out the Dock Bar at the BoatHouse offering live music weekly. On-site free dockage is available while dining. (boathousecanton.com)
Barstools around the shucking station at Ryleigh's are among the most coveted seats in the house. That's the best vantage point to gaze at oysters blanketed in ice with little wooden signs heralding local brands such as Shooting Points and Nassawadox Salts. This iconic oyster house offers 10 to 14 types of bivalves, but the favorite is Avery's Pearl. These oysters are custom grown in Hog Island, Va., through a unique restaurant-aquafarm partnership. Maryland brews such as Natty Boh, Evolution IPA and Loose Cannon flow freely, especially during buck-a-shuck Oyster Hour. (ryleighs.com)
Across the Bay on the Eastern Shore lies a seafood house beloved by locals for its dedication to regional oysters and beer. Family owned since 1947, it began as a small crab factory and has evolved into the ideal place to sample an ever-changing list of local oysters such as Choptank Sweets, Barren Islands, Holy Grails and Sewansecotts. You can slurp them indoors or on the outdoor deck and beer garden that's decorated with a waterman's mural, tropical plants and colorful umbrellas. Maryland craft brews take center stage, especially bottles of Choptank designed by a Baltimore brewer to match the unique flavors of the Chesapeake. (toddseafood.com)
On the main street of historic St. Michaels stands a lovely Victorian house that has become a prime destination for oyster and beer seekers. Beneath its gingerbread trim hangs an aquaculture cage where oysters once grew in Chesapeake waters. Every day, a raw bar list of a dozen or more types of oysters displays its unique flavors and brand names such as Chesapeake Gold, Sewansecott and Chincoteague. On tap are local ales that include Eastern Shore natives Real Ale Revival from Cambridge and Evolution from Salisbury. Extra bonus: The Eastern Shore Brewing Co. is located a few blocks away with a tasting room. (awfularthursusa.com)
About 14 miles off Virginia's Eastern Shore, oyster aquaculture's cutting-edge science is helping to preserve a traditional way of life on Tangier Island. Richmond native Tim Hickey introduced to local watermen a new oyster farming method growing thousands of oysters in cages along the shore and shipping them to raw bars along the East Coast. That's a big economy boost from a tiny mollusk and a valiant effort to defend a unique part of Chesapeake heritage. For more, go to Tangier Island Oyster Co., tangieroysterco.com.