We are all complaining about the cold; about the frozen waters of the Chesapeake. Boaters from Boston to Georgetown, Bahamas, are talking about it. But there is a back-story that people forget. While we are complaining about how cold it is, schools are closed and people get time off from work, it is a bit of a lark. It is generally a fun time. Schools have “Snow Days” built into the schedule. If you miss work today you can work longer tomorrow to make it up. Or as is often the case, the boss gives the crew some extra time off due to the terrible weather.
There is another community out there who does not have it so easy: the working watermen. On Tangier when the harbor is frozen they say, “Hawkins came.” The boats cannot get out of the harbor. If they could, the tongs could not get through the ice. There is no work on the water today. There are no “snow days” for the watermen. The season ends on a certain day and there is no making up for days closed due to weather. They cannot go out tomorrow and work harder to make up for the missed income; the limit does not change. There is no makeup day, there is no “do over.” The income they did not make today is gone. It can never be made up. This cold weather has a real impact on those who make their living on the water.
We live and play on this marvelous playground we call the Chesapeake. We miss the fact that there is another story being played out day in and day out, whether the weather is nice or it is not. So as we go about our daily lives complaining about the cold weather, remember there are a lot people who not only have to work all winter in our watery playgrounds of summer, but if they cannot go out, they cannot put food on the table. That is the story of the lives of the men and women who work the water of the Bay for a living, and the families they support.
By Tom Hale