Experience the Chesapeake Bay this summer with a unique Watermen Heritage Tour

DEAL ISLAND — Heritage tourism has long been considered a ticket to attract visitors and business to Somerset County, and through partners connected with The Chesapeake Conservancy, watermen in Deal Island and Chance have taken up the challenge.


Third generation waterman Grant Corbin Sr. of Deal Island has spent 52 years in the commercial fishing industry, and shares his experience to university students and the general public. He has harvested seafood all around the Chesapeake Bay and told his stories to groups for many years. Now he offers trips on board his workboat Lady Ellen.


Similarly Clyde “Butch” and MaeBelle Walters of Chance have been surrounded by watermen all of their lives, she growing up on Tilghman Island and helping her father on his boat, and Butch from Deal Island working with his father from the age of 14. Now with over 30 years making a living on the water they too share their knowledge with guests.


The Chesapeake Conservancy in partnership with the Coastal Heritage Alliance, the Maryland Watermen’s Association and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum has trained more than 120 watermen to provide working tours of the Chesapeake Bay through the Watermen Heritage Tourism Training program.


The training provides watermen with the resources and information they need to serve as tour guides. Watermen Heritage Tours connect people with the natural and cultural resources of the Bay by providing visitors with an authentic experience shadowing a waterman on a workboat or on the shore. The watermen share their own stories about the area and waters in which they work, and tour guests leave with a greater knowledge and appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay.


In the summer, for example, “Macy” Walters offers hands-on tours of the soft shell crab shanty while Mr. Walters works the water to catch soft shell crabs. In the winter he will dredge for oysters.


A tour of the Corbins’ shanty is also part of the tour with Capt. Corbin, but be prepared to be put to work when out on the water. You will be put to work pulling, dumping and baiting pots and culling crabs. Overnight trips to Smith Island can also be arranged for those who want a longer experience.


“Watermen and their families have played a crucial role in our treasured Chesapeake Bay,” said Project Manager Carly Dean. “Their unique identities have influenced the history, culture, and economy of the Bay for generations. What better way to experience the waters than accompanying a waterman for a day to learn his daily routine?”


It was in May 2009 when the U.S. Secretary of Commerce officially declared the Chesapeake Bay commercial blue crab fishery a failure, and an economic disaster. The original funding for the Watermen Heritage Tourism Training Program comes from the federal Blue Crab Fishery Disaster Fund created by U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski and distributed by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.


Tours range from crabbing adventures with trotlines and crab pots, to scenic kayak tours, to photography trips, sunset sails and traditional skipjack charters. Some offer “water to table” seafood tastings.


To reach the Walters, call 410-430-6788 or 410-430-6261. For Capt. Corbin, call 443-783-8835 or visit www.WatermenHeritageTours.org for other opportunities around the state.

MaeBelle Walters and guests. (Watermen's Heritage Tourism Training Program photo)

MaeBelle Walters and guests. (Watermen’s Heritage Tourism Training Program photo)

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