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Pete Waters: Dogs, demons and Smith Island's future

June 09, 2013|By LLOYD WATERS

The rockfish spring trophy season had arrived, and you fishermen know where the nose of the Old Sea Dog was pointed.

Smith Island was on the radar, and a few members of the dog pound— Bad Dog Fuller and Good Dog Hoffman — were hankering for a voyage on the Captain Marshall (the Rock Dog’s vessel).

Few adventures compare to fishing for the great rockfish.

At 2 a.m. on a Saturday, after about a half-hour’s sleep, our party left Antietam Furnace for our destination of Smith Island.

After almost hitting a deer on Route 97, we crossed the Bay Bridge and made our way down Route 413 to the Crisfield Marina, where we greeted “Rock Dog” Marshall and boarded his boat.

We took our belongings to the captain’s boathouse on Tylerton before heading for Tangier Sound to wet our lines.

As we arrived at the boathouse, I remembered the damage caused by Hurricane Sandy last year. The destruction of the storm was still most visible.

After unloading our belongings, the island winds embraced us, and we set sail west in search of rockfish.

The waters were choppy on this day, and you seafarers know exactly what choppy waters can do to a land lubber’s stomach.

It wasn’t long after the Sea Dog was observing the water’s whitecaps that all that good food the dogs had consumed seemed to be making a slow roll in the stomachs of my companions. The captain was fine.

As the waves became higher and rocked the boat from side to side, it was a matter of time before the captain retrieved the “bucket” for the Good Dog. The breakfast and snacks that he enjoyed just an hour or so earlier now spewed into the bucket quicker than Old Faithful.

As his stomach continued to roll with the waves, I thought for a moment he might be possessed with some demon by the way he was acting. I remembered a similar scene from “The Exorcist.” It was not a pretty sight.

The Bad Dog did not share any similar theatrics, but his water sickness was just as excruciating. He put his head on the table in the captain’s cabin and did not move for four hours. 

It was a bad sickness. I suspect he was beginning to feel like Lazarus before his awakening.

As I stood there with my libation, there was little I could do for my friends except observe their agony.

Our trip on this day produced one nice size rockfish and two very sick dogs.

As we made our way back to the boathouse, the dogs were ready to return their paws to the good earth.

While surveying the storm’s damage on the island, it was obvious that the Tylerton community did not have the same good fortune as the Jersey shore in regard to repairs.

There was no Gov. Christie or President Obama to be found celebrating Smith Island’s recovery from the storm. No quick assistance had arrived.

Initially, the captain told me, Somerset County was to receive $8.6 million in relief funds, but none would be allocated to Smith Island because of future concerns about flooding and storm damages.

That decision was ultimately vacated by the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, and now funds are available to repair some of the damaged homes.

Another controversial suggestion by this agency included potential buyouts for certain property owners on the Island. This subject, too, has created alarm for the Smith Island residents, because they see those efforts as a method to destroy the island’s way of living and bring about its ultimate demise.

The dogs will remember the rough waters and demons of this trip.

Those Smith Island residents will always remember Hurricane Sandy and ponder the future of their children and families in this small community.

Lloyd “Pete” Waters is a Sharpsburg resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.





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