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Life as a Chesapeake Bay Charterboat Captain

Life as a Chesapeake Bay Charterboat Captain

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Published by Ken Rossignol
Join Pepper Langley as he described growing up at Solomon's Island on the Chesapeake Bay.
Join Pepper Langley as he described growing up at Solomon's Island on the Chesapeake Bay.

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Published by: Ken Rossignol on Apr 17, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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04/16/2014

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Life as a Chesapeake Baycharterboat Captain
By Pepper LangleyIn the early 30s with the Great Depression on, it was very hardfor a young boy to find jobs to make a little money and just about allyou could do was work on the Charter boats out of 
Solomon’s
Island
. Back in those days they all called the boats “Fishing Party”
boats, which is really what they were because if you were notfishing you would still be having a party and sometimes a good one.In 1936, after working on the party boats for about 2 years, asdeck and hand helper, I thought it was about time that I got my own
Captain’s license. I had to file for my license with the Dept. of 
Commerce in Baltimore, Md., and after that, I had to wait until theysent me a date to come in and take the test, and in the meantime,you received a booklet they sent telling you qualifications you hadto pass to get your license, so when you got that booklet, you had tostart studying for your exam.When you went to get your license in those days, although itwas tough on you, I do not think it was as it is now, as there are somany boats and so many accidents on the water. Anyway, when I
 
got to Baltimore and went to the Commerce Building, I had to findthe U.S.C.E. office where they give the test, also the physicalcheckup, eye test and many others. They also wanted to know theexperience I had on water and how much time.I also had to know what to do in case of an emergency such asfire or man overboard.Also, you had to be experienced in the waters where youwould be operating your boat and knowing what to do in case of foggy or bad weather.It was all a great experience for a young boy and I enjoyed itvery much and I had no trouble getting my license.I did not own my own boat but there were a number of placesthat would let you captain their boats if they had more than oneboat. As I had worked on the boats called the
King Fish, Albatross,Chesapeake, Mary & Loree
, just a few of the boats that were ownedby the J.C. Lore and Sons Seafood Co. so I had no trouble getting a job on one of their boats, and the boat they put me in was the
Mary 
. This boat was a large Hooper Island draketail boat built onEastern Shore and was not a new boat but was still good and sturdy.The Fleet Capt. of the company boats was Capt. Rupert Lore.We called him Capt. Dick and it seemed as though that I, being theyoungest Capt. in the fleet, when all the others were too tired tocarry a party, he always called me to go. When you left the dock,the first thing you tried to do was learn what kind of people you hadon the boat and the best way to do that was to not say anything andlisten to what you heard.Now I did not tell you but you also carried a deck hand orhelper on these boats as I told you I had done myself and his jobwas to cut the bait and have it ready when we got out in the Bay.He also had to haul anchor and set anchor as I was at the wheel.Most of these parties were men and some pretty tough.It seemed as though they thought that you could carry themright to where the fish was and when they dropped their lines overthe side, they would catch fish in a couple of minutes.Most of these people liked to bring some strong spirits withthem and when they got too much, they could get bad, but mostwere good people.I had one man who got under the weather right much and hecame up in the pilot house and asked me if I knew how to find fish,
then he told me “… If I did not find him fish, he would make
fish bait
out of me …”
 
 
I brought them out in the Bay to catch fish and I assured himthat I did so. Then he said,
‘then why the Hell ain’t we catching any’
 and I told him that the fish had not been biting very good, and thenhe asked me if I could move to another place. So I moved up toCove Point but the bluefish was just not biting. Then he got real badand come back in the pilot house and told me if I did not find himfish, he would make fish bait out of me and that is when I put myfish knife on my belt and told if he bothered me again, I would takethem to shore and that was all of it.On Sunday evening, I came in out of the Bay very tired. I hadno time to go home to get a warm meal for two days and I reallyneeded a good rest. When I docked the
Mary 
at the Lore docks, ourfleet Capt. Dick Lore walked ou
t on the docks and said “Pepper,
Ihave another party for you to take out
. I said Capt. Dick, I havebeen running for three days and I am tired and need a good hotmeal. He said well all the other Captains are gone home and thesemen are ready to leave right now, so I said, O.K.We gassed the boat up and got bait and water and left rightout again. As I was going in the Bay, one of the party came up tothe pilot house and told me they all six were U.S. Marines and hadbeen down below Holland Bar Navy target area a week before on aseaplane and caught a lot of large trout and that is where theywanted to go.Well, when we got in the Bay, the wind was out of theSoutheast and the tide running strong. I knew it was going to be abad trip out and
I told them so, but that didn’t matter with them.
So, it was not long before we were heading down the Bay,when we got down to Holland Bar, the seas were running very high,but we anchored and started catching good fish but you couldhardly stand up to bait the lines.I had never been seasick in my life, but I did begin to feel prettybad and I told the helper to take care of everything because I wasgoing up the bow of the boat and lie down and the only way I coulddo that was to tie myself to the Sampson Post on the bow so Iwould not get washed overboard. By the time I got my head overthe bow, I did not care whether I was washed over or not.Now, as I told you, I had never been seasick in my life and Ispent some bad days in the Bay, I did not tell you that before I got inthe Bay, I got looking for something in the cabin to eat and all Ifound was 6 bananas and two cans of sardines, and I ate them all.So I will leave it up to you as to whether you think that it wasBanana and Sardines sick or seasick
 –
anyway - when I come in off 

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