In anticipation of the upcoming crabfeast, we decided to hit the water late in the afternoon on this past Friday. By "we", I mean myself, my son Ethan, my buddy Eric and an 18 pack of Miller Lite. Got on the water around 3pm and by 7pm we had over a bushel of crabs and the 18 pack gone.
Now, I've been crabbing the same stretch of water (Nanjemoy Creek) for over 11 years. In those 11 years, I have to say that I've grown somewhat complacent to the rules and regulations that govern boating. For 11 years, I have never seen the police on that creek. I know they're around but for some reason they never seem to venture into Nanjemoy Creek. I've never really understood why because a Natural Resource Police (NRP) Officer could have a banner day on Saturday mornings in July and August because of all the illegal crabbers on the water at that time.
Around 7 pm, as we're getting ready to run one of the lines for the last time, who should happen to roll up into the creek? It's none other than a NRP officer. At this time of the evening, we were the only ones left on the water and by the time we noticed he had us in his sights its was far too late to do anything about the 18 empty beer cans laying on the floor of the boat. He comes up next to us and asks us the obligatory "how you all doing?" the whole time he's sizing up our catch, the boat, my kid, and the 18 empty beer cans.
He asks me how many beers I have had. Unless I wanted to blame half of the empty beer cans on my five year old, I knew he had dead to rights on at least a six pack. So I answered 6 or 7 (more like 8 or 9 but I had to give myself some wiggle room). He asks me to recite the alphabet "a to z" without singing it, which I ace. He then asks me to count backward from 66 to 53. I proudly ace that one as well or at least thought I had aced but I aced it from 66 to 57. In the heat of the nervousness combined with a good buzz I missed the part about counting backward to 53. At that point, I thought he had me. He then makes me do it again to 53 which I this time do as requested.
Thank goodness, I decided to let Ethan come with us because I truly believe he was our saving grace. I mean I had passed the sobriety tests basically and Ethan did have his life jacket on which we always make him wear even if it wasn't the law. But, if this officer felt like being hard on me, he could have taken me in for a breathalyzer which I'm sure I would have failed. In Md a DWI on the water counts as a DWI on your driver's license so I really dodged a bullet on that one.
Here is where I didn't dodge any bullets and the years of complacency finally caught up with me.
Did I have my registration? No
Did I have a fire extinguisher? No (I truly didn't know I needed one on that boat)
Did I have a throwable life preserver? No
Did I have a sound device, i.e. a whistle or air horn? No
Did I have at least two life preservers, one for me and Eric? Technically yes, but one was so ratty that if I had to chose between it and a beach towel to stay afloat I would probably chose the beach towel. So the answer inevitably to the NRP Officer was no.
All told $175.00 worth of tickets and warnings. If I hadn't been drinking, I would have been pretty mad, the fact that I knew I just got off real easy made me want to kiss the officer's shoes after getting a handful of citations.
Good thing Eric didn't bring a 30 pack.
Needless to say, when we crabbed again on Saturday morning, I had all the stuff I was missing the day before and this time; no beer.
For as bad of a year as it is, we still ended up with close to 4 bushels total. Out of the 4, there was at least 1 bushel of number ones (beautiful big crabs).
So Friday marked the end of an era of reckless abandon and complacency on the water. Crabbing, for us, has always been one of the last true free from worry get aways left. We never had to look over our shoulders to see if "the man" was watching us. Crabbing will always be fun but something about it just won't be the same.