Chesapeake Outdoors

Farewell to Lady D

by C.D. Dollar

For the past couple years, the Lady D and I welcomed spring and all of its glorious awakenings: Ospreys returning from south and central America, crabs emerging from deep-water mud, the songbirds' sweet melodies, even the gulls' clamorous attitudes.

This spring, too, started out with the routine preparation of fishing and dredging gear, with shake-down runs to get the winter doldrums out. I painted her decks, changed her oil and checked the systems. But something was different this time around, and she and I both knew it. It couldn't go on, and there seemed a sadness between us as I fitted her out one last time.

The Lady D and I had a great relationship for two years, a bond fused from continuous dependency upon each other. Summer squalls quick to anger and bent on destruction or March's temperamental madness passed beneath her hull, keeping captain and passengers safe.

Now, I have taken a job in another department at Chesapeake Bay Foundation, and my adoration of Lady D will be from afar. Technically, she was the property of the Bay Foundation, one in a fleet of more than a dozen boats whose life's work is taking field trip groups safely from and back to the dock.

But in spirit, this 39-foot wooden deadrise built on Tilghman Island nearly 30 years ago was my boat. Cedar, oak and pine comprised her frame and planking, and she remains as seaworthy as the day she was launched.

One summer, we were heading to the upper Patuxent River. Motoring south, just past Herring Bay. Marine radio forecasters were tracking a violent summer storm that was tearing up the Bay, heading Northeast. I decided to make a run for it, mainly because, at the moment, the seas and wind were moderate. But I could see the front edge of the black menace on shore in the distance.

Suddenly, I felt an eerie sense of isolation as the Bay seemed to lay down a bit. I knew what was coming: the hairs on my neck stood straight; the rain pelted the windshield, the wipers' efforts to keep up futile. To starboard, as if a gray blanket had been tossed over the shoreline, land features became indiscernible. Off the port side, the sky was the blackness of coal, and almost instantly the seas whipped to four and five feet steady. Rogues nearly double that size combined with inconsistent wave patterns made it worse.

We were barely making way; the strong wind tried to push us back toward Annapolis. Faithfully, Lady D plowed on, her bow plunging into the fray as white water came over the washboards. After 10 minutes it was clear that at this rate we'd get to Solomons by Labor Day. I called Herrington Harbour on the marine radio, requesting to tie up for the night, and thankfully was given the nod.

The storm got worse, and as lighting flashed and thunder cracked, I was glad we were laid up for the night. I remember listening to the rain slowly diminishing, the creaks of Lady D's rubrail against the pilings and her sighs of relief transmitted through her stringers, ribs and planks into my own.

Sweet music it was and will be sorely missed.

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VolumeVI Number 12
March 26 - April 1, 1998
New Bay Times

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