Last fall I was invited for a day of rock fishing aboard Breezin’ Thru, a 47‘, 1949 vintage charter fishing boat from Kent Island, Maryland. This traditional, custom built wooden boat is operated by Captain Tilghman Hemsley. His forebears came to this area from England in the early 1700s. Breezin’ Thru is unique in a number of ways; she’s been running fishing charters for 63 years, the last 30 under the capable command of Captain Hemsley, she offers her guests expert guided fishing, crabbing and sea duck hunting and most importantly [in my opinion], she is the last remaining charter boat on the bay to offer fine cuisine prepared onboard for breakfast, lunch and dinner daily in the vessel’s galley!
The charter was arranged by friend and avid art collector, Phil Mudd of Bethesda, Maryland. He also invited George Wright, noted Maryland painter of nature, military, portraits and sports scenes. Captain Hemsley and his son Will are also exceptionally gifted artist, both painters and sculptors. And then there’s yours truly- that’s a lot of artists on one boat. I invited my friend and fishing buddy, Wayne “Doc” Hopkins from Richmond to join us.
We arrived at the boat early on the morning of November 16, 2011 as Captain Hemsley was busily preparing for our day on the bay. The morning was foggy and cool with the threat of rain but the warmth from the boat and the Captain himself set a brighter tone for the day. We boarded Breezin Thru and soon after, the Captain’s son Will arrived, with a bushel of #1 Jimmies [local for large, male Atlantic Blue Crabs- Callinectus sapidus]. Now with everyone and all supplies aboard we departed for the fishing grounds across the bay where the boat had found good rockfish [also called Striped Bass or Stripers] in the days before. Across the bay we traveled in great comfort as the boat had a large covered cockpit as well as heat!
After weaving our way through the fog-laden shipping lanes we arrived at the oyster rock [oyster bed] on the western shore of the Chesapeake near Annapolis and the anchor went down. As we began fishing, the wonderful aroma of crabs steaming, came wafting up from the boat’s galley! “Wow”, we all thought as Will offered us a frosty mug of freshly tapped, draft beer made by a cousin who owns an exceptional craft beer brewery in Pennsylvania. “Am I dreaming? Could this really be happening? I’m on a beautiful classic bay boat, crabs cooking below, fishing, and a frosty ale in my hand! I’m in heaven!”
Soon, nice rockfish started to be hauled aboard the boat as Will and Captain Hemsley baited hooks, took fish off our lines, and offered to draw us another beer. Soon boats around us started to pick up the aroma of cooking crabs as those beautiful Jimmies were served in the cockpit on a huge dining table amidships which doubled as the engine box. While feasting on crabs we were then surprised as hot cheese steak sandwiches, freshly made crab cakes, fried rockfish, green beans and hot rolls were served. Oh, and by the way, rockfish still coming aboard from anyone wanting to fish- I was far too interested in the feast- heck I’ve caught a million fish but who’s had a meal like this aboard?
Conversation flowed among the group, and stories of how it has been on the Chesapeake Bay were told and it was clear that this was indeed a very special day. It was understood that we were all drawn together by this wonderful natural resource that is the Chesapeake. Afternoon came far too soon, we reluctantly weighed anchor and made our way back to Kent Island. As we were collecting our gear the crew cleaned our catch and even packed crabs for us the take home.
I urge any of you wanting to spend an absolutely wonderful day on the Chesapeake consider chartering Captain Tilghman Hemsley’s Breezin’ Thru or his other vessel Ark Angel. The Hemsley’s are great people, warm, friendly, and knowledgeable professionals [ask Captain Hemsley how to tell the sex of a fish]!
To Will and Captain Hemsley, thank you for an unforgettable experience! JMB
Visit these websites to learn more about chartering and to view CaptainHemsley’s artwork:
Visit artist Will Hemsley’s site:
Visit artist George Wright’s site: