Peffer Watermen


Randall S. Peffer

Peffer The Watermen Randall Peffer Watermen has written eight non-fiction books with a nautical focus and 9 fiction books. Peffer's dad was a carreer naval officer and he has a 100-ton masters license and has over one hundred miles at sea under his belt. At one time over 2000 skipjacks - sail powered boats used for dredging oysters - prowled Chesapeake Bay. By the 1980 that number had dwindled to two dozen and today only a handful remain. Until 1965 Maryland only allowed sail powered boats to harvest oysters by dredge. A 1965 law allowed motor power 2 days a week.

Peffer takes time off from teaching college and moves to Tilghman Island, about 3/4th the way up into Chesapeake Bay, to seek out his ancestral roots. His journey leads him to the watermen - the inhabitants of Tilghman island who eke out an existance on the bounty of Chesapeake Bay. Peffer works a whole annual cycle on a skipjack - a traditional Chesapeake Bay sailing vessel used for dredging oysters. The boats are 40 to 50 feet long with a wide beam and a low free board. The boat has no motor except for the windlass which is used to operate the oyster dredge.

Peffer opens a fascinating window into the past, capturing the personalities, trials and tribulations of people living a hard, self sufficient life with one foot in the 19th century and one in the 20th. Peffer writes well enticing you to care about the watermen and their families feel their joy and friendships and suffer their pain and sadness when tragedy stikes. Watermen is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.


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