Above is a work boat just off of Gwynn's Island near the mouth of the Piankatank River. That's Deltaville in the background.
Below is some history about watermen from the book "Beautiful Swimmers: Watermen, Crabs and the Chesapeake Bay," by William W. Warner.
"Captain John Smith, discoverer of the Chesapeake, was responsible. His exuberant broadsides on a land with 'the prerogative over the most pleasant places of Europe, Asia, Africa or America' found ready ears among the restless yeomanry of Stuart England. Adventurers invested and settlers came rapidly. Within a few generations of Jamestown's unpromising start, brick manor houses dotted the shorelines of the large and delightsome navigable rivers...
...There also came some called watermen. The term is a curious one; its history, puzzling. The Oxford Dictionary first finds use of the word around 1400...By 1549 there is reference to a Tudor squire who "did bye of John Mareyn, Waterman, oon hunderith and syxe bussels of oysters.'
...Today 'waterman' has limited and archaic use in England. It is heard mainly around the first of August, when the London Fishmonger's Company sponsors an annual Waterman's Race......Why the word took firm root on this continent only along the shores of the Chesapeake is a matter of speculation...But whatever its local origins, the word soon came to be used more generally in the Chesapeake country to separate those who had the resources to acquire land and those who didn't and went out on the waters for subsistence. That it has endured so strongly suggests that the distinction is still sharp. To hear today's watermen tell it, at least, it most certainly is.
"My father raised me a waterman and it's all that I know how to do," they will say. "Follow the water one year same as the next. Ain't no sense in it, but I do it just the same."
By this the listener is to understand that the Chesapeake waterman has much the harder way, an unpredictable existence, he will insist, that offers no real security.
Only those who acquire the smart of it and follow it strong may get by."
Watermen define Mathews County, and I could write a book on this subject alone. When I was coming along, a man could earn a highly respectable living on the water. Over the years, for a number of reasons--most of which are out of their control--fewer and fewer watermen endure.
Thankfully there are some who persevere and who graciously agree to take boatloads of ladies out for cruises in their spare time. (By the way, spare time to a waterman is called sleep).
Although there's no time to get into it today, the book goes on to talk about how the earliest watermen were folks who wanted to get away from the mainstream, so they settled in marshlands at the mouths of rivers, in places that were..
"full of convicts, bugs, muskeetoes (sic), worms of every sort both land and water, spiders, snakes, hornets, wasps, sea nettles, ticks, gnats, thunder and lightning, excessive heat, excessive cold, and other irregularities in abundance."
Welcome to Mathews, where irregularities exist in abundance.
And where sadly the waterman is on the endangered species list.