Arctic blast takes its toll on watermen, boats frozen in port

KENT ISLAND, Md. - Days of below zero temperatures – an "arctic blast" or "Polar Vortex" as meteorologists call it – are taking a toll on Maryland watermen whose boats are stuck in port.

Moochie Gilmer  has been  a waterman for 40 years. 

He's made a career of fishing, crabbing and going for oysters.  Winter isn't the offseason for watermen.  They are dredging and diving for oysters now and also netting rock fish in the bay .

"We've been unable to work for the last week or so in the Eastern Bay or the Chester River," Gilmer said.

That's because the Bay is starting to freeze over. 

"Even with a fiberglass or wooden boat with protection on it wouldn't be feasible," Gilmer said.   

The water is particularly dangerous this time of year.

"You probable have five minutes in this water before you lose consciousness," Gilmer said.  

If watermen can't go out neither can emergency responders on the water. The Department of Natural Resource use four ice boats around The Bay, but they can only do so much.

The waterman said that when the ice boats go out, the path they clear doesn't last too long.

"They break the water up but it's so cold the water just freezes back up overnight," Gilmer said. 

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