Bowers charter boat docked by DNREC for violating state of emergency

Capt. Bob Trowbridge received his third cease and desist order for operating the ‘Captain’s Lady’ charter boat out of Bowers Beach against Gov. Carney’s declaration. Submitted photo

BOWERS BEACH — Somewhere amid Gov. John Carney’s 19 modifications to the State of Emergency that he declared in March to try to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), Capt. Bob Trowbridge felt as if his — and other fishermen’s — livelihoods were overlooked.

May is a big month for charter fishing boats such as the “Captain’s Lady” that Capt. Trowbridge runs out of Paskey’s Wharf at Bowers Beach.

If he or his brother, Willie, aren’t taking people out onto the Delaware Bay to fish, then they aren’t making any money. There are flounder, tautog, striper, blue fish and seabass to be caught.

So, the brothers decided to run their charter boat with different rules, such as limiting the number of fishermen, social distancing, having temperature checks and making everyone wear facemasks.

Unfortunately for them, they were stopped by the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control’s Police on Saturday night and again on Sunday.

“I’ve been issued a cease and desist, and they didn’t take me away, but they legally arrested me (Saturday) night and now I have to wait for a court appearance,” Capt. Trowbridge said. “We ran again (Sunday), so they issued me my third and final cease and desist. I have another court appearance (Sunday night).”

DNREC officials could not be reached for comment on Sunday.

Kent County Levy Court Commissioner Eric Buckson said he was at the dock when DNREC officials met the boat on Saturday night.

“The back story is, a month ago, this charter boat business shuttered numerous trips despite the financial implications because they believed that once Delaware ‘righted’ the ship, they could get back to work,” Mr. Buckson posted on Facebook.

“When the governor moved the goal post and objective from May 18th to sometime in June the charter boat business went from a painful reality to a life and death reality … when you ask a business to eat some pain for the greater good they get it … but asking a business to go under when you arbitrarily open others is not acceptable.”

It has just been one long frustrating time for the Trowbridge’s, who maintain and pilot the only remaining charter boat out of Bowers Beach.

“They cited me for disobeying the governor’s orders,” Capt. Trowbridge said. “I know this makes it seem like we aren’t taking (COVID-19) serious and I’ve thought about this long and hard before we did it. When we filled out for the stimulus package, we were told on our computer that we were guaranteed $10,000 (for our charter business).

“I guess they changed that rule when all this took place, we were declined at first, and I put money out all winter long to fix this boat out and we started making it back in May, which is a very big month for us. We stayed shut down and then they literally sent us $2,000 and that doesn’t even cover my dock rent.”

The Trowbridge’s have also been frustrated by a lack of communication by the governor’s office.

“The other thing is, I’ve been trying to get a hold of Fish and Wildlife, we’ve been trying and sending emails to the governor’s office just trying to get a timeline and figure out what’s going on and what can we do to make this work, and we don’t get phone calls back,” said Capt. Trowbridge. “But yet you try to make a living and then all of a sudden they want to communicate with you.”

The ‘Captain’s Lady’ crew definitely had their share of support on their Facebook page.

Justin Breniser posted, “You definitely don’t need to explain anything … you’re totally right in this situation. You guys do what you have to do to feed your family… we know you guys care. Keep it up.”

“You really didn’t do anything wrong,” wrote Glen Clouser. “I didn’t see you disrespecting law enforcement at all. There is no real reason to consider your business any different than Home Depot. If people keep distance and you have clean restrooms. That’s the best you can do. I mean most of the time folks are outside at a reasonable distance. It’s injustice to single your operation out as any more risk than being outside (in) general.”

Capt. Trowbridge didn’t throw a tantrum or call for a revolution after he was arrested. He’s still just searching for answers.

“I just want to make it known that the officers that are all coming out here, we respect the hell out of them,” he said. “They’ve got a job to do and they’re doing it … not that they like their job right now, but we’re going to treat them with the utmost respect, although I just don’t agree with the politics of what’s going on here. I’m going to lose my business if I don’t run.”

He said it’s ludicrous that entire families can go into Walmart, Lowe’s or any other box store, but people can’t go out onto the bay to fish.

“I mean, I’m here doing a wellness check,” he said. “We take their temperature and anybody who has a temperature over 99.5 is not allowed on the boat, they have to wear masks and they are social distancing six feet all the way around the boat. We literally have it marked out on the railings and we’re limiting the people. I can hold 87 people, but we’re holding it down to around 25 people.”

Capt. Trowbridge said he feels like he is a pawn in one big political game lately.

“I know this is about health and trying to save lives and keeping people safe,” he said. “I don’t think people realize we’ve been dealing with this channel not being dredged out here in the creek (at Bowers) and a crabber hit bottom two weeks ago and put a hole in his boat.

“He was out there sinking, and the rescue boats were stuck on the sandbar and couldn’t get to him. But (the state doesn’t) think that’s a hazard, but they think what I’m doing is a hazard — some things just don’t make a whole lot of sense.”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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