“The Last Boat Out:” Vanishing Life on the Chesapeake Bay

You know them. The sunburned faces of the men who guide the white workboats across the Chesapeake Bay year round. They gather up the oysters and blue crabs that we savor. They are among the treasures of the bay, and like the waters beneath them these watermen are dying out.

Tonight, Maryland Public Television will show the documentary, "The Last Boat Out," produced by local filmmaker Laura Seltzer. It takes a sensitive look at the  vanishing life of the Chesapeake Bay's watermen. The pollution that is choking the bay is making it impossible for these iconic fishermen to make a living anymore.

"The Last Boat Out" focuses on the Withrow brothers, who are third generation watermen from the Virginia Penninsula. They learned the trade from their father, who learned from his father. The film takes you on their workboat, the Taylor Rae, and shows diminishing harvests.

There is such emotion in their voices as the brothers contemplate leaving the wheel of their boat for the wheel of a truck. Jobs on land pay more, but at what cost.  

"The Last Boat Out " is a mere 30 minutes long, but it encompasses a lifetime. It also explains the source of the problems. Seltzer shows us the vast watershed that feeds into the Chesapeake Bay. All that land with fertilizers and pesticides and sewage treatment plants washing into these precious waters. 

But it isn't hopeless. "The Last Boat Out" can inspire us to learn what simple actions we can take to help our glorious estuary. The first action would be to watch "The Last Boat Out." Spend a half-hour with the Withrow family on the Taylor Rae. It is television that will enlighten you.

Watch the trailer:

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