What happens when podcasters from Cape Cod show up in the Northern Neck? We take them to meet some oysters. After luxuriating at the Tides Inn for the weekend, Lisa Bates and Stephanie Viva climbed aboard the deadrise “Bay Quest” for a morning oyster excursion around the Coan River.
Leaving from Lewisetta Marina, which is nearing the end of a renovation and plans to be open for the Summer 2021 season, Bay Quest Charters’ Captain David Rowe welcomed Lisa and Stephanie for two hours of oyster industry show & tell. Cap’n Dave enthusiastically pointed out Lewisetta landmarks, and explained the 1895 Baylor Survey which divided the river bottom in Virginia into leased properties from the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The May Monday was glorious and sunny, and Captain Dave knew where to pull up to Lake Packing to hear the shucking operation at work, as the oyster shells clinked and crashed against the stainless steel shucking table. Discussions of the differences between diploid and triploid oysters led to a tour around caged oysters, submerged in the Coan, and marked by buoys, which are part of the aquaculture (triploid) industry. And then with a view to the Potomac River, Captain Dave mentioned the “Oyster Wars” between Maryland and Virginia which ended in the 1950s, and resulted in the death of Berkley Muse of Colonial Beach.
No on-water heritage tour is complete without a demonstration and, for those who think they are upper-body strong, an attempt at “catch & release” oyster tonging. Dave showed Stephanie how to maneuver the 16’ tongs, and although Stephanie did well, we all agreed that our families would have gone hungry had we been responsible for putting food on the table with the use of oyster tongs. Respect for the watermen runs deep in the Northern Neck. The hard work, long hours, and harsh weather conditions that they endure put seafood in our stores and farmers’ markets and on our tables.
After the tour, we ventured further up Route 360 to the Village of Callao, which has two food trucks which were busy on that Monday. Of course, after hearing all about the oysters, a crabcake became the order of the day at the Flippin’ Yellow Truck. If you are in Callao for weekend evenings, the Callao Brewing Company is located next to the food trucks, and has bingo & beer events and live music.
Reedville has a 19th century historic district if you can stay in town for a day or two. Waterfront restaurants provide excellent dining and be sure to check out the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum or take a tour (from Reedville) to Tangier Island.
Paddling your way
If you are bringing your own craft, there are two launch sites on the Coan River at Rowe’s Landing near Heathsville and Forrest Landing, between Heathsville and Lottsburg https://www.northernneck.org/MAPS/coan_river_water_trail_web.pdf