Boaters in the Middle Bay pull into Kentmorr Harbour Marina for crabs, companionship, or just because it’s home.
This is a busy spot, even in mid-winter. Some duck hunters have just returned to their slip aboard Captain Randy Townsend’s boat, Sea Dux, and as they ready their day’s take for an evening meal, Townsend sums up life at this marina tucked into the western shore of Kent Island.
“It’s a prime location for fishing and duck hunting,” he says. “Lots of ducks around here in winter. Scoters, squaws.” The duck population seems to be on the rise, he adds, citing Bay-wide efforts to clean up the water and create habitat. “And we’re sitting right next to one of the prime fishing areas on the Bay. I guess you’d say there’s mostly fishing boats in these permanent slips.”
It’s the kind of place where people go out of their way to help each other. Townsend talks about the times when he’s been out on the water late, and the marina staff has radioed him to see if he’ll need gas when he comes in. “They’ll stay open for me,” he says appreciatively. “Or if there’s been a storm, they stick around until they know all the boats are back in safe. It’s a good feeling.”
I scan the 105 slips (14 of them covered) in the tidy man-made basin inside two rock jetties that mark its entrance. It’s quiet here. Waves splash gently against the jetties, but the water inside is smooth as silk. The noise and traffic of the Bay Bridge are miles away to the north. Gulls circle slowly overhead, and the flag on the marina flagpole snaps brightly in the breeze. At its base is a sizable chunk of granite marked as a memorial to Val Eshleman, the marina dockmaster who died here in a freak accident nearly a decade ago. Townsend points it out to me. “He’s the reason I came here,” he says. But not the reason he stayed.
I haven’t been down here for some 15 years, I realize, and things look mighty different. Most of the docks and piers have been replaced recently. At the far end of the basin, Brickhouse Yacht Yard, run by Mike Stine, is bursting at the seams with boats in winter storage being readied to land back in the water, refurbished for the season.
Kentmorr Restaurant sits by the gas dock at the mouth of the basin. What began as a fairly nondescript crab shed underwent significant renewal in 1993. Now it’s an attractive rendition of a lighthouse - easy to spot from the water. The restaurant features plenty of traditional cooking and, of course, steamed crabs - by the dozen or, in season, all-you-can-eat. Manager David Harper tells me that his crabmeat comes in fresh year-round. “Sometimes from as far away as Venezuela,” he says, “but it’s always fresh - not pasteurized.” He also points out the restaurant’s recent award for crabcakes from the Maryland Watermen’s Association. Kentmorr’s Sunday brunch (10 a.m.–2 p.m.; $12.95 per person) will run through May. The marina provides two-hour courtesy dockage for diners arriving by boat, but reservations are suggested.
Dockmaster Paul Coleman breaks stride for a minute to talk with me. “This is a big fishing marina,” he says, echoing Townsend. “We’ve got a lot of charter fishing boats in here, a lot of family fishing boats.” He points to the two fish-cleaning stations along the docks, “busy places.” Most of the transients come for the restaurant, which is an easy shot from the South River and Annapolis. Sailboats tend to shy away because it’s so shallow, but those who manage to slide in are warmly welcomed. Visitors will find a swimming pool, a sandy Bay beach, a picnic area with charcoal grills, and a lot of great places to walk a dog (except near the restaurant). There’s even a grass airstrip next door, the Kentmorr Air Park.
“We’re easy to find,” Coleman points out. “Look for the yellow nun that marks the south end of the measured mile off Matapeake and head east.” Or zero in on the lighthouse. Or follow the steady stream of fishing and pleasure boats making a beeline to the jetties. You can’t miss.