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Capt. Bobby Bowes of Piney Point has been selected as the Seventh District Optimist Club’s 2013 Waterman of the Year.

The award recognizes a St. Mary’s County waterman who has spent his life working the bays and rivers of the area. The club presents the award annually at the Blessing of the Fleet. This year’s 17th annual presentation will be on Oct. 6.

Over the course of 40 years, Bowes has welcomed charter boat fishing as a part-time supplemental income to put his children through school, as a full-time job after retirement, as pastime enjoyment to entertain grandchildren and friends and as a means to give back to the community.

Bowes moved from Washington, D.C., to St. Mary’s County with his parents and older brother in 1943 with the commissioning of the air station at Patuxent River. Most of his life has been spent in the waterfront areas of Tall Timbers and Piney Point.

In 1961, he married Patricia Usilton of Leonardtown at Holy Face Catholic Church in Great Mills. Seven years later, they bought an older waterfront home in Piney Point and raised a family of seven children. That family has given the couple 20 grandchildren and, thus far, three great grandchildren.

In 1972, he and a best friend began their charter fishing venture by purchasing a well-used Garner Gibson-built work boat to supplement their day-job incomes. More than 40 years later, they are both still active in charter fishing, each with their own boat, and the Gibson boat is long gone.

Bowe’s first solely owned boat, a round stern, was purchased in 1973 from Delahay’s in Compton. Four years later, he purchased his current boat, Audrey B, built locally by Herman Dixon of St. Patrick’s Creek.

His professional career included employment as a civilian with the U.S. Navy as an engineer involved with testing airplane and helicopter flying characteristics. During this time, charter fishing was a weekend endeavor. He retired in 1988 and began dedicating more time to the boat operations.

His entire family, including the grandchildren, have helped with all the boat operations as mates, painters, scrubbers, fish cleaners and whatever needed to be done. Two of his sons, Capt. Mark Bowes and Capt. Matt Bowes, are charter licensed as well; they both inherited the passion for charter fishing, and they also transport passengers at the Blessing of the Fleet on their charter boats.

Over the years, Bowes has utilized the boats for charter fishing, underwater inspection diving, transporting work crews for SMECO to renovate power line towers, supporting recreational diving on the U-1105 submarine at Piney Point, cruising, logistics support, docking ships at Piney Point Petroleum Station and tidal studies for the U.S. Geological Survey Team and the Naval Research Laboratory. He also supported two salvage operations, refloating a survey team vessel that sank near Bonum Creek in Virginia and recovering an airplane abandoned with engine problems near White Point Beach.

In 1974, he and his wife started carrying passengers to St. Clement’s Island at the Seventh District Blessing of the Fleet. He has supported charity fundraisers by donating fishing trips to Little Flower School, Ducks Unlimited, Optimist Clubs and more.

Currently, he is serving his third term as a Maryland commissioner appointee to the Potomac River Fisheries Commission.