Business inspires visitors to appreciate local heritage

Captain Dave Schauber has fished local waters since he was a child.

Captain Dave Schauber has fished local waters since he was a child.

CHURCH CREEK — Captain Dave Schauber has fished and crabbed on the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries ever since he was a child and his own children have done the same. That deep-rooted affinity for the landscape, waterscape and heritage of Dorchester County has driven his business, Sawyer Fishing Charters, for the past 27 years.

“We provide memorable experiences for those who visit Dorchester County,” Dave said. “We offer fishing charters for those who want to fish the waters of Dorchester. We offer packaged tours to larger groups who come from all over to see what Dorchester County has to offer. We also offer lighthouse cruises and sunset cruises.”

A native of Chestertown, Dave moved to Dorchester County in 1981 to work at the former Spicer Sawmill in Church Creek, following a career path that had started in Caroline County where he both worked in a saw mill and ran his own mill. At the invitation of a co-worker at Spicer’s, he began joining him on fishing excursions in the rivers and bay around Dorchester County.

What started as a bit of free-time recreation soon evolved into something bigger. He got his captain’s license in 1991 and decided to start offering fishing charters on the weekends and other days off from work. His business grew, as did his boats. He moved from a 25-foot C-Hawk to a 42-foot bay-built boat and finally to a 52-foot boat – a far cry from the 12-footer he enjoyed as a teen on the Chester River.

“In 2002, my current boat was built in Crisfield,” Dave said. “It’s one of the biggest boats in the Chesapeake Bay charter fleet and has allowed us to diversify our operations into packaged tours, lighthouse cruises, and trips to various destinations along the Chesapeake Bay, as well as fishing charters.

Soon, Dave’s side business was booming and soon evolved into a full-time endeavor. In fact, the name – Sawyer’s Fishing Charters – evolved from the 30-plus years he worked in sawmills, when he was known simply as “The Sawyer.” The name stuck.

“Once we built the boat, the business really took off,” Dave said. “In 2004, we were doing 200 trips a year. The fishing was really, really good. Around that time, we also began offering tours, mostly oriented toward larger groups and bus trips.”

More than 90 percent of their business comes from outside Dorchester County. They draw visitors from the Eastern Shore, as well as the rest of Maryland and the neighboring states of Delaware, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

“We bring people to Dorchester County who might otherwise never come,” Dave said. “Running the tours and teaching people about our area is a big thing for me. You’d be surprised at the number of people over 70 who have never been on a boat. The fishing’s great, but it’s the tours that have been important for us.”

His son, Dave Schauber Jr., joined his father in the family business about 11 years ago and is a passionate tour guide, especially for excursions such as the Harriet Tubman by Land and Sea Tour. He will meet a group at the Dorchester County Visitor Center, join them on the bus and then narrate a tour that travels to key landmarks, such as the Stanley Institute, Parsons Creek, Stewart’s Canal, the New Revived Church, Brodess Farm, the Bucktown Store and the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Visitor Center.

The trip also includes a narrated cruise along waterways where Harriet Tubman worked, where the Schaubers share insights about Dorchester County’s history and the traditional way of life on the Eastern Shore, focusing on crabbing, fishing and the watermen. They point out the wildlife and discuss the environmental changes that have affected many islands and shorelines.

“I think the Harriet Tubman tour is very important,” his son said. “That means a lot to me because she means so much to the people who come down here to do the tours. It’s our American history. I see an emotional connection.”

They also have partnered with the Department of Agriculture and seafood buyers to run educational excursions for chefs from the Baltimore and Washington area.
“We bring them across the bay so they can see how the products that they are using are harvested,” Dave said. “They see how crabs are steamed, picked and packaged. They see how oysters are grown. They see where the products are coming from.

“We are proud to be promoting Maryland and our local heritage.”

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