This Saturday, October 6th marks the fifth Anniversary of Harbor Day – At The Docks, a notable event focusing on the Ocean City, MD area’s maritime traditions. You can expect to learn about the commercial and sport fishing industries, marine life, local seafood processing, and important safety measures while at sea from the Coast Guard. Demonstrations and hands-on activities will bring the maritime world to life on land. Harbor Day takes place in the Commercial Fishing Harbor in West Ocean City, and is a celebration of a way of life and industry instrumental to the livelihood and culture of this coastal community. Do you know how Ocean City’s fishing industry began?  

Years ago, it was not uncommon to witness, what in modern times, would be a very peculiar scene—horses pulling boats ashore directly onto the beach.  These boats, long sturdy wooden crafts known as pound boats, resembled giant rowboats and were the first commercial fishing vessels in the area.

According to local history books, Mr. Christopher Ludham is credited with creating Ocean City MD’s commercial fishing industry in 1898. In those days, or rather thirty-five years prior to the storm of 1933, Ocean City’s commercial fishing industry operated primarily off the beach—without an actual deep-water harbor.  The storm of 1933 caused much of the industry to sink to the bottom of the bay—the nets, the horses, the boats themselves, but replaced the old ways with new opportunity by cutting the inlet, resulting in the commercial fishing harbor in West Ocean City. This harbor certainly modernized the commercial fishing industry, and made possible the sport fishing industry, which has since put Ocean City on the map as the White Marlin Capital of the World—all thanks to an initially unwelcome natural disaster.

Ocean City is often heralded as a family vacation destination, known for her hotels, restaurants, amusements, and miles of glorious beaches.  Certainly, Ocean City is all of that, but equally as instrumental in history, livelihood, and even entertainment, is the fishing industry.

Saturday October 6th the 5th annual Harbor Day on the Docks event seeks to bring the commercial fishing industry to the forefront, by bringing awareness to this still very vibrant industry.

As Ocean City Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, Melanie Pursel elaborated,

“The history is fascinating—how it [commercial fishing industry] has evolved.  This event is really a marriage of that history and culture and modern day cuisine.”

Restaurants like The Shark on the Harbor, who literally serves the fish just caught off the coast of Ocean City on their tables nightly, and seafood market Martin Fish Company will be providing authentic, couldn’t be any fresher, food. This type of authenticity is key to Harbor Day—food vendors must serve seafood, and it has to be local.  Aside from the vendors, look for vessels selling whole lobsters. Yes, lobsters are caught off the coast of Ocean City—who knew?  Just one of the many facts to learn and appreciate at Harbor Day.

The various crews from the fishing vessels will be stationed, some doing demonstrations, others just eager to discuss their way of life. It’s an opportunity to get up close and gain personal perspective on an industry shown on TV in sensational real-life documentary-style shows, or books and novels—but really is part of the everyday in our own backyards.

Kayaking and paddle boarding tours to the docked vessels provide additional opportunity to understand and appreciate the lifestyle of the fishermen and the boats that provide their livelihood. Touch tanks enable children to get to know the marine life that thrive all around the coastal region. Additionally, visitors will learn how to properly shuck an oyster, prepare a variety of seafood in the cooking tent—which features demonstrations by Travis Wright chef/proprietor of the Shark on the Harbor, John Martin of Martin Seafood Company, and Adam Sanders of Jules Restaurant; harvest scallops, clean a fish, and more. It’s an education in maritime traditions, and a chance to share in our rich coastal heritage.

Spend a day in the commercial harbor at the event, immerse your family in the culture and heritage, listen to the fishermen spin their yarns and recount their tales at sea, purchase fresh seafood from the market or the vendors; share and take home with you this very vital part of local culture.  It’s a celebration of history, a living and working museum of past and modern maritime traditions, celebrating this unique and proud lifestyle of the coast.

Harbor Day on the Docks is a joint venture between the HMRA, the Ocean City Chamber of Commerce, the Town of Ocean City, Worcester County, and the fishing community.

If You Go:

5th Annual Harbor Day – At The Docks

Saturday, October 6th

10:00 am to 5:00 pm

Commercial Fishing Harbor, West Ocean, MD

For more information and directions, visit Harbor Day.