ROCK HALL — Now you’re somebody.
That’s what Rusty Mench said as he pulled out his measuring tape for the anchor toss, one of the highlights of the annual Waterman’s Day program at the bulkhead here.
Mench, who has been the official measurer for as long as most folks can remember, was talking to no one in particular and yet to all contestants.
That’s one of the hallmarks of Waterman’s Day — everybody is treated like they are somebody special.
The Kent County Waterman’s Association sponsors the all-afternoon showcase of the waterman’s heritage. Anchor toss and boat docking contests are the main draws, but the format of the event — traditionally smack dab in the middle of Rock Hall’s days-long celebration of Independence Day — continues to evolve.
Tube races and crab pot pulling contests are the newest additions.
Waterman’s Day is always held on a Sunday, a throwback to the time when men and women who make a living on the water were able to carve out a day of rest.
This year’s event was on the final day of June, and conditions were ideal: puffy white clouds, the color of cotton, standing out in a robin’s egg-blue sky and a soft breeze coming into the harbor that kept the mercury from climbing past the mid-80s.
While the stamina of both contestants and spectators would be tested as the chock-full program lasted nearly four hours, the action was at a feverish pace from the start.
There were more than 35 entrants in the anchor toss — boys and girls, men and women, and even a chicken-necker or two. Each had two tries throwing the same 13-pound anchor. Siblings Wyatt and Chloe Toulson and their uncle Bobby Plato shared in the winnings.
Paid firefighter and EMT Plato, who grew up in Rock Hall and still volunteers with the fire company here, and Todd Sauerwald, an outfitter and tugboat operator from Baltimore County, resumed their good-natured rivalry for bragging rights.
Where tie-breakers have been needed in the past to crown a champion, the 37-year-old Plato was clearly the class of the field this year. He threw 64 feet on his first attempt and added 6 inches on his second. The best throw for Sauerwald, nine years Plato’s junior, was 59-6.
Mark Debnam, who grew up on a farm in the Kennedyville-Worton area, placed third in somewhat of a surprise. A left-hander, he emerged from a crowded field of also-rans with a throw of 50-6.
On the women’s side, Lindy Thompson and Jackie Smith of Bozman placed first and third with throws of 41 and 34-6, respectively.
Hometown favorite Greta Sommers, a former champ, was second with 38 feet.
In the over-the-hill category, Jamie White had the best throw among men 55 and older — 53 feet, 6 inches. Chucky Price (50-6) was second and southpaw Mench (45-6) was third. The contestants included Chuckie White, older brother of Jamie and the current president of the Kent County Waterman’s Association.
Plato, Sauerwald, Somers and Jamie White donated their prize money back to the waterman’s association.
The inaugural crab pot pulling contest was decided in a run-off, where Ryan Moody edged Sauerwald. Moody stopped the timer in 18 seconds to break the tie.
The highlight of the afternoon — as is always the case — was the boat docking contest. Cash prizes in amounts of $500, $200 and $100 were awarded to the top three place-finishers in three categories.
Two-time defending champion Bobby Gattus won $50 as the outboard motor winner.
One or two boats backed into the bulkhead at mach speed, Capt’n Tucker White at the controls of the Jan Louise backed over the pylons and one rope man fell overboard after successfully completing a run. That’s kind of run-of-the-mill for Waterman’s Day.
No injuries or property damage were reported.
Remarkably, David Porter and son Wayne Porter, in separate runs, managed to finish even though the Candace Lynn lost her steering.
Prize winners are listed here.
25 to 29 feet: Tucker White, first; and Jeff Deckelman, second.
30 to 39 feet: Jake Ridder, first; Donnie Bayne, second; and Mort Deckelman, third.
40 feet and larger: Joel Haggerty, first; Chucky Price, second; and Jerry Haggerty, third.
Brian Jones continued his long service as emcee, with help on the judges stand from Rosalie Kuechler, Jimmy Reihl and Andrea Jacquette.
Rusty Mench and Brian Nesspor returned to their longstanding spots as starter and timer, respectively. They had help this year from Andrew Haas.
Each year, the Kent County Waterman’s Association awards scholarships to college-bound students. The 2019 recipients are Emily Clark, Madison Hanyok, Jillian Hyland, Brianna Pierce and Jaylin Redman.
The waterman’s association also supports the Rock Hall police department and fire company, among other beneficiaries.