After 30 years of exploring the Chesapeake Bay by sailboat, in 2018 Tom Bucklin and his wife, Tammi, made the jump to powerboating. In semi-retirement and with their four children grown, the couple desired to cruise to warmer climes, with a little more onboard space for themselves and their dog, Clara Belle, a Yorkie-poo. In 2019 the couple joined the Marine Trawler Owners Association (MTOA), and Tom now serves on its board of directors. With more than 2400 active members and 177 port captains around the country, it has proven to be a valuable resource and a source of great boating comradery.
Tom grew up sailing with his father on the Great Lakes and Pugent Sound in the Northwest. After a stop in Nebraska with the Air Force, Tom, a pilot, took an assignment at Langley Air Force Base and the family launched into several decades of sailing on the Chesapeake.
“I’ve boated all over the country,” says Tom, and there’s nothing like the Chesapeake Bay. For some boaters in other parts of the country, it’s an unknown gem. I especially encourage southern boaters to try heading north. Maybe the Chesapeake water isn’t as clear or blue, but there are so many spots to explore with many quaint towns full of history and restaurants that serve great seafood.
“We cruised all over the Bay as our children were growing up. There are plenty of coves and marinas for overnights or protection from a storm, and you’re never far from a boatyard if you need a repair. The variety of wildlife is impressive, too: dolphins, sea turtles, stingrays, blue herons, and more; and the sunsets are beautiful.”
Now Tom and Tammi enjoy life aboard their new-to-them 55-foot Fleming, Our Eden. The boat was located in the middle Chesapeake when Tom and his son took possession and delivered it home to the Southern Bay.
Heading to their homeport, the father-son duo stopped for the night, and the younger Bucklin jumped in for a swim. In short measure he became entangled with a sea nettle, and his screams immediately brought up Tom from belowdecks. New to this situation, he called across the water to several boaters from his club anchored nearby asking for suggestions on how to treat the stings, which covered a good portion of his son’s body. Multiple good Samaritan boaters launched dinghies, and soon medical professionals armed with supplies arrived, boarded Bucklin’s boat, and rendered aid, stretching the “patient” out on the galley table for treatment! Tom was sold on the value of the boat club and befriending other recreational boaters who would look out for one another on the water (as well as share system maintenance tips). Hence, his volunteerism with MTOA.
“After we purchased the Fleming, we spent the first year and a half familiarizing ourselves with the world of trawlers and power boats. There was much to learn,” explains Tom. “Although we had many years of boating experience, we were coming from a simple 38-foot, single engine sailboat to a much larger boat with many systems. To help us enjoy the boat while exploring new destinations beyond the Chesapeake, it was essential for us to find a good club with members who had more powerboat experience than we did.
“In a single sentence, my MTOA membership has been a rewarding and most enjoyable experience,” says Tom. “My wife and I have met members up and down the East Coast and offshore in the Bahamas. MTOA has a lot to offer its members, and as a member of its board of directors, I hope to work with others in continuing its legacy of helping boaters be safe and to get the most out of their boating adventures.”
For the last few winters, Tom and Tammi have taken Our Eden to Florida for the winter. Using MTOA port captains in Florida as a resource, they identified Legacy Harbor in the Fort Meyers area, where the other slip holders have become like family. Unfortunately, Hurricane Ian scuttled plans for a return this season, but they found a good alternative in Stuart, FL, and have plans to head to the Bahamas later this season before returning to the Chesapeake in May.