Aaron Lomax after docking Rendy Ann at Smith Brothers and completing another 17-mile commute.

A Daily Commute (And Never a Traffic Jam)

Aaron Lomax makes a round-trip commute from his home on Tilghman Island to his job as a Superintendent in Galesville, Maryland five days a week. For most of us this would mean a 77-mile trek one way across the Bay Bridge. Today, it took Aaron less than 35 minutes to get to work. It could have been quicker, but he had to avoid a clammer near Knapp’s Narrows.

He commutes by water. 17 miles one way.

“Sure, I think of people in their cars,” he says after tying up Rendy Ann, his Parker 2520 Sport Cabin (and also the name of his wife of 23 years) at the dock before beginning work at Smith Brothers around 6:15 in the morning. “You can’t beat this. If you can spend an hour, or even an hour and 20 minutes a day on the water commuting—versus three to four hours in a pickup truck—there’s no better way to spend your day. The sunrises and the sunsets I get to see. This morning I sailed by a big tugboat pulling a barge we built. I see friends on the water who are crab potters and clammers.” 

While steering far out of the watermen’s paths every morning, he also sends a sunrise photo to his wife, even if it’s cloudy, to let her know he’s OK and underway. 

Part of Aaron’s commute includes looking at the sunrise behind Poplar Island. Photo by Aaron Lomax.

On good weather days, he heads out of the marina at Knapps Narrows, passing Poplar Island to the South before heading northwest to the West River. But then there are “the Blow Days” when the northeast or southerly wind is more than 15 knots. On the Chesapeake Bay, that means big waves. But if the northeast wind seems doable, he takes a detour going north of Poplar Island before making the crossing. And there is always that other option: driving his truck across the Bay Bridge to get to work. He pauses for a second. “The last time I did that was three weeks ago.”

And on the topic of weather, he’s not had to deal with any ice on the Bay for the past three years.

A Tilghman Island native, Aaron attended elementary school on the island and was bussed to St. Michaels for high school. After graduation he worked a few years as a waterman but landed a job as a deckhand with Tidewater Construction on the Poplar Island expansion in 1999 before working on the Wilson Bridge renovation. Smith Brothers later hired him and after a few years made an offer: the boat is your company car. 

Today, he’s finishing work on a barge that will be used for pile driving. An excavator with a bucket for dredging will be attached to the deck. Once completed, he starts work on a second barge.

Before then, he’s got to deal with that 17-mile commute home, and this time, a sunset just off the stern.

The crane will be used to add an extractor on the barge for dredging as well as installing pilings.