Tom Fowler has spent the majority of his life on Delaware’s Assawoman Bay, and for the third season, he has had the opportunity to share the splendor and marvel of what he’s seen through his Back Bay Tours.
From romantic sunset cruises and enjoyable flounder outings to exploration tours through the bay, learning about the wildlife, Fowler’s knowledge, experience and natural love for the water help make any one of these excursions a perfect day for friends and family.
Fowler has been a boater his whole life, going out with his father as far back as he can remember, and even taking a boat out by himself when he was only 12 years old. He is now employed through the State of Delaware with the Division of Soil and Water, and Fowler’s knowledge of the bay is more immense than most that frequent the waters.
New boat owners can use the tour as a guide of the bay, noting channel markings and where to go once they’re on the water. The twin outboard 26-foot Privateer seats six comfortably, plus the captain.
“You basically pick your hull size, but after that, everything on the boat is custom-made,” Ferrell said. “It does basically everything you need it to do.”
Since his start with the tours three summers ago, he gets to spend even more time on the boat that he put together for the tours. Now, he’s delighted to share with others what has brought joy to him and his family for years.
“There’s nothing like turning off White’s Creek, giving the boat some juice, and there’s osprey on the bay beacons, and you go around the last turn, and the whole bay opens right up,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize all the water and beauty that is back here. It’s a very calming, relaxed environment.”
The idea for the tours came rather naturally to him. “I would take my kids out to the sandbars,” he said, “and it just made sense to let others experience it, too.”
The explore tours bring riders up close to sandbars, beaches and wildlife, and boaters can even count on getting their feet wet. “I don’t really consider them educational trips too much,” Fowler said. “I’ll answer any questions they have, but I don’t want to lecture them the whole time.” He added that, many times, the parents enjoy the tours even more than the kids.
Pittsburgh couple Danny and Bonnie Wuenschell and their family capped off their weeklong stay in Bethany with an afternoon bay tour. “This was the highlight of my week, hands down,” said Danny Wuenschell. “It’s nice to get outside and really appreciate nature.”
Coastal Point • RYAN SAXTON
Charlene Bittner, from left, Courtney Soronchman, Danny Wuenschell, Bonnie Wuenschell, Jim Bittner and Sativa Boatright recently enjoyed a tour with Back Bay Tours.
Their daughter Charlene Bittner and her husband, Jim, added that they had never done anything like the tour. “I’d definitely do it again if I had the chance,” said Jim. “It was really fun time.” A pod of feeding dolphins swimming a few feet from the boat was among the highlights of the tour for 11-year-olds Courtney Sorochman and Sativa Boatright. “There were lots of neat shells, too,” added Sorochman.
Boaters are even encouraged to bring their own food. “A lot of families will come out for the fishing or sandbar trips and bring their own subs and some chips,” said Fowler.
The sunset cruises, recommended for adults, can even be accompanied by a refreshing glass of a favorite wine while riders enjoy an easy-going drift down the bay, with breathtaking scenes of the evening and impressive water-front homes. “It’s basically your boat for that time period,” he said. “People like having that time, where they can just relax with their family and friends.”
“A lot of people enjoy all of the rides, especially the fishing trip,” Fowler said, “because sometimes, you don’t want to be on a big headboat with 30 other people. I’m honest with my customers — we’re not always going to get keepers, but we will bring fish in. It’s a nice trip for someone with young children, 10 or 11 years old, who has never fished, or Dad hasn’t fished in a while.
“They just want to get out there,” he said. “People tell me they really don’t care if they get keepers or not, they just want a nice relaxing afternoon. They feel comfortable because it’s just them and their family and friends. A lot of people tell me it’s the best thing they did on their whole vacation. I’ve never had anyone tell me they’re disappointed or discouraged.”
Practically everything needed for the trips is included, from rods, bait and tackle on the flounder fishing excursions, to water shoes and nets for the explore tour.
From locals to vacationers, Fowler caters to anyone and everyone.
“I mostly get people coming in to Bethany Beach,” he said, “but I’ve had people who live in Millville, Ocean View and Selbyville. People come up from Fenwick and Ocean City for the tours, too.”
Satellite radio accompanies every trip, assuring the most soothing environment, be it soft jazz or Jimmy Buffett favorites.
On clear, warm days, it’s not uncommon for Fowler to take the boat out three times in one day, offering one of each of the tours. Arrangements can even be made for a water taxi service, running families from the Ocean View and Bethany area to popular stops like Dewey’s Ruddertowne or Oak Orchard. Reservations should be made in advance to ensure availability.
For more information, reservations and prices, call Back Bay Tours at (302) 388-1915 or stop by Harbor View Marina in Ocean View, one mile from Bethany, off of Cedar Neck Road.