The author—shown with her father and younger sister—grew up exploring the bay.
There’s an old boater’s term called “gunkholing.” It means to explore by boat in a meandering way, and it was a pastime my late father loved. I grew up on the Chesapeake Bay’s shores, and when we were young, on days when my father had extra time but no wind for sailing, he would turn to me or my siblings, shrug his shoulders, and ask: “Want to go for a gunkhole?” We eagerly obliged, picking a creek or a river, taking out the boat, and going in and out of the bay’s many inlets and coves.
In a time when the bay was less populated, this was a wonderful way to see its quiet beauty. We’d point to blue herons perched on logs, we’d stop on natural oyster reefs (back when they existed) and try to pick a few without getting cut on their sharp edges, we’d stare in a stupor at large terrapins mating, and we’d cry with delight when we saw masses of crabs swimming during migration.
But mostly, in an age before cell phones, it was pure, undiluted family time with Dad as we chatted about life, school, and the world. “Shall we continue on to Paris today?” was an old joke we’d make if we were headed south or east. Memories I treasure.
In many ways, the bay has changed immensely, but in others it hasn’t. I still play there, now with my own children. As a family, we spend hours sailing, catching crabs, swimming, kayaking, overnighting, and, yes, gunkholing. We still go to the Eastern Shore by boat to eat crabs at the Crab Claw in St. Michaels (page 106) and to visit the maritime museum next door (page 101)—the same thing I did as a kid in the 1970s (minus the time a bushel of crabs got loose on our boat and my mom’s shrieks woke up most of the boaters sleeping in St. Michaels Harbor).
I’ve sailed the length of the Chesapeake many times over, and the places I want to visit still outnumber those I’ve been to. That is what makes the Chesapeake so special to me. In this issue, we share with you ways to “gunkhole” the bay yourself. You don’t have to have a boat; you just need a spirit of discovery and adventure—to seek out a small town, a great view, or a sublime crab joint. We’ve shared our favorite spots, plus ways to give back to the tributary that our region is built upon.
Since 2006 Catherine Merrill has been the CEO and Owner of Washingtonian Media, a media company that includes the flagship 55-year-old, Washingtonian — the national capital region’s leading magazine with more than 400,000 readers and winner of five National Magazine Awards. She oversees the award-winning website, Washingtonian.com which garners over 3 million page views per month and provides the platform for Washingtonian\’s 650,000+ social media followers. Ms. Merrill also created Washingtonian Weddings, Washingtonian Welcome Guide; as well as launched Washingtonian Events which produces national award-winning events, and Washingtonian Custom Media, a content marketing agency. She is proud to be a certified women-owned small business.
From 2002 to 2007, Ms. Merrill served as Director of Operations for Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), where she helped manage and collect 60 percent of the nation’s tolls—$2.7 billion a year—including the majority of the E-ZPass network. Prior to joining ACS, from 1995 to 2002, she was a partner in the worldwide management consulting firm Oliver Wyman.
Ms. Merrill is very active in the community and serves on the board of trustees of multiple organizations including the University of Maryland College Park (where she also chairs the Board of Visitors for the School of Journalism), Cornell University’s College of Arts and Sciences, the City and Regional Magazine Association, Ford’s Theater, the Greater Washington Board of Trade, and The Merrill Family Foundation. She is on the Board of Advisors and is a founding member of the Fallen Journalists Memorial Foundation and sits on the National Advisory Council for the Trust for the National Mall. She is a member and former chapter chair of YPO (Young President’s Organization) as well as an active member in the Economics Club of Washington and the Federal City Council. She has appeared on CNN, the Today Show, CNN Headline News, FOX, MSNBC, as well as other local Washington stations.
She holds a B.A. from Cornell University and an M.Sc. from the London School of Economics.
Ms. Merrill resides in Washington, D.C. with her two sons. She enjoys sailing, skiing, and travel.