The three mile-long, halfmile wide strip of sandy land known as Willoughby Spit at the Bay’s mouth has been inhabited since the 1660s. During that long ago time, folklore says the spit formed out of nowhere after a ferocious overnight storm. It has survived for over 350 years and was a magical place to grow up in the 1960-70s. From this era and historic, wave-tossed waterfront came native Doreen Kopacz who has left a lasting mark on the lower Chesapeake Bay’s fishing, maritime, seafood and marine industries for over 40 years.
As a kid, she first swam in the ocean, fished from sandbars and hung around the fishermen. At age 8, she started working on charter “head boats” (charged per person) as a
“bait girl” and scrubbed the decks. In her 20s, she worked at Jones Marina learning the charter fishing game. During the off-season and weekends, she did about every job on the water – gill netting, crabbing, charter fishing and oystering and stints on a tugboat and a fire & rescue boat. Most impressive, at age 27 she earned her 100 ton captain license and succeeded as a rare female Charter Boat Captain for 30 years (1985-2016) piloting the 35 passenger Nina H. II and later the 49 passenger Wanderer Two.
A diverse career was a perfect fit for her next adventure as Harbormaster of multi-use Small Boat Harbor (SBH). For the past ten years during a period of growth, investment and upgrades (mooring, outer harbor, safety), she has overseen the progress to better serve tenants and mariners.