To view photos from the Waterfront Classic, visit the event’s Facebook page here.
Despite a lack of fish, the fifth annual Seafarers Waterfront Classic nevertheless set records on its way to another successful year.
Conducted on May 2 at the Seafarers-affiliated Paul Hall Center for Maritime Training and Education in Piney Point, Maryland, the yearly fishing tournament gives members of the maritime community a chance to come together for a fundraiser that supports the American Military Veterans Foundation (AMMILVETS), previously called the Wounded Warriors Anglers of America.
AMMILVETS President David Souders praised the event, saying, “I think everything went great. The guys really enjoyed going through the simulators, as well as the great food and the tournament. They always enjoy meeting the SIU executives and members, and spending time with them out on the boats.”
Spirits were high as 19 vessels crewed by SIU members and officials, executives from Seafarers-contracted companies and AMMILVETS members set out early to test their luck. While many smaller fish were caught, only three striped bass (or rockfish) of qualifying size were landed. In total, 153 individuals attended this year’s tournament, with a mix of sponsored operators, veterans and SIU personnel on each boat.
“Thanks to generous sponsorship, our fifth annual event proved once again to be a huge success,” said SIU Vice President Contracts George Tricker, who served as the classic’s chairman. “Bringing together friends, colleagues, and contracted operators to honor our heroes and showcase the Paul Hall Center brings the union great pride.”
SIU Port Agent Kris Hopkins, who was instrumental in organizing this year’s tournament, said, “We again held another fine event that supported the American Military Veterans Foundation. The feedback from the vets that I personally heard was unbelievable. From how this experience has personally helped one veteran, to hearing that this was the best time of another’s life … the personal stories are really quite humbling.”
Hopkins continued, “The kudos that went out to (SIU) President (Mike) Sacco and the entire SIU executive board, as well as the staff of the Paul Hall Center was remarkable. As one veteran put it, he simply felt like he was home.”
The veterans contributed more than their share of time to the event. Since 2015, AMMILVETS has organized the Warrior’s Handcrafted Rod Building Program, a therapy course that gives veterans a meaningful project to complete. Some of their latest hand-built fishing rods were on site during the tournament.
“We started the rod building program a few years back, and we all get together to build them,” said Souders. “I usually build about 90 percent of the rods we bring to the Waterfront Classic myself, but this year I had shoulder surgery a few months prior and couldn’t finish them. A few of the veterans helped me finish them and we got them to the school in time.”
During the awards ceremony, the winners of the tournament each received a commemorative trophy. In addition, each angler on the Maersk Line, Limited team received an award for winning the team trophy. AMMILVETS member Craig Thaler caught a 43.6 lb. fish, taking the prize for the largest catch of the day. In addition, Thaler’s catch is the largest fish ever caught during the tournament, a feat made even more impressive by 2017’s total catch of 87.7 lbs. Second place was earned with a 25.4 lb. catch by AMMILVETS President Souders, with the remaining 18.7 lb. fish reeled in by Peter Fortier.
Tricker remarked, “Even though a mild winter and a 35-inch size limitation for keepers limited our catch, we still had a great day on the water – sometimes the fish have to win. Not surprisingly, our team had a solid Plan B and nobody went away hungry, thanks to the school’s culinary staff and a special delivery of New York sausage.”
In addition, several veterans received special recognition for their service, as they were presented with plaques by Ed Hanley, vice president of Maersk Line, Limited, and Philip Fisher, an executive of Keystone Shipping.
Souders would score one last prize, taking home the classic’s 50/50 jackpot as well. “I’ve entered it every year, and it was fun to finally win it,” he said. “I think I’m going to use it to add fly-tying to our rod building program. Whatever I end up doing with the money, it will go back into AMMILVETS programs, for sure.”
“Any time we can help someone in need, regardless of the issue, it makes me feel proud to be a member of the SIU,” concluded Hopkins. “And there’s no finer group of individuals than our American Military Veterans.”
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