VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WFXR) — Surf. Sand. Sun. That is all part of a beach vacation, but these days, taking a trip is also about experiences. Sure, the traditional beach vacation is still popular. However, some vacationers want more.
They want something unique.
That is where Captain Chris Ludford of Ludford Brothers Oysters/Pleasure House Oysters comes in. He can make that unique experience happen.
Ludford is a waterman. He crabs, clams, and raises oysters in the Lynnhaven River in Virginia Beach. He wants to give everyone a chance to live his life, at least for a few hours. So, he runs something he calls the “waterman tour.”
The tour gives participants a hands-on, in-the-water experience doing all the things Ludford does for a living; crabbing, oystering and clamming. The idea behind the waterman tours came from one of Ludford’s restaurant clients.
“One of the restaurants that I was selling to, asked to come out, the chef and the owner, to see what I was doing,” said Ludford as he guided his boat out into the Lynnhaven River. “They came out and they worked, I had them in waders.”
The restaurant’s owner then brought other employees back for a similar trip so they could see the process, and have a better understanding of the seafood they were serving. One of the restaurant workers suggested the waterman tour idea to Ludford.
On a recent trip he tossed cages called crab pots over the side of his boat. Crab pots are a trap. They are baited and sit on the bottom where blue crabs climb inside and are caught.
While those pots were soaking, Ludford guided his boat close to an oyster reef he farms and anchored. Then everyone got out of the boat and waded in the knee-deep water while Ludford gathered racks of oysters in various stages of development.
“These oysters triple, even quadruple in size every two weeks,” Ludford said referring to bags of baby oysters he hoisted up on to a table set up on a shoal. “I’ve been doing it my whole life and it never gets old.”
After giving a tour around part of his oyster lease and explaining the life cycle of the oysters, it was time for something else that happens on every trip, a tasting.
Tour participants wade up to the side of Ludford’s boat where he begins shucking oysters. He explained oysters have unique flavors based on the water where they are raised, and that it has given rise to a food trend where diehard oyster fanatics travel from place to place, tasting oysters, and treating them like fine wines.
“You have flights of oysters, pairings, oysters and wine, oysters and champagne,” Ludford said as he shucked another salty Lynnhaven oyster. “The business of oysters is big, and it’s complex, and it’s advancing.”
For a few hours, everyone on the tour got to experience the life of a waterman. They got to trap crabs, dig for clams, and learn about, handle, and even eat oysters.
And as one of the people on the tour said before getting off the boat: “The beach is so much fun, but this makes it even better.”