Captain Barry’s Chincoteague Aquatic Adventures

Captain Barry Frishman makes a landing on a marsh isle—a sliver of sand off the bulk-headed banks of Chincoteague Island. Looking around, he says, “I don’t want to lose the boat. That would be so embarrassing to lose the boat.”

So he hands a couple of anchors to my 11-year-old son, John, who becomes Captain Barry's first mate on our two-hour cruise. “I do hands-on with the kids,” the captain says.

And that means John must take those anchors, on long ropes, and drive them into the sand.

Whether my son's work will actually hold the captain’s pontoon boat in place, though, does not really seem to matter. By now, you see, Captain Barry is simply on to the next chapter of our "adventure."

“Oh, man, you’ve got to feel the water. It’s amazing,” Frishman says, splashing his bare feet in the shallow sea. “Come on! Let’s explore!”

And explore we do, reaching down and tasting that warm water, cupping it in our hands—what Frishman calls “ocean water. It’s clean, and it’s salty.”

That water is where we also find three snails, which Frishman places upside-down in each of our hands—for a race. “The first one to roll over wins,” the captain says. “We could keep these snails and eat them if we get hungry: escargot.”

But, first, we must taste the seaweed—some chewy greens—scooped up and served by the captain. “I could do a whole dinner cruise with stuff that we’re going to find and eat,” Frishman says.

From May to September, Frishman runs as many as five trips a day, six passengers each, seven days a week. Captain Barry's Back Bay Cruises stop to study squirmy jellyfish, find feathers and hunt for fiddler crabs.

To say Captain Barry is energetic is an understatement. “I’m a character,” he says. “And I have so much fun doing this. Can’t you tell?”

At 62, this fast-talking captain narrates his "adventure" with an almost-manic approach, slowing down just enough to check a crab pot, observe a duck blind and explore a pile of oyster shells on Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

He also scoops up wild oysters from the bottom of the bay and starts banging the clump—with shells flying all over the bottom of his boat. “Nobody ever said this trip was neat or clean,” Frishman says as he works his way to a freshly-shucked and salty Chincoteague oyster.

Landing at Chincoteague in 1990, this part-time painter traded the Manhattan skyline of New York for this casual coastal community, where a bulk of the population in Accomack County makes a living on the water.

One summer, Frishman worked on a crab boat. Another, he tonged for oysters. “You can’t go to school to become a waterman. There is no waterman school,” Frishman says. “You gotta do it. It’s called life.”

And that's just what Frishman seeks to share as he encourages his passengers to kick off their flip-flops and let the ooey-gooey marsh mud squeeze between their toes.

Above right: Captain Barry holds up a blue crab; pictured here: Captain Barry
Frishman's tour stops at an isle off the banks of Chincoteague to explore piles of
oyster shells.

Captain Barry Frishman shows kids aboard his adventure cruises how to use a net
to catch snails, shrimp and tiny fish.

“The marsh is where the life is at,” he says. “This is the stuff that people miss. And this is the most important thing that I can show anybody. This is where the seafood comes from. This is where all the life takes place.”

Learn more about Captain Barry’s Back Bay Cruises by calling 757-336-6508 or visiting

Joe Tennis
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