You may be wondering about the title - "Sea Scouting Among The Moonshiners" - as well you should. However, watching the following trailer for a documentary about "the last moonshiner" (really?) put me in mind of an adventure I had as a Sea Scout some time around 1957.
We were anchored near the swim float off Camp Rodney on the Bush River, a northern tributary of the Chesapeake Bay, when we heard a slow-turning single cylinder engine putt-putting nearby. The ship's bos'n, told me to turn on our searchlight and point it towards the far shore. We were surprised to find the source of the sound much nearer, maybe twenty yards off our port side.
We saw a long, narrow boat, maybe twenty-four feet by five feet, and low in the water. It must have been painted black - it appeared as little more than a silhouette despite the brilliant light shining on it. We could see what we guessed were some cases stacked in the center, covered by a canvas tarp, and a man pointing a rifle at us.
Our reactions were slow until a gruff voice reached us, barely a whisper, but forceful enough to reach us across the still waters. "Turn off that damn light."
I switched it off and the boatman putt-putted away, gliding into the night.
The camp counselor told us the next day that it was a moonshiner. They were common night travelers in that part of the bay. Although the Chesapeake Bay is only about two hundred miles in length, it has more than three thousand miles of coast line because it is the terminus for countless rivers, streams, and creeks. Government boats patrolling the bay had little chance of finding their quarry when there were so many hiding places for them, many shallow and choked with swamp grasses and cattails.
I was the bos'n about four years later when I next encountered a moonshiner on those waters. That time, I took greater care and purchased a quart mason jar to sample his wares. We passed it around and I can honestly say that I have never tasted better.
I suppose now that the Boy Scouts will want their awards back...