Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 2, Page 9
Working the water

     Former President George Bush will never forget cruising off the
Battery in historic New Castle, Del., aboard Wiso II, a boat owned by
Bob Wisowaty, Delaware '74, and his wife, Kathy.
     A television segment called "Presidential Bloopers" won't let
Bush forget. A camera crew caught him being bitten by a crab while
Delaware Sen. William V. Roth, then-Delaware governor and now U.S.
Rep. Michael N. Castle, former Gov. Pierre S. du Pont and the
Wisowatys looked on.
     "Bush was laughing the whole time. He made you feel like you knew
him forever," the Wisowatys recall. Autographed pictures of the 1988
outing, proudly displayed in the Wisowatys' home, attest to how much
the president enjoyed the couple's hospitality.
     The Wisowatys are a self-employed, husband-and-wife business that
has made a good living by working the water. Delaware newspapers,
regional television and NBC-TV nationally have featured the couple at
     From May to October, their lives revolve around crabs. Bob and a
part-time employee are on board Wiso III by 5 a.m. to catch the day's
haul. By noon, they're back at the dock with the first load.
     Meanwhile, Kathy and two part-time employees are handling Wiso's
Seafood and Tackle, the retail shop on South Delaware 9 in Delaware
City, Del. Customers line up for the fresh crabs, sold the day they
are caught without a middleman's surcharges. Calling this extended
summer the Wisowatys' "busy season" is a gross understatement. Their
retail shop, located on a major beach route, sells such delicacies as
soft-shell crab sandwiches in addition to a complete line of seafood
and sub-shop fare. Bait and tackle also are for sale. The couple puts
in seven, 14-hour days each week.
     From October to May, the Wisowatys tend to the rest of their
lives. During one of these so-called "off-periods," they built a
house, subcontracting only such specialized chores as electrical
wiring and plumbing. During three other winter seasons, they enlarged
their retail shop, doubling its size each time. This winter, they
built a 60-foot dock so customers taking the Old Branch Canal shortcut
between the Chesapeake and Delaware (C&D) Canal and the Delaware River
can stop for a snack. Regular duties, such as refurbishing equipment
or catching eels for sale as rockfish bait or for the overseas market,
also must be seen to.
     What the Wisowatys also do in the winter is take a vacation, and
they visit such places as Aruba, Puerto Rico, the Cayman Islands,
Grenada, Barbados, St. Martin and Mexico. "We like beaches and warm
weather," Bob says. "We would really like to go to the Delaware
beaches, but we cannot leave the business during the summer."
     The Wisowatys say they believe there is no secret to their
success. First, "we are really committed to the job, and we don't owe
anybody anything," Bob says. "Secondly, we are willing to be flexible.
And, most importantly, we love what we do, and we work very hard at
     Alexander Billon, the University professor who taught Bob
"Principles of Management" in the early 1970s, heads to his former
student's store twice a summer. "I've followed Bob's career," Billon
says. "His business is an example of an enterprise that, on paper,
looks hopeless as far as making a living is concerned. But, Bob has
turned a labor of love into a career and a financial success. You have
to admire people who are fearless about their future."
     Bob's love of the water was inspired by his father, Walter, who
ran a boat shuttle between Delaware City and Fort Delaware on Pea
Patch Island in Delaware. Robert Jr. (RJ), now 2-1/2 years old, is
already a veteran of one crabbing trip.
     Kathy's affinity for hard work also is long-standing. "When I met
her, she was working three jobs," Bob recalls. "I told her that I
would have to marry her because she knew the value of hard work and
the importance of having goals."
                               -Priscilla Goldsmith, Delaware '78,'85M