A trip aboard Solomons Island's Half Shell

The BayNet was invited by Captain John Whalen and Donald Novak to embark on a two-hour tour of the waters and to enjoy an oyster boil while cruising around Solomon’s Island aboard the Half Shell.

The Half Shell, built in 1928, operated as an oyster buy boat for 70 years before becoming a living classroom as part of the DC and Baltimore metro area’s Living Classroom Foundation educational program.

“Students would take field trips onboard and learn about the history of the Chesapeake Bay and the seafood/fishing industry,” Audrey Whalen said.

Audrey is not only Captain John Whalen’s daughter but also directs Half Shell Adventures public relation and marketing.

She said that when the foundation decided to sell the boat, it was a dream come true for her parents, John and Debbie Whalen, and their friends, Gwyn and Donald Novak.

“Debbie and I had been talking to Donald and Gwyn for years about how cool it would be to run a deck boat out of Solomons for crab feast and happy hour cruises,” Captain Whalen said. “It always made for fun conversation but wasn’t realistic. For starters, We didn’t have a boat, we didn’t have any money to buy a boat, and we didn’t have any place to put the boat. “

He said fast forward ten years or so and everything fell in place.

“We feel blessed to own and operate the Half Shell,” he said. “It’s so wonderful to watch our guests as they start to experience firsthand the beautiful waterways we have in southern Maryland. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The Whalens and Novaks enjoy their family- and friend-ran business hosting oyster boils, dinners and happy hours with and for people from the community and all over.

The boat days open for charter for parties and gatherings and patrons can take advantage of buying tickets for planned “Half Shell Adventures.”

When asked what the cost of a chartered trip would be, Audrey said that private charters are $250 an hour and usually last two hours.

She went onto say that public cruises range from $15-45 per person, but most are around $20-25.

“We have Thursday night happy hour cruises every week from 6-8 p.m.,” she said. “Always best to check our calendar to ensure we have one on the books and those are $15 per ticket with drinks from $4-$7.”

The sites and the boats in the harbors and along the shores were breathtaking.  Although the air off of the water was only a little chilly, the atmosphere and boat staff made the ride warm and friendly.

Captain Whalen made sure to avoid choppy waters that would cause the boat to rock and slap the water to ensure a smooth ride and comfortable dining and drinking experience.

He explained that safety aboard is also a priority. The boat meets and supersedes all federal and state safety standards.

For more information about the Half Shell and its adventures, visit

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