MARGATE — Ray Scott’s Dock is a gem of the New Jersey shore because its rental boats take you to choice flounder fishing spots and the whole operation takes you back in time.
Once you step through the door of its small bait-and-tackle shop, your experience is much the same as it would have been 30, 50, who knows how many years ago.
While they serve customers, Robin Scott and her grown children tell stories about the massive school of cownose rays moving through the bay with a shark chomping its way through them, or about the exploits of dolphin No. 56, which is back this summer.
Out on the dock and quickly equipped with what you need, you get a 16-foot boat with a small outboard that’s easy to operate and head out to catch summer flounder at the place the Scotts have pinpointed on the map.
From then on, you’re not just back in time, probably to your childhood, but disconnected from time as the calm waters of the back bay and the fabulous 360-degree view taps something long forgotten deep within you.
When you or your child catches a fish or crab, your essential experience of ancient bay life is complete.
Even the Ray Scott’s Dock building is arrested in time, alone among Margate waterfront properties.
“We used to be the tallest building on the bay,” Robin Scott said. “Now, we are the only what I would call humble home left on the bay,” with the 500-square-foot shop about a quarter of the building and the rest her residence.
For many customers, the timeless experience is also seamless.
John Nardini, 69, of Philadelphia, has fished most summer weeks since he retired.
“I started 40 years ago when the father had it,” Nardini said Monday, his favorite fishing day. “I really do well there and it’s very, very friendly. The people can’t do enough for you.”
Robin’s parents, the late Ray and Blanche Scott, bought the business — which already existed 40 years or so — in 1958 and opened the next year.
“Dad built his fleet of 21 white cedar garveys that winter,” Scott said. Her talented father, a carpenter, also finished first among 800 in his U.S. Marine bomb disposal class, despite having no college education.
Ray Scott made sure his daughter could handle the technical side of the boat rental business.
“Dad’s idea of a fun time was bringing in a 5 hp Evinrude outboard and having me take it apart and put it back together on the store floor,” she said.
Such skills are important. How many of the 22 boats are available to rent depends on how many outboards are good to go.
Since the state doesn’t maintain channels and markers much, boaters sometimes hit sandbars that clog the engine’s cooling system, she said.
“The outboards come back with the paint melted off the top. People think they’re amphibious crafts from watching too many James Bond movies where they fly over the sandbar. That doesn’t happen,” Scott said.
The business has a full-time “A-plus technician” who also provides quick help to tenants of its boat slips and makes house calls to others in need of help with any kind of engine, she said.
At least the same bay conditions make for great fishing, creating holes and shallows ideal for flounder. “You don’t have to go far to drift and catch dinner,” she said.
Rentals to anyone with a driver’s license start at 5:30 a.m. and cost $89 for the first five hours, and boaters who decide to stay out as late as 4:30 p.m. can just call and pay another $30, she said.
Ray Scott’s Dock has a couple of modern touches: kayak rentals and diamondback terrapins.
The Scotts raise the turtles from hatchlings under a Drexel University program, since it’s just about the only place on Margate’s back bay where female terrapins can still find a place to lay eggs.
“We keep them about a year until they grow to the point they would choke a sea gull. Then we release them,” she said.
Scott said boat rental profits are modest so she and her children still need other jobs.
“I work full-time in the winter just to have the privilege of doing this in the summer,” she said. Her son, Ray Scott, 21, worked as an automotive tech last winter, while daughter Rachel, 27, attended Rutgers University.
Robin Scott isn’t kidding about renting boats being a privilege.
She also thinks it’s a serious responsibility in an age where nearly the entire barrier island waterfront has been walled off by huge seasonal homes — a responsibility that grows as rental marinas dwindle to almost none.
“We’re stewards of a 50-slip marina and its our job to keep the waterways clean and keep it accessible to all those who don’t have the wonderful ability to live on an island and keep a boat,” she said.
Fortunately, the Scott family is intent on keeping this icon of the shore going.
“My children have aspirations of taking it over,” Robin Scott said. “I’m really blessed because usually, nobody’s kids want to work in a third-generation business, especially one that is so labor intensive.”
Contact Kevin Post:
Ray Scott’s Dock
Location: 9211 Amherst Ave., Margate
Owners: The Scott family
Founded: 1959, by Ray and Blanche Scott
including family members