- Associated Press - Saturday, August 29, 2020

KILL DEVIL HILLS, N.C. (AP) - Every morning, just as the sun rises over the marsh, Trevon Baum motors his aging boat named Bubba down a canal to Buzzard Bay on his way to catch crabs.

He props his smart phone up on a bushel basket lid at the bow of the boat so nearly 2,500 friends can watch on Facebook live.

The long, lean former high school basketball point guard combines one of the area’s oldest professions with modern technology. He hopes he can grow a large following like the social media stars who post everything from fashion to cooking skills to musical talents.

“I just show myself every day, crabbing and crabbing and crabbing,” Baum said. “I get my orders as I am out working.”

Baum operates on screen dressed in rubber overalls and a T-shirt. His Mohawk-style haircut and goatee stand out in the sunlit backdrop.

Fans watch him as he stands at his rudder stick and guides the boat to 150 crab pots, boxed-shaped wire traps that rest on the bottom.

At each pot, he stops the motor, uses a long pole to hook the rope attached to the buoy and loops it over a motorized pulley that draws the pot to the surface. It’s all done in a smooth motion, much like he used to do on the basketball court dribbling through defenders for Northeastern High School.

Baum, 28, doesn’t say much while he works. He is naturally soft spoken and says “Yes sir” or “No sir” a lot.

He brings his phone close to crabs piled in a box. They snap their claws when he gets near, showing how fresh they are. The Facebook pages includes his cellphone number inviting customers to text him for orders.

After a morning on the water, Baum returns to the dock near Colington Road, ices his catch, showers, eats lunch and drives to the Elizabeth City waterfront where he sells his harvest to dozens of people waiting.

“I’m building a clientele,” he said.

Crabbing is a long way from his dreams of playing pro basketball. While he earned all-conference honors playing in high school, college hoops did not pan out. He took a job as a concessions runner at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore. He later returned to Elizabeth City with no job and no prospects and was sleeping on the couch at his uncle’s house.

Then, five years ago, he joined friends to play in a basketball tournament in Dare County. They stopped at a gas station on the way to the gym. As he entered, he passed local photographer Megan Beasley. He cracked a joke that started a conversation and they hit it off.

“I guess it was love at first sight,” she said.

She attended his tournament and later invited him over to her house just off Colington Road. He hasn’t left since.

Beasley, 38, has two children from a previous marriage. She and Baum now have a 3-year-old son named Khylen they nicknamed Bubba. Baum named his boat after his son.

Beasley’s father, Charlie Beasley, is a longtime commercial fisherman in the area. He owns Outer Banks Seafood and the dock on Colington Cut where Baum moors his boat.

Baum began crabbing with his girlfriend’s father. After two years, Beasley pulled an old wooden boat out of the water, made repairs and covered it in fiberglass. He gave it to Baum so he could fish his own set of crab pots.

“I owe Mr. Beasley everything,” Baum said. “He was a great role model and mentor.”

Beasley, a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran who has been fishing since he was a boy, said he was just trying to give Baum an opportunity to increase his income. He likes him.

“He’s young and a hard worker,” Beasley said.

The work has not always gone smoothly. One veteran waterman accused him of placing his pots too close to his, but they were hundreds of yards apart. Beasley helped smooth that out. Authorities have checked him repeatedly for a license. He promptly shows them the proper paperwork and moves on.

It has not dampened his love for what he does.

“I get to do this every morning,” Baum said. “This is the best. I just feel so free out there.”

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