Welcome to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's Boatyard Blog, where all things related to Chesapeake Bay Boats are discussed. Follow the Museum's progress on historic Chesapeake boat restoration projects, watch wooden boats being built from scratch in our Apprentice For a Day program, and meet the dedicated staff and volunteers working hard to give you the experience of Chesapeake Bay history while preserving traditional Chesapeake Bay boat building techniques. Make sure to join us as a follower of this blog so you will be notified of new posts, and make comments on anything you see on the blog.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

CBMM lost a member of our family: Daniel "Dan" Sutherland passed away at age 47.

It is with a heavy hearts that we report that Daniel Sutherland, our dear friend, and much admired boatyard program manager for the past five years, passed away on Saturday of apparent heart failure at age 47.

Those who had the privilege of knowing Danny, working with him, or learning small boatbuilding from him, always will remember Danny as an enormously talented craftsman, a patient teacher who generously shared and demonstrated his skills with old and young alike, and, fundamentally, just a great guy who was fun to be around and who never took himself too seriously. Danny had a national reputation as a boatbuilder and he was one of the very best judges of antique and classic boats in the country. 
He probably was the world's foremost expert on the boats of the famous 19th Century designer and builder J.H. Rushton, from whose designs Danny built over 50 boats during his lifetime. Danny was recognized by those who know wooden boats well as unsurpassed when it comes to building small lapstraked boats.

A memorial service and celebration of Dan's life will be held at the Museum on Saturday, March 10, at 2:00 pm. In lieu of flowers, the family has asked that donations in memory of Daniel Sutherland be made to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum where they will be placed in CBMM's Boat Building Apprentice Endowment Fund.
Our heartfelt condolences go out to Dan's family, his two children, Storm and Sky, and his long-time companion Patti Diamond.

Co-Workers laud boat builder's skill
By Kelly Allen, Star Democrat

ST. MICHAELS A master boat builder died Saturday, but the legacy of his craftsmanship remains.
Daniel Sutherland, boatyard program manager at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, for almost five years, died of apparent heart failure at the age of 47.

"He will be sorely missed," said Richard Scoffield, boatyard manager. "His talent is not replaceable."
A fourth-generation boat builder from upstate New York, Sutherland learned much of his craft from his grandfather, Ernest Sutherland, said Scoffield, who worked closely with Sutherland and had known him for about 20 years.

"Danny was extremely intelligent, and a really good boat builder," Scoffield said. "I was thrilled to death every day to have him working in my boat shop."

Pete Lesher, museum curator, said it brought the museum great pride to bring in someone of Sutherland's caliber. "Often the boats that he built were so finely finished that you didn't want to paint these things," Lesher said. "So many of them ended up being varnished. You didn't need paint to cover up the putty that most everybody else uses."

Lesher said the museum hired Sutherland specifically to teach boat building, which he did through the museum's apprentice program. "So often, people who have these exacting standards don't have the patience to teach those who are just learning," he said. "But he had that."

Every weekend, the boat yard bustled with activity as some people participated in the apprentice program, while others watched. "He really was an extraordinary man," Lesher said. Prior to joining the museum, those in certain boating circles knew Sutherland for his work, and through the annual Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.

"St. Michaels for one weekend is a mecca for people who build, own, sail, cruise...," Lesher said. "Dan was a long-time participant there. It was sort of a home crowd for him ... When he exhibited a boat here, these were the sorts of boats that would win prizes."

Sutherland's work included building more than 50 boats from John Henry Rushton's designs. Scoffield said he considered Sutherland perhaps the world's greatest expert on the boats of Rushton, a premier canoe builder in New York in the 1800s.

And Lesher praised Sutherland's skills building lapstrake small boats. "I have a Lapstrake 12-foot cedar canoe, and when it needed restoration I took it to him," Lesher said. "Nobody I knew knew better how to repair one of these boats than Dan."

Lesher also had the opportunity to sail a boat Sutherland built in New York, where Sutherland built boats for museums. "It's like sailing a piano," Lesher said. "The degree of craftsmanship and finish is truly extraordinary."

Before coming to Talbot County, Sutherland did work for the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y.; the Adirondack Museum in Blue Mountain, N.Y., and the Alexandria Seaport Foundation in Alexandria, Va.
He also owned Sutherland Boat and Coach in Hammondsport, N.Y. A celebration of Sutherland's life is scheduled from 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 25, at Sarrasin's On the Lake restaurant in Penn Yan, N.Y.


  1. Dan was a wonderful person and a fine friend. I am at a loss for words to say the least. He was always up beat and ready to help everyone. I feel as though I am one of the lucky ones to have had Danny build a boat for me, Vida. Everywhere I take Vida, everyone comments as to the beauty expressed in the quality of craftmanship. He was the best of the best of boatbuilders. We all miss you Dan!


  2. I had the honor to apprentice with Danny for a year and for that I will always be thankful. The depth of his talent and skill was immeasurable. Equally remarkable was his patience as a teacher. It's this combination that made him special and rare. Thanks Danny for all you gave us!!!

    Tony B.

  3. I have to say working with my uncle for two years of my life was a great experience. He helped me through a difficult time in my life as he helped so many others too. Dan taught me many things and the love of wooden boats. I worked on serveral projects during those cold winters and two awesome years of boats shows. Including the CBMM boat show back in 2001 I believe with the 1888 racing boats. He always said there was nothing better than hearing the sounds of the water slapping the boat the crack of the sails and the wind on your back. Happy Sailing to the greatest uncle. I will miss him very much but I know he has given us all great stories and wonderful laughs.