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.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Printmaking with Kevin Garber

Master printmaker Kevin Garber recently held a workshop here at the Museum's boat shop last week, demonstrating and discussing the proper techniques for duplicating a print from an early 1960s Philip McMartin wood cut of the early 1960s. Garber's works can be found in the Kemper Art Museum and Island Press at Washington University as well as in collections throughout the country, including the Whitney Art Museum in New York City. Garber's work can also be found in the Museum's new exhibit "Push and Pull: Life on Chesapeake Bay Tugboats."

Friday, September 14, 2012

"Gentlemen... the Situation Has Changed." How the Skipjack Rosie Parks came to CBMM

"Gentlemen...the Situation Has Changed."

by Dick Cooper

Captain Orville Parks and Museum Director R.J. “Jim” Holt aboard the Rosie Parks, 
en route to her new home at the Museum, 1975.

In the early months of 1975, R.J.  “Jim” Holt, the first full-time director of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, quietly worked out a plan to expand the floating fleet by making a major acquisition. The Museum was entering its second decade, and if it was going to continue to make its mark on the region, it needed a skipjack—the iconic symbol of the Bay. According to letters and documents preserved by the Museum, everything started to come together for Holt that February and moved quickly. On April 26, Holt had his prize as he helped sail the skipjack Rosie Parks into St. Michaels harbor. Today, almost four decades later, the Rosie is being reborn as Master Shipwright Marc Barto and his apprentices work to bring the famous  vessel back to what she looked like when Bronza Parks built her in 1955.
      By 1975, the Museum’s fleet had grown to 36 Chesapeake vessels, ranging from the historically significant log-built bugeye Edna E. Lockwood, down to sailing skiffs and a one-log dugout, most of which had been donated. Not all the boats were floating and many were in bad repair. It was a constant struggle to keep the 50-foot, round-bottomed sloop J.T. Leonard from sinking at the dock. The good skipjacks on the Bay were still a major part of the oyster fishery and were too valuable for their owners to even consider selling them to an upstart museum. Four years earlier, the Museum had established a “Skipjack Fund” for the express purpose of buying a skipjack and Holt had looked at a few boats, including the Rebecca T. Ruark.
     He then learned that the well-respected oysterman Captain Orville Parks was in ill health and had come ashore for good. Parks’ skipjack, the Rosie Parks, was well known on the Bay, having won several honors in the Sandy Point and Deale Island windjammer races. Holt began working behind the scenes with Luke Brown, an Annapolis boat broker who had Rosie listed for sale at $30,000 (about $120,000 in today’s dollars.) Holt thought $25,000 would be a number he could raise if he had a year or two to work on it. He arranged for Brown to visit the Museum on February 5, 1975, and made the initial offer. In a letter dated February 6, Brown thanked Holt for the visit.
     “Just a note to let you know how much I enjoyed the conducted tour yesterday. I was amazed to see the extent of your facilities.” Brown went on to write, “I talked with Captain Parks yesterday, and he is willing to go along with your proposal to purchase the Rosie Parks for $25,000, with approximately 1/3 at the time of delivery, and the balance over a two year period.” Brown, obviously a good salesman with a sense of how to strengthen a connection, concluded the letter with the following post script: “Am enclosing my check and application for supporting membership.”
      The letter appears to be more of a record keeper than breaking news because on the very same day, Holt began laying out his goal to buy Rosie to members of the Museum’s board. 
     “We have $6,500 in restricted funds for the purchase of a skipjack, which we need to round out our exhibits of available sail boats of the Bay,” Holt wrote to Museum board member S. Paul Johnston on February 6, 1975. Johnston was an influential Museum supporter who lived in Bozman. He was a World War I biplane pilot; former Saturday Evening Post editor who had warned the world in 1939 about advancing German air power; a member of the agency that evolved into NASA; and had served as head of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Holt started out his letter by writing, “Along with the Master Plan, we should include plans on the floating exhibits.” 
     He went on, “It was brought to my attention that Captain Orville Parks, owner of the Rosie Parks, suffered a heart attack several weeks ago and the Rosie Parks is no longer dredging. She is now available for purchase. As you know, the Rosie Parks is the best known Skipkjack on the Bay and was built by B.M. Parks in 1955. She is equipped with Dacron sails and has been kept in yacht condition since she was launched. While Captain Parks is asking $30,000 for the Rosie, we could probably get her for $25,000.    The public relations value of acquiring the Rosie Parks would be of great importance to the Museum.”   
Later in the letter, Holt writes “I have talked with Richardson’s Boat Yard and they advised me that the Rosie Parks is in better condition than any of the skipjacks on the Bay…. Captain Orville Parks has also been contacted and he is very interested in the Rosie Parks going to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. He will accept $25,000 paid over a 3 year period of time in thirds. He will not sell the boat until hearing definitely from us.”

     On February 17, Holt met with the Executive Committee of the Board and received its unanimous support. He also put forward his idea that the money should not be raised from the general membership. He was looking for 19 individuals of means willing to kick in $1,000 or more for this one-time purchase. The next day, he crafted a letter to Captain Parks extending his formal offer of $25,000 for the skipjack spelling out the terms, and included a $2,000 check as a show of good faith. The old captain signed the letter of agreement with a somewhat shaky hand.

     On February 28, J. Geer Wilcox of Oxford, chairman of the Museum’s Development Fund Committee sent a letter to the full Board of Governors with the salutation:

     “Gentlemen: An opportunity to correct a deficiency in the Museum’s Floating Exhibit, i.e., the acquisition of a skipjack, has come unexpectedly to the Museum. Until now, no boat has been available and until now the proper facilities to berth and maintain a skipjack, although in the final phases of construction, had not been completed and, therefore, were unavailable. The situation has changed. Probably the best known and most desirable skipjack on the Bay is available.”

     Wilcox went on to assure his fellow board members that “this is not a ‘double dip’ attempt. It is, however, an appeal to you to help us with this project by soliciting a contribution or contributions from others possibly in your sphere of influence and contact. Your participation will allow us to take advantage of an opportunity which undoubtedly will never be duplicated as an addition to the Museum’s collection of Bay oriented exhibits.”

     In a P.S., Wilcox wrote, “Such donations are, of course, tax deductible.” Wilcox’s appeal worked, the full amount was raised and the purchase of Rosie Parks was concluded. On April 24, Holt sent a letter to the Avon-Dixon Agency in Easton adding Rosie to the Museum’s insurance policy. Veteran Eastern Shore journalist Anne Stinson joined the crew and dignitaries who boarded Rosie in Cambridge the morning of April 26, 1975, to chronicle its voyage to St. Michaels for The Star-Democrat.

     Stinson says she has great memories of that day, and her old friend Captain Orville. “He was such a gentleman, a little on the formal side, but always warm and welcoming to me.” She says she had sailed on Rosie Parks before that day, reporting her first story about oystering. “I hadn’t done an oyster story yet and he said, ‘You can come with me Miss Stinson.’ ”

      In her 1975 newspaper account, Stinson wrote, “The Rosie Parks’ trip out of the Cambridge harbor Saturday morning with Captain Orville Parks at the wheel was an occasion of mixed emotions. It combined a pang of regret that one more skipjack was retiring from the oyster dredging fleet. More personally, it was a poignant time for the 79-year-old skipper, ordered by his doctor to leave a lifetime on the water.”

     Stinson says she remembers Captain Parks talking about his late brother Bronza, who had been murdered by a mentally unstable customer 17 years earlier. “He talked about how much he missed his brother.” After a cold, spray-soaked ride out of the Choptank and up Eastern Bay, Rosie rounded Tilghman Point and headed into the Miles River under full sail toward her new home at the Museum. “Captain Orville stood aside and Museum director Holt took the wheel for a turn as captain,” Stinson wrote. “Peter Black had a turn, followed by Ralph Wiley, Ted Graves and Hank Luykx. Their grins threatened to split their faces.”

     Thinking back to that day, Stinson, now 85, says, “One of the things that I recall was when we got to St. Michaels, Captain Orville clearly wanted to stay on the boat until the last possible minute. He was so reluctant to leave, he kept fussing over it. He wanted to make sure everything was clean and that everything was in its place. Then he got very quiet. He sort of collected himself and got off the boat. He walked away and did not look back.” 

Rosie docked along side the lighthouse, circa 1975.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Woodworking Classes & Workshops at CBMM this fall

The boat shop at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is offering many opportunities to work with your hands this fall, under the watchful guide of experienced shipwrights. Here's a schedule of all our upcoming activities. To pre-register, call Helen Van Fleet at 410-745-4941. Email for more information.

CBMM's Friday Open 
Boat Shop
September 14 & 28
October 26
November 9 & 23
5:30-8:30pm; $20 members, $30 non-members. Space is limited, pre-registration required. Participants must be 16 and older, unless accompanied by an adult.

Members of the public are invited to the boat shop to work on small projects of their own, or to bring ideas for a future project, and receive the advice of an experienced shipwright and woodworker. Participants can expect assistance with machinery and tools, plans, measurements, and the execution of their small-scale project, which would include plans for a Christmas or birthday present, frames, furniture, models, artwork, etc.

Woodcuts with Kevin Garber
September 20, 2012
6:30-8pm $25 members, $35 non-members.

Meet master printmaker Kevin Garber as he demonstrates and discusses the proper technique for duplicating a print from a Phillip McMartin wood cut of the early 1960s. Garber's works can be found in the Kemper Art Museum and Island Press at Washington University, as well as in collections throughout the country, including the Whitney Art Museum in New York City. Garber's work can also be found in the Museum's new exhibit, "Push and Pull: Life on Chesapeake Bay Tugboats."

Lapstrake Skiff Workshop
September 28, 29 &30, 2012
Friday, 6-9pm, Saturday, 9am-5pm, Sunday, 9amn-5pm

$80 members, $95 non-members. All tools and materials are supplied. Pre-register with Helen Van Fleet at 410-745-4941 by Sept. 24 For more information, contact Model Guild Director Bob Mason at 410-745-3266.
Led step-by-step by skilled modelers, participants will create a 10-inch wooden rowing skiff with lapped side planking and a flat bottom. The 10-inch model is formed over a frame in much the same manner as a real boat is constructed. The Model Guild welcomes anyone 12 years of age or older and encourages new members of all skill levels.

Intarsia Wood Plaque Workshop with Mary Sue Traynelis
Friday, October 12, 5:30-8pm in the Boat Shop
Saturday, October 13, 10am-4pm (with break for lunch)
$70 members, $85 non-members. Pre-registration required by October 3. Children 12 and up welcome with adult chaperone.
Intarsia is a woodworking technique that uses varied shapes, sizes, and species of wood fitted together to create a mosaic-like picture with an illusion of depth. Learn the basics for selecting different types of wood, cutting, sanding, and mounting to create your own intarsia wood plaque with Mary Sue Traynelis, who creates and sells intarsia and unique Woodsaics©, and Boatyard Program Manager Jenn Kuhn. Patterns for a lighthouse, owl, and sailboat will be available, with two sets of designs for each, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Winterization with Paul Rybon
Thursday, October 25 from 6-7pm in the Boat Shop
$15 members, $25 non-members. Pre-register by Oct. 16.
Museum volunteer Paul Rybon, a retired diesel mechanic with many years experience, teaches the basics on preparing your boat for the winter months. When registering, be sure to tell us the type of engine your boat has, so we can ensure your questions will be answered. 

Half-Hull Model Workshop
Saturday & Sunday, October 27 & 28
9am-5pm in the Bay History Building. $80 for members,
$95 for non-members. All tools and materials supplied.
Pre-register with Helen Van Fleet at 410-745-4941 by Oct. 22. For information, contact Model Guild Director Bob Mason at 410-745-3266 or email
Participants are invited to create a half-hull model of the Pride of Baltimore II. Band sawed from a block and carved to the rounded shape of the Pride’s hull, the half-hull model is then mounted on a baseboard to form a fine wall display piece.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

My Summer Job at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

by Tommy Finton

Working on the Potomac River Dory Boat.

            When considering potential jobs this summer, I wanted to choose something atypical. I didn’t desire the usual yogurt shop or busboy position that places a teenager in a boring environment that ultimately has no effect on him/her.

            But before I thought of the job, I needed to think of the town. I live in Bethesda, but I spend my summers in St. Michaels. Although I spend my summers here, I have never spent as much time here as I have this summer. During the usual summer I would spend some extended weekends on the Eastern Shore, but this year I wanted to change that. I wanted to spend my whole summer in a place that meant so much to me—a place where I learned to swim, to ride a bike, and where I ate my first blue crab.
            It took some time to figure out which job I wanted. I thought the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum would be the best place because I like to be active, so the boat shop seemed like a good bet. After various emails and telephone calls, I got the job as a boat shop assistant and prepared for the summer. Just one week after my high school graduation, I drove over to St. Michaels and settled in.

            To say I had no clue what I was getting myself into is quite an understatement. I expected to sand and paint for a few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I have done that many times, but there is so much more to working at the Museum than meets the eye. If I was told when I started that I would do some male modeling and drive a Buyboat down the Chesapeake Bay, I would have thought that person was crazy.

I have experienced the summer of a lifetime and it is all due to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. I worked under the tutelage of Vessel Maintenance Manager Mike Gorman for the past two-and-a-half months, and he and fellow shipwrights India Gilham-Westerman and Jenn Kuhn welcomed me to their team. We became not only colleagues, but friends as well.

The most wonderful part of my experience this summer was that I learned a lot.  I couldn’t name most parts of a boat before June. I knew maybe a handful of tools, most likely the ones that every person knows. I used those tools on projects with which I was given a lot of responsibilities. I took side planks off of the Potomac River Dory and I placed log rails on the skipjack Rosie Parks. During those moments, I felt like a respected colleague, not a teenage intern. It has been a blast working at the Museum this summer.

For the first time in my life, I feel like I have become a true part of the St. Michaels community. Although I am about to leave, I know that when I return, I will have friends at the Museum. So, I would like to thank everyone who helped make my last summer before college one to remember, especially everyone in the boat shop, staff and volunteers as well. Because of everyone, it’s been one heck of a summer. 

Helping to ready the boats for the Sept. 1 Charity Boat Auction.

I even sang a sea chantey while aboard the Edna E. Lockwood for everyone.

Modeling some clothes for Chesapeake Bay Outfitters in St. Michaels.