The spring boat shows will be over, the real spring weather has arrived, and the boating season is off and running. With a little luck the fuel price crisis will stabilize soon, and we can get on with enjoying our boats.
Chesapeake Light Craft (CLC), the boat kit experts, hosted the Big Little Boat Festival at Camp Wabanna, just south of Annapolis, MD, May 27-29. “The Big Little Boat Festival, which has run every year in various forms since 1999, celebrates small boats of all kinds, but especially wooden ones. The event is also a rendezvous for the legions of amateurs and professionals who have built boats from CLC’s celebrated boat plans and kits. This family-friendly festival featured activities on the water and onshore.
There were skills seminars and demonstrations; the chance to try out dozens of boats from the CLC fleet on the water; cardboard boatbuilding and racing; an on-water scavenger hunt; games, storytelling, and music. Formal competitions include three- and six-mile paddling races in the Rhode River and a 20-mile sailing and paddling race down the Bay and back. ‘Best in Show’ judging of home-built wooden boats is always popular.
The roster of boatbuilding and watercraft experts that led seminars and demonstrations included CLC’s owner and CEO John C. Harris, kayak guru Nick Schade, boatbuilding and paddling expert Joey Schott, and representatives of New England Ropes and Pettit Paints. Examples from CLC’s fleet of watercraft on display included kayaks, rowing and sailing craft, paddleboards, and more. Many festival attendees brought their own creations to launch and display. CLC’s awards for amateur-built boats, some of which took hundreds of hours to build and look like exotic furniture, have been a key part of CLC’s annual small boat festivals for years. Participants have come from as far away as New England, Florida, the West Coast, and Japan.
Joe Reid of Mast and Mallet in Edgewater, MD, sends us this update from his busy shop. “Spring activity has the team working on three 1960s boats. The 32-foot Brownell cruiser has had her bottom fiberglassed/epoxied to the waterline. Running gear replacement and reinstallation proceeds. Lastly, topside and hull side refinishing is going well. The 1964 Chris-Craft ski boat was flipped upright after the new laminated ply/fiberglass/epoxy work was finished. The hull sides have been stained and varnished. Interior and deck work is advancing. We’ve also replaced the hard vinyl spray rails on two Thomas Point 40s. The replacement we used is four layers of clear Douglas fir glued and screwed, then finished off with matching Awlgrip paint.
A surprise project arrived at the shop in April: the 22-foot crab skiff I, Joe Reid, had built for me 30 some years ago. It has the original 24-hp diesel and stick steering. I have some repairs to do as well as cosmetics. All wood boat with cold-molded bottom, still ticking.”
Over the past three years we have reported periodically on the progress of the new Maryland Dove, a project now nearing completion. At the end of March, the new Maryland Dove was craned into the water for the first time. Since this 17th century sailing vessel replica is also a modern passenger carrying vessel, she has to meet all current Coast Guard requirements, including additional outside ballast and auxiliary power. She was launched without her engines, but the next day, her twin 100-horsepower 4045 TFM 85 John Deere diesels were lowered onto their beds. The twin engines will drive variable pitch propellers. For the next month crews will work on installing all the propulsion related systems and interior and deck furniture. The masts were stepped, and the rig will be set up and the sails bent on.
According to Joe Connor, lead shipwright at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Shipyard, in St Michaels, MD, “We are pretty much on schedule; we should have the engines operational by the end of April. At that point we will have the John Deere factory team come to check out the installations and start and run the engines in the boat.” Joe went on to explain, “By the second week in May we hope to begin sea trials and are looking at the end of May or early June for completion. I am incredibly proud of my team and what they’ve accomplished,” said Connor, who has served as the construction manager on the project since its inception. “We have assembled some of the most talented shipwrights I’ve ever worked with, and we’re all looking forward to seeing the ship sail away.”
Work over the past few years, all done in public view, has seen the new ship move from concept to reality, and Maryland Dove will now remain dockside for the final steps in its construction, which include finish work and the installation of masts, rigging, and sails. Details for a celebration of the completion of Maryland Dove will be announced later via CBMM’s social media channels and at
Eric Hittle is the new owner of Marine Engines Unlimited in Galesville, MD. Eric reports that they had a busy winter in his shop. “This was one of our biggest years for engines. We did about eight overhauls, complete re-buildings more or less, this winter. Some long blocks and some down to the block rebuilds. And we did three or four engines during the season. With the pandemic we couldn’t get long blocks for the longest time. So, we rebuilt every re-buildable core we had here to keep people going. We are a Mercruiser dealer, but we work on everything from little diesel generators up to big diesels. In this harbor we do a lot of sailboats with engines like Yanmars, Atomic Fours, Beta Marines, or Westerbekes. We also have bigger boat clients with 8.3 Cummins and big Caterpillars,” he explained. “We don’t do outboards right now. When I took over the Mercruiser franchise, they wanted me to expand into outboards. I will as soon as I can get someone to work on them. I’ve been looking for a year. I finally found someone coming from the automotive world. He has a buddy in the marine world and is looking to make a change,” Eric said, “Believe me, the recruiting has been tough.”
Worton Creek Marina in Chestertown, MD, reports that its major winter improvement projects are nearing completion. The fixed “A” dock has been replaced by a floating dock which is nearly complete. The old, buried fuel tanks have been successfully and safely removed and the permits for the new fuel dock have been approved. The new tanks are being manufactured and should be in place by mid-May and the new fuel dock should be operational and open for business by June.
Enjoy the spring boating and be safe on the water. We’ll see you next month.
By Captain Rick Franke