As I write this, looking out my back window at the snow-covered woods, it is hard to believe that we will be talking about recommissioning boats very shortly. It has not been an easy winter so far with snow and historic flooding levels. But the bad weather did not discourage boaters from attending the third annual Chesapeake Bay Boat Show, the first boat show of the year in the Chesapeake region. Hopefully that’s a good omen for the upcoming boating season. Local shops are busy, and that’s also a good sign.

boatshop reports
A CY 39 outboard under construction at Composite Yacht in Trappe, MD. Courtesy of CY

Speaking of the flooding, The Box of Rain Boat Building project hosted by the Annapolis Maritime Museum was scheduled to begin a week after the flooding (in January). We contacted the museum, and CEO Alice Estrada shared this update with us. “For those who don’t know, the Box of Rain program is an enrichment program for our under-resourced youth. Fortunately that has been able to continue as planned. We conduct our after-school programming over at our park campus on Back Creek. The facility did actually take in a little bit of water in the building but we were able to remediate that pretty quickly, within a day. That campus has been relatively un- affected. It’s the museum campus on the Eastport side that has been challenging. We managed to elevate all our content and protected the displays. The water still infiltrated our walls. And that has involved removing our walls, and drying and drying and sanitizing and drying. But we will be able to conduct our winter lecture series. They can continue while we finish up our recovery.

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Getting the shrinkwrap on before the snow storm arrived at Herrington Harbor North in Tracys Landing, MD. Photo by Rick Franke

We have reported off and on about Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, MD, and their contract to build 12 small catamaran cruise ships for American Cruise Lines. We checked on the company’s website and learned that the project is on schedule. Coastal Cat number three, christened American Liberty, was recently launched, joining her two sisters, American Eagle and American Glory

boatshop reports
American Liberty, the third Coastal Cat cruise ship built by Chesapeake Shipbuilding in Salisbury, MD. Courtesy of ACL

Laura Shackelford of Tiffany Yachts in Burgess, VA, reports that now that Godspeed’s downrigging is complete, they should have her in their shop in a week for her annual maintenance update which will include a complete repainting and repair or replacement of any bad wood as well as annual service on her diesel auxiliary. Laura posted a neat brief video of the Godspeed being downrigged at Jamestown Festival Park. The video includes the following comments from Connie Reitz from the 1607 Society: “Every winter our paid and volunteer ship’s crew completely downrig a different one of our re-created ships for maintenance and inspection. While you may only see a 36 second time lapse here of Godspeed’s down rigging, it took the crew close to a week to complete.

Once the rigging and spars are off the ship, each piece is inspected and marked for any necessary repairs or possible replacement. During this phase, the ship’s crew work with an inspection team from the U.S. Coast Guard to ensure that all critical parts meet modern safety standards. Every wooden part will be sanded down and either varnished or painted. Standing rigging will get a fresh coat of black paint, while the running rigging gets cleaned and worn-out pieces replaced.

Check back throughout the winter to see what else happens during Godspeed’s winter maintenance cycle.” (To view the video, go to

boatshop reports
That is a big gen-set being installed in the 82-foot Snafu, the latest from F&S Boatworks in Bear, DE. Courtesy of F&S

Alex Schlegel at Hartge Yacht Yard checks in with this detailed and informative summary of the early winter at The Galesville, MD, facility. “After 13 years at our Woodfield location, we started to move back to Hartge Yacht Harbor in September of 2022. Permits held us up from a complete move until the spring of 2023. We are mostly settled in now and making improvements to areas such as the electric system, water system, and pressure washing recycle systems in our work areas. With over 30 employees, we turn out a lot of work. At any given time, we may have eight boats inside structures for winter work, with five in tents, three or more in the steel paint building, and sometimes a small boat in the wooden Big Shop.  

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The work doesn’t stop just because it snowed at Hartge Yacht Yard in Galesville, MD. Courtesy of HYY

Below is some of our rigging, varnish, and fiberglass work this winter: 

  • Three sailboats and one power boat inside for extensive varnish. 
  • Mast step work.
  • Fuel tank replacement requiring the engine to be removed.
  • Trawler tug for window replacements
  • A beautiful large sloop receiving new brightwork after being stripped and multiple base coats ofAwlgrip Awlspar sprayed on (rather than laid by brush), and then multiple finish coats of “Awlgrip Awlbrite Clear Urethane.” This system should hold up for years.
  • We have unstepped a record number of masts this winter. Two are out for mast step repair, three for new standing rigging, several for long term storage, a few just for work or short-term storage, and three wooden masts out—one for storage and two for varnish in the off season.
  • John Callewaert’s Eastport Spar and Rigging Company has relocated their business elsewhere and moved out of the west bay of Paint Building number eight. Our fiberglass crew now has ample space with room designed for storage of resins and thinners used in fiberglass repair, with explosion proof electric wiring, lights, and exhaust fans. 
boatshop reports
A vee drive in a 19-foot 1966 Century Arabian being restored at Marine Services, LLC at Pocahontas Marina in Edgewater, MD. Phtoo by Rick Franke

Carpentry work:

All four of our carpenters are working on one notable job, the Buyboat on land near the 50-Ton Travelift. We’ve encompassed her with a temporary structure to keep workers dry and warm. Last year we replanked the starboard hullside, and this year we are on the portside. As expected, removing the yellow pine planks reveals deteriorated oak frames and pine chine logs. The original mild steel fasteners and drift pins were being replaced with bronze. This is a physically tough job, and all wood parts are big and heavy. For example, it takes three or preferably four men to run the planks through the planer.

Electrical work:

Boats built in Europe have an electrical system that is incompatible with our system. This winter we are changing a boat’s system to our electrical standard. Our AC system uses lower voltage (110V vs. 220V) and more amperage requiring larger wires. The frequency of the alternating current is different, 60Hz vs. 50Hz, so AC motors and generators are different. The insulation on wires is also to a different safety certification standard, so some wiring must be changed to meet insurance requirements.

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Another sparkling Awl-Grip job by Diversified Marine in Annapolis, MD. Courtesy of DM

Mechanical work:

  • Replace a couple of cutless bearings that often require removal of shaft, prop, rudder, and engine coupling.
  • Major maintenance to a pair of 350-hp Yanmar 6LYA-STE which includes rebuilding all injectors; removal and cleaning new gaskets, o-rings; repainting heat exchanger, air and oil coolers; rebuilding raw water pumps; replacing all engine hoses; testing and repairing preheaters.  
  • Procure and install a new generator in a 50-foot custom sloop.
  • Lapping a couple of cone clutches on Yanmar sail drives.
  • Rebuild a custom steering system on a 40-foot Derecktor sloop.
  • 2000-hour service on two Westerbekes.
boatshop reports
Spraying paint at Annapolis Gelcoat and Restoration in Annapolis, MD. Courtesy of AG

Eric Detweiler from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) in St Michaels, MD, forwarded this report to us. Christian Cabral, vice president of shipyard operations at CBMM, reports that fall and winter have provided the opportunity for CBMM’s shipwrights to focus on the longer-term build and restoration projects. “This fall, the majority of the shop was focused on the launch, sea trial, and commission of CBMM’s latest new construction: the 36-foot Chesapeake Bay buyboat Mr. Dickie. Born from a concept design put together by naval architect David Wyman and owner/builder Grigg Mullen, Mr. Dickie is a one-off design paying homage to the iconic, full-scale Southern Bay buyboat Mundy Point. Launched in October, Mr. Dickie’s maiden voyage was to the Chestertown Downrigging Festival, where the builders and owner hosted hundreds of visiting guests. The vessel returned to its ongoing homeport of St. Michaels under the careful watch of Mullen and the shipwrights who built it.

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The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Shipyard in St Michaels MD, completed its new build of 36-foot buyboat Mr. Dickie in October and launched it into the Miles River. Courtesy of CBMM

Without missing a beat, CBMM’s shipwrights have now turned their attention to the ongoing major restorations in our shop. First is the restoration of USCG-inspected 1920 buyboat Winnie Estelle. To date, the shipwrights have braced and lifted the vessel off its old and soon-to-be-retired keel. Over the balance of the winter, they will remove old material and fabricate a new inner keel, outer keel, chines, and bottom planking. In concert with Winnie Estelle, the shipwrights are also busy installing the interior and systems for yet another buyboat, Choptank. This vessel is receiving a yacht-style interior that will serve as the comfortable accommodations for passengers wishing to explore the far reaches of the Chesapeake Bay and beyond. Choptank will be available for charter in 2024.

boatshop reports
This winter, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Shipyard in St Michaels, MD, is working to replace the keel of 1920 buyboat Winnie Estelle. Courtesy of CBMM 

Finally, one of CBMM’s own floating fleet vessels, Hoopers Island draketail Dorothy Lee, has been hauled for a keel restoration. To date, shipwrights have removed portions of the vessel’s bottom and outer keel and are now fabricating the new and dimensionally larger outer keel to accommodate the more “modern” engine/shaft size the vessel was equipped with in its mid-life. As always, each of these projects is being performed in full public view. Please stop by and track our progress.”

Thanks Eric. Next month we will be talking about SPRING! See you then.

By Capt. Rick Franke