Bringing Maritime History To Life
The Deltaville Maritime Museum & Holly Point Nature Park was founded in September, 2002 in an effort to preserve the boat building history of Deltaville, once called the "Boat Building Capital of the Chesapeake". To keep traditions alive and preserve the boat building skills that made the area famous, the museum volunteers actively maintain, restore and build historically accurate vessels. Following that tradition, every year in July since 2003, families from near and far gather at the museum for Family Boat Building Week to build a Wright Skiff similar to the skiffs John Wright built in Deltaville in the 1930's.
Take a virtual tour: the photo gallery below contains digital samples from our collection.
If you are planning to visit the Crockett, call ahead to confirm that she is in port.
Built in 1924, the 62.8-foot F.D. Crockett is one of only two log-bottom buyboats built exclusively for power, and represents the apex of log boat building on the Chesapeake. Alex Gaines of Dare, Virginia, used the same techniques that were used to build the early sailing "canoes", when he designed and built her 9 log hull to accept a gasoline engine. After Gaines completed the hull, she was taken across the creek to Smith Marine Railway, where John Franklin finished the boat. For 70 years, the F. D. Crockett was used as a working vessel. In 1994, she was converted to a pleasure craft. In 2005 Ron Turner, a descendant of the Smiths, donated the boat and she was towed up the bay from Poquoson arriving in Deltaville on September 5th.
Since her arrival at the Deltaville Maritime Museum as a beautiful but decaying hull in September of 2005, over 8500 hours of volunteer labor have gone into restoring the F.D. Crockett. Because the Crockett was continually worked until the 1990s, the logs, the longest of which is 55 feet, were still in excellent condition. However, her decks and pilot house started crumbling and her sides deteriorated once she was no longer an active workboat.
First rebuilt was the Crockett's pilot house. While the decaying hull was still in the water, the Crockett's lines were preserved by the addition of new frames and timbers. Project manager John England and his volunteer crew used a combination of time-honored methods, traditional materials, and innovative techniques that should keep the boat alive for another century. Initial work was done to retain the integrity of its huge bottom logs. In a process which took over four years, deteriorated wood was carefully cut away; framing and planking were rebuilt while maintaining the dignity of her shape; and the log chunks of the bow and stern were replaced. The boat was decked over with 2” square strips of cypress, after which the re-created pilot house was lifted onto her new deck beams in August 2009.
After the engine was started in 2010, work on all the details of the F.D. Crockett continued. Toe rails, monkey rails and bulwarks were added to the decks. Then hatches to access the cargo hold were built, the wheelhouse completed, and a forepeak cabin added to provide storage for rope and anchor chain as well as sleeping quarters for two or three crew members. Progress continues, as volunteers work on details which will bring the boat back to its nearly-original working condition. Many original fittings are incorporated into the restored portions of the boat
In 1924, sailing schooners and skipjacks would have still been working the waters around Deltaville, carrying the produce of the Chesapeake Bay and the farmlands that bordered its shores. But the gasoline engine was changing the way oysters, crabs and watermelon were transported. In the log boat building center of Virginia, Alexander Gaines and John Franklin Smith were building a boat that incorporated several centuries of knowledge and tradition with the newest technology of the time. The 62.8 foot nine-log bottom buyboat, the F.D.Crockett, restored by the Deltaville Maritime Museum, combined a craft adapted from the Native American log canoe by European settlers and enslaved Africans and African-Americans. The addition of the then-cutting-edge internal combustion engine marked the end of an era of sail and the beginning of a new one of motor. This motorized Poquoson log deck boat represented the culmination of three centuries of trial and error and development in log boatbuilding.
The last flurry of log boat building came about because the low sides of the log boats made it easier for men working in the burgeoning oyster and crab dredge fisheries to haul the dredge full of oysters and crabs up onto the decks. Because of this, demand for large log canoes continued into the 1920s. By then, deadrise, plank construction had pretty much evolved. As electricity and powered sawmills became more available, as occurred in the area around Deltaville, large frame built boats and smaller vessels such as the Deltaville deadrise replaced the log boats that had once been common. The F.D. Crockett was one of the last large log boats ever built on the bay.She is one of only two large log deck boats still in existence built specifically for gasoline engine.
The construction of the Explorer began Feburary 2006 and was completed the following year. Although there are no images of John Smith's shallop, he described it as "open barge neare three tuns burthen"--which meant it could carry up to three tons of cargo. The Explorer is such a vessel and is the museum's interpretataion of the John Smith's shallop.
In 1607 Captain John Smith and the first settlers assembled the shallop “Explorer” from its storage in the bilge of “Susan Constance” the largest of three ships of the English Virginia Company. The other ships in the company were the "Discovery" and "Godspeed".
The following spring in 1608 Captain Smith and 14 men set out on an epic voyage, to explore and map Chesapeake Bay. For 140 days Smith and his men endured Indian attacks, heat, disease, thirst and starvation, traveling 1700 miles throughout the Bay.
In 2007 the Deltaville Maritime Museum produced an exact reproduction of Smith’s boat, using the guesstimations of the Calvert Museum, in Solomons Island, MD.
To insure the longevity of “Explorer”, our professional builder, Stephan Auer added double planking to the bottom with 3M 5200 caulking between layers. This, combined with a nearly invisible bilge pump for rainwater, made “Explorer” dry through repeated launchings and long periods on the trailer.
After the initial square rig, even with leeboards (the forerunner of the centerboard) proved to be strictly a downwind rig, we switched to a spritsail rig(fore and aft). This allows us to “tack” into the wind and minimize rowing, an arduous task at best.
The oars are another part of the puzzle. Initially the 14 foot oars were quite unbalanced, making rowing extremely difficult. We added lead to the handles, made the gripping areas more user friendly, and attached leather to the rail area. We also custom cut the length of each oar to suit. These changes have made rowing a little less arduous.
After appearing in the play “The Stingray Story”, our new “Explorer” appeared in several celebrations commemorating the 400th anniversary of the Jamestown settlement: First Landing, Jamestown Anniversary, Fort Henricus, and Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, among others. Look for the "Explorer" on Netflix's "Turn", a George Washington spy series set in 1778. She appears in season 2 episode 8 "Providence" 23 minutes into the episode.
A swivel cannon was added to “Spice Up” these events. A favorite trick of the settlers was to come upon a native village, fire the guns, and in the ensuing panic come ashore, fill the water casks, and eat the Naturals’ dinner! This technique might be useful with our waterfront “swells” who line the shores today.
To continue the legacy of Captain John Smith and the Chesapeake Water Trail, we expect to develop the Piankatank River section of the historic water trail. In addition to early history this river, the prettiest in VA., was important in the Civil War (war of northern aggression) where the gunboats of the Union were bedeviled by Confederate boarding cutters, whaleboats on wheels. The first recorded trailerboats!
The Explorer Society invites you to join the fun and become a member of the Explorer Society.
Offering museum members both the past and living maritime history of the Chesapeake Bay, the Deltaville Maritime Museum is continuing to offer cruises aboard classic deadrise boats.
These scheduled Discovery Cruises coincide with the monthly Holly Point Market on the 4th Saturday of each month from April through November. Cruises will also be offered Saturday, July 22 (Family Boatbuilding Week), and at the Holly Point Art & Seafood Festival on Saturday, October 15. Discovery cruises will begin at 9:30 AM through 1:30 PM. The Museum's Coast Guard licensed captain Pete Cardozo, will be conducting the cruises on Deltaville's beautiful and historic Mill Creek, Jackson Creek and Piankatank River.
The 30 minute-long Discovery Cruises will be offered free of charge to Deltaville Maritime Museum members and potential museum members, to let them enjoy an on the water experience aboard a classic vintage Chesapeake Bay workboat. Passengers are encouraged to join the Deltaville Maritime Museum and to participate in the museum’s many programs.
Family Boat Building
Looking for a great family adventure and experience? Now is the time to make your plans. Family Boat Building Week at the Deltaville Maritime Museum will be held July 21-27, 2019. Boat building is limited to 10 families. If this adventure is for you, get your application in early.
Cost for the kit to build the John Wright replica skiff will be $1195.00 for the 14’. To hold a spot, please mail payment as soon as possible. Until April 1, all payments are fully
refundable. After April 1, your payment will be applied to next year’s event.
For 14 years, the Deltaville Maritime Museum has helped over 126 teams build their own wood crabbing skiffs. The museum workshop has carefully designed a kit with all of the material needed to
build the skiffs. Some woodworking experience is helpful, but the museum volunteers will work with your team to make sure you complete your skiff.
The Deltaville Maritime Museum boat building program follows traditional building practices. Our boat kits consist of solid cypress and fir. You will experience the challenge of bending the cypress and fir the way they did years ago. They didn’t use plywood back then, and neither do we. We guarantee that you will have your boat ready for the big race on Saturday, July 27 at 10:30 am. The price of the kit also includes two tickets to the fish fry held after the race.
To get to the Museum and Park, follow Route 33 through Deltaville and turn right across from the Citgo Station. The Park is open dawn to dusk all year. Call the museum at 804-776-7200 for additional information or for an application.
Current Exhibits In The Museum
Established in 1939, Fishing Bay Yacht Club moved from Urbanna to Deltaville in 1950. The Museum and the Yacht Club enjoy a community partnership. In 2010, the USODA (United States Optimist Dinghy Association) National Championships were co-hosted in Deltaville by the Fishing Bay Yacht Club, Deltaville Boatyard and Deltaville Maritime Museum. It was the largest and most prominent racing event conducted by FBYC in its 75-year history. 315 juniors attended from as far away as the West Coast, Canada and Bermuda. Currently an Optimist Dinghy (Opti) donated by the Club, is on exhibit complete with rigging and gear. The exhibit also includes a portion of the Club's history. For additional information see FBYC website:
Roland Griffin, Jr. restored a number of fire-damaged models, and has provided a number of additional models to our Chesapeake workboat collection. We have many fine examples of working skipjacks, deadrises, and buyboats. An especially fine example is the Old Point, a seven-log buyboat built by J.G. Wornom of Poquosin in 1909. It was used to dredge crabs in the winter, freight fish in the summer, and haul and plant seed oysters from the James River during the fall.
Ray Rodgers has raised naval architectural drawing to an art form. On display are 10 scale drawings of Chesapeake workboats, many of which no longer exist, and 2 detailed drawings of the 10 pilot houses of the buyboats. Ray personally measured each of the boats, and meticulously drew them in remarkable detail to produce engineering drawings that truly are works of art.