ST. MICHAELS, Md., Feb. 24, 2023 – With drill in hand, Susan Whaley received her instructions and turned back toward Mr. Dickie, the 36-foot buyboat named in honor of her late father that continues to spring to life in the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s Shipyard.
“Alright, we’ll try not to screw it up!” Whaley assured her longtime friend and the boat’s owner Grigg Mullen, with a playful chuckle.
Mullen started Mr. Dickie’s construction in his own woodshop before bringing the project to CBMM, and one of the benefits of the build’s new home is the opportunity to share the traditional Chesapeake vessel and its story with others.
Last Saturday, Whaley and her sister Anne were special guests at CBMM’s Shipyard Workday and eagerly dove in to lend a hand with the boat that Mullen has named for Dickie Whaley, his former Eastern Shore neighbor who introduced him to the joys of life on the water as a boy.
It was a special day for all involved, offering Mullen and the Whaley sisters the chance to reconnect and reminisce about good times while working on the boat’s cross-planked bottom boards.
“It’s just fabulous to be here today,” Anne said during the group’s break for lunch. “We’re glad to work on it and be a part of it.”
“It reminds me of how far back the two families go,” Mullen added. “We’ve all gone from being children under the watchful eyes of our parents to being grandparents or great aunts with a chance to honor our parents.”
Mullen spent just a few of his early years living on the former Blakeford Plantation in Queen Anne’s County, but he made lifelong memories on the water alongside the Whaleys.
Mullen served as a big brother to the Whaley sisters, and they spent many days exploring the neighborhood’s creeks and wetlands together.
Along the way, the boy learned the finer points of fishing and crabbing from Dickie Whaley and his wife Sue, often cruising the area in skiffs handcrafted by Dickie, who worked as farm manager at Wye Plantation and was a noted cattle breeder.
“They both had a big influence on my appreciation of Eastern Shore life,” said Mullen, who now lives in Lexington, Va. “They’re a big reason that it’s strong enough that I continue to come back to the area 60 years later.”
This is the second boat that Mullen has built to honor the Whaley family. In 2012, he finished work on a Hooper Island draketail named Miss Sue in honor of Sue Whaley.
That year, Sue and Dickie were able to be part of the boat’s christening and launch at CBMM during the Mid-Atlantic Small Craft Festival.
Now, Mullen has contracted with CBMM’s Shipyard to build Mr. Dickie, a scaled-down homage to the historic buyboat Mundy Point. It’s a posthumous honor for Dickie, who died in 2016 a little more than a year after Sue’s passing.
“This would have meant a lot to my dad,” Anne Whaley said. “He knew there was going to be a boat built, but he didn’t know the specifics. It’s wonderful that Grigg followed through. I think my dad, and my mother also, would be very proud.”
Mullen has stayed in touch with Anne and Susan through the years and reached out recently to invite them to stop by the CBMM Shipyard to see the build in progress.
It was Susan who realized they could be involved in the build by attending a Shipyard Workday.
“We said, ‘Why not?” Susan said. “It sounded like a lot of fun to me.”
Last weekend, the Whaley sisters made the trip to CBMM, with Susan driving down from Centreville, Md., and Anne making the short trip from Preston, Md.
They jumped right into the action, drilling bottom planks, applying bedding compound, and screwing them in place under the guidance of Mullen and Shipyard Education Programs Manager Jenn Kuhn.
“I’m pleasantly surprised at what we’re doing,” Anne said. “I thought we’d be sweeping the floor or handing a nail. I didn’t realize we’d be actually up there sawing, gluing, and nailing.”
After a memorable day in the Shipyard, Mullen was proud of his friends and thankful for their help working on Mr. Dickie, which is expected to be completed this summer.
“It was great fun,” Mullen said. “By the end of the day, all I had to do was make sure they had planks and screws, and they knew what they were doing and went at it. They really seemed to enjoy the chance to do this in memory of their father.”