CBMM’s collection of Chesapeake watercraft comprises more than 100 vessels built from the 1880s to the 1980s, including a Floating Fleet of traditional wooden workboats, and smaller purpose-built boats used for fishing, oystering, crabbing and waterfowling. A variety of recreational and sailing and power watercraft built, sailed, motored and raced on the Bay and its tributaries are represented in the collection, as well as utilitarian sailing craft, rowboats, and power boats.

CBMM’s Floating Fleet is maintained through regular repairs and periodic overhauls performed by the shipwrights and apprentices in our working Shipyard, who work with curatorial staff to steward each vessel in the watercraft collection. Best practices in preservation guide how CBMM maintains museum vessels, determining whether to repair or replace, what techniques to use, and what original components are saved for future reference. The process is carefully documented.

Since most of CBMM’s collections vessels would require extensive rebuilding to be maintained afloat—resulting in a boat that was more “new” than “old”—most CBMM vessels are preserved in their current condition, providing insight into the original construction and life cycle of typical Bay boats. Many small craft were used for decades by watermen and recreational boaters who lovingly repaired and repainted them through generations of owners, and the evidence of wear and repair is important to the stories we tell about them.

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