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Buyboat homecoming rekindles memories

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The buyboat Thomas J. (left) prepares to dock at the Homecoming of the Buyboats held at the Urbanna Town Marina on Friday and Saturday. (Photo by Tom Chillemi)

by Tom Chillemi

One of the uses for buyboats in years past came from the need to get oysters to market quickly. Perhaps as a conservation effort, Virginia and Maryland banned dredging oysters with boats that had an engine, but permitted oyster dredging under sail.

Watermen used sail-driven vessels, like the skipjack, to dredge oysters, a practice that continues in Maryland to this day.

It was impractical for sailing vessels to return to dock with their harvests each day. The trip would take too long, and reduce the time the sailboats could dredge.

Buyboats, with their powerful engines, would travel to the sailing fleet and “buy” oysters from the sailing vessel captains, and take them to market. This allowed the sailing fleet to stay on the oyster grounds, where they remained productive.

These massive wooden buyboats also were the trucks of the Chesapeake Bay. They hauled farm produce to cities and returned with manufactured goods and things that were available in cities.

Retirement

Some surviving buyboats are retired as pleasure boats and have been restored to their former grandeur, which was evident at the “Homecoming of the Buyboats” in Urbanna last weekend.

On August 2-3 more than a dozen of these historic buyboats docked in Urbanna for the fifth time as part of the Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Association rendezvous.

Buyboats that attended this year’s homecoming in Urbanna included Nellie Crockett, F.D. Crockett, Iva W., P.E. Pruitt, Prop Wash, Ellen Marie, Muriel Eileen, Bessie L., Thomas J., Elva C., Dudley, Samuel Bailey, 55th Virginia and Veteran, and support boats Shamrock, Jennie May, Old Point and Miss Trudy.

Bill Hight, who coordinated the Homecoming of the Buyboats, thanked all who were involved in the event, including the sponsors—the Town of Urbanna, Urbanna Business Association, Urbanna Creek Yacht Club and Chesapeake Buyboat Association. “They all pulled together for a very successful weekend,” said Hight.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 08.07.2013

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