Historic buyboats scheduled to visit Calvert Marine Museum


The Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Association is hosting their annual reunion and cruise and will be stopping over at the Calvert Marine Museum on Wednesday, August 10.

Enjoy the unique opportunity to see the historic boats, meet the owners, and tour the vessels in the boat basin from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Buyboats, also known as deck boats, are approximately 40–90 foot long wooden boats, with large open decks, found most often on the Chesapeake Bay.

These boats would make the rounds purchasing oysters from tongers (fishermen who used long tongs to pull oysters from the water) and dredgers.

Once the oysters were transferred to the buyboat, they were taken to a wholesaler or oyster processing house where they could be prepared for sale.

This allowed watermen to continue working and not return to shore as often. Buyboats were also used to buy seed oysters, or spat, to be planted in oyster beds.

Buyboats saw their heyday in the first half of the 20th century when most oysters from the Chesapeake Bay were harvested by tongers in small flat-bottomed row boats, or dredged by sail- powered skipjacks. Waterways were the fastest way to haul seafood to markets; interstate highways, bridges, and tunnels were non-existent prior to the 1950’s. Many buyboat captains also used their vessels to transport freight such as fresh produce, grain, livestock, and lumber to market during the off-season from May to August when they were not buying oysters.

The museum’s Wm. B. Tennison, our 1899-built passenger boat, is a Chesapeake Bay buyboat. She began her life as a sailing vessel and was later converted to power when internal combustion engines became available. However most buyboats, including those built for power, retained a single sail into the 1930s when engines became more powerful and reliable.

For more information, please contact Richard Dodds, Curator of Maritime History at 410-326-2042, ext. 31 or email

CMM Photo: Buyboats Thomas J and Nellie Crockett on a previous visit to CMM

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