Written by Michelle Gayton
September 4, 2012
Builder works in chicken barn;
maritime museum burns down
Maryland boatbuilder Joey Miller, who owns Sinapuxent Boatworks in Berlin, is building a 29' x 11' 6" multipurpose wooden skiff for Thomas Gaskins from Ophelia, on Virginia's Northern Neck.
Gaskins will use the skiff for crab potting and working pound nets on the Potomac River. The skiff, with a 300-hp outboard, is replacing a 25-foot fiberglass boat.
"This new skiff is going to be a tank," says Miller. "Thomas and his wife came up here recently to look at the progress and he said, 'I'm right rough on a boat, so I want it to be strong and tough.' His wife said, 'Yeah that boy is rough on a boat.'"
The keel is 3" x 8" yellow pine. The stem is also yellow pine. The frames are juniper, as are the strip-planked sides. The bottom is cold molded with two layers of 3/8-inch plywood under two layers of 1708 fiberglass matt and epoxy resin, which also covers the strip-planked sides.
Miller builds his boats in the 70-foot end portion of a closed-down chicken house.
"I've got room enough for three boats and I've got three going right now," he says.
Besides Gaskins' skiff, Miller is building a 24-foot charter boat for a fisherman in Ocean City, Md., and a 16-foot flat-bottom skiff that he's constructing on spec.
Every other day Miller takes a break from boatbuilding to pull 150 crab pots and sell the hard crabs directly to the lucrative Ocean City restaurant trade. He fishes on the ocean side of the Eastern Shore and sells "mixed bushels/straight run," which means live males and females mixed or separate, 5-inch crabs and $60 to $65 a bushel. When the restaurant trade slows down he is forced to sell to crab picking houses that pay $16 a bushel for No. 2 crabs.
On the bayside of Maryland's Eastern Shore, 27-year-old Gregory Purcell of Mount Holly, Va., decided awhile back he needed a boat bigger than his 22-foot fiberglass Sea Hawk for crabbing. He wanted a new 42-foot wooden deadrise, but the price was prohibitive.
Purcell had heard that John Kinnamon Sr. and his son John "JC" Jr., longtime boatbuilders on Maryland's Tilghman Island build fiberglass-over-plywood boats with many of the same attributes as the traditional bay wooden boat: sturdy, tough and a V-shaped bow that cuts through the short rolling motion of the Chesapeake chop.
The Kinnamons have built boats for commercial fishermen from New Jersey to Texas. "We called John and JC and went up and visited their shops," says Purcell.
"My father, who worked the water for many years, went with me and we were both impressed with their boats." In the end they went with JC at Kinnamon Construction.
Purcell also looked at several of John Kinnamon's 20-year-old boats that are still in service. "They are strong, tough boats and when they are still working after 20 years, it tells you something about the builders," he says. "I looked at one boat that they built in 1984, the same year I was born, and it looked great."
Purcell's new boat is 42' x 12' and named the Miss Gentry, after his great-grandmother. A 420-hp Caterpillar 3126, working through a ZF 1 1/2:1 reduction gear, powers the boat.
Purcell is presently working crab pots in the Potomac River. The Miss Gentry will also be dredging and hand tonging for oysters and harvesting seed oysters from the James and Piankatank rivers.
On a tragic note, a fire destroyed the main exhibit building and the John's Pavilion at the Deltaville Maritime Museum in Deltaville, Va., on July 18. Underneath the John's Pavilion were several early Chesapeake Bay workboats, including the W.A. Johns, a three-log bottom canoe that's well known around the bay.
The pavilion and boats were all destroyed, along with early tools, models and boatbuilding exhibits inside the main building.
Fortunately, the seven-log buy boat F.D. Crockett was moored at a pier away from the fire.
— Larry Chowning
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