Along the Chesapeake, building a skiff is an art
By Larry Chowning
For generations, flat-bottom and deadrise skiffs have provided stable platforms for commercial fishermen working the waters of Chesapeake Bay.
On Virginia's northern neck, several skiff builders are still turning out sturdy boats that are also pleasing to the eye. Francis Haynie, George Butler, and the father-and-son team of Andy and Myles Cockrell all come from a long heritage of boatbuilding.
Andy and Myles Cockrell
PVC: the best of two worlds
The Cockrells operate Cockrell's Marine Railway on the Little Wicomico River near Heathsville, where they have combined their talents to build a prototype of a 20' x 8' flat-bottom fishing skiff from sheets of polyvinylchloride, or PVC as it is better known.
A waterman's background
Since 1946, Francis Haynie, then 16 years old, has been building all types of wooden skiffs in Heathsville. He is typical of many old-time boatbuilders in that he has worked just about everything a Potomac River waterman would do.
Working on the railway
Isaac Bailey ran a railway and built small wooden boats in Reedville as early as 1893. His ledger of that year states he built and sold round-bilged striker boats (used to direct — by oar or hand signal — which way a menhaden school was heading) for $60, flat-bottom skiffs for $12, and an unidentified type of sailboat for $120.