There’s something magical about old wooden workboats. It’s like wooden clapboards compared with even the finest vinyl shingles. Vinyl is final, as they say; it’s lower maintenance; and it looks good, even sleek, when it’s brand new. But the texture of wooden hulls, worn but holding, draws me in, not unlike the character etched in the faces of the men and women who drive them.

This story was first published in the February issue of National Fisherman. Subscribe today for digital and print access.

Jay Fleming, a photographer and writer based in Annapolis, Md., is well known among the fleets of Chesapeake Bay, which is a haven to old wooden workboats. He’s been documenting the work and lives of commercial fishermen in Chesapeake Bay and beyond for the better part of a decade.

This month, Jay captured a cover story on the classic wooden buy boats that still cater to the islands of Smith and Tangier on the Maryland side of the bay. The islands are not connected to the mainland by the road system, so they still depend on four classic buy boats to do exactly what their name implies — buy their daily catch of oysters and crabs and haul them to the mainland for the live market.

That makes these 20th-century hulls — three are wooden and one is aluminum — a connection to the past, present and future for the islanders who depend on them. Jay’s story, which begins on page 24, should also get you excited about the Maryland Watermen’s Show (officially called the East Coast Commercial Fishermen’s and Aquaculture Trade Show). Come find us at the Ocean City Convention Center Jan. 18-20.

You might think “old” would be redundant when talking about wooden boats. But as you’ll see in Around the Yards Northeast this month, some yards are still launching these future classic hulls.

Peter Kass and his crew at John’s Bay Boat Co. in South Bristol, Maine, recently launched the Island Magic for Sonny Willy, who fishes out of Criehaven. Kass went so far as to make a new half-model to meet Willy’s requests for a lower-profile lobster boat. Read the profile by our former Boats & Gear Editor Michael Crowley on page 34.

The real thrust of this issue is of course our Diesel Directory (which starts on page 18). Even classic wooden boats need new iron every decade or so. But what would it take to get you into a hybrid configuration? Boats & Gear Editor Paul Molyneaux takes a deep dive into the positives and negatives of banking battery power — as well as what’s on the horizon for efficient engines without taking on the weight of a massive battery pack. Read Paul’s profile of hybrid diesels on the horizon on page 30.

The exploration of hybrids is timely, considering the lawsuit filed by the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Association against fossil fuel companies alleging the corporations have long been aware of their effect on climate and oceanic changes (see the story on page 11), which have led to critical fishery collapses. Speculation is that commercial maritime hybrids are most likely to find their way into the market by way of California first, then into the mainstream. If fossil fuel emissions are indeed affecting fisheries, hybrids and electric power could be beneficial to more than just your fuel bill.

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Jessica Hathaway is the former editor in chief of National Fisherman.

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