This 2019 fire started at a the Surf Rider Restaurant, just feet from the historic Linda Carol. Firefighters kept her safe. Photo courtesy of Allen Holston

Fire Dept. Honored on 5th Anniversary of Saving Historic Workboat from Flames

It is nearly five years to the day after a waterfront fire threatened to destroy a beloved 1931 workboat. Thanks to the hard work of local firefighters, the deck boat is still around. Those firefighters were honored last weekend for their role in saving history.

The York County and City of Poquoson fire departments were recognized at the Yorktown Workboat Races for their remarkable effort on June 12, 2019 in saving the 55’ deck boat Linda Carol from fire.

The Linda Carol was moored beside the Surf Rider Restaurant in Poquoson when the restaurant caught fire and was totally destroyed. Surrounded by raging smoke and flames, firefighters working from boats and shore kept the fire from spreading to the Linda Carol and other vessels by constantly spraying water on the boats.

Video courtesy of Allen Holston

The heat was so intense that it burst the windows out of the Linda Carol. One side of the vessel and mast were scorched but the boat survived. At the races on Sunday, Linda Carol was there in all her splendor used as one of the committee boats. 

Allen Holston, organizer of the event and founder of Workboat Life, presented a plaque to representatives from the fire departments that reads, “Presented to York, Poquoson Fire Departments for our appreciation for your superior action in saving the Linda Carol – Queen of the Bay. The community & citizens are forever grateful.”

Firefighters from the York and Poquoson fire departments are honored for saving the historic workboat. Photo: Larry Chowning

The 55′ x 14′ x 4.7′ Linda Carol was built in 1931 by Lennie and Alton Smith in Mathews Country, Virginia. She was worked as a commercial fishing boat for most of her life. The boat is owned today by Bill Mullis, owner of B & C Seafood in Seafood, Va. As a teenager Mullis worked aboard the Linda Carol in the winter crab dredge fishery with renowned Chesapeake Bay buyboat captain Morris Snow.

When the boat went up for sale in 2013, Mullis, remembering his roots, purchased the boat from a New York owner, had her towed to York Haven Marina in Poquoson where boatbuilder David Rollins brought her back to life.

The Linda Carol serves as a committee boat at the 2024 Yorktown Workboat Races. Photo courtesy of Allen Holston.

“The firemen focused on saving all the boats in the marina by constantly spraying water on each one.” said Mullis. “I honestly do not think my boat would have survived if it had not been for them. The Linda Carol was less than 20 feet from the worst of the blaze. I can’t thank them all enough for saving my boat.”

During the heyday of Chesapeake Bay buyboats in the 1920s, ’30s and ’40s there were several thousand of these large wooden deadrise boats on the Bay that were used to buy oysters, crabs and fish from watermen.

When this photo of the buyboat Linda Carol was taken in the 1980s she was being worked in Virginia’s winter crab dredge fishery. Photo: Larry Chowning

Today, there are around 40 boats left and in various stages of condition. The Linda Carol, completely restored, is truly one of the maritime jewels of the Bay.