The Emmett H. is the favorite to win in upcoming buyboat races at Williams Wharf Landing in Mathews County on Saturday, June 22. Photo: Larry Chowning

Mathews, VA, Adds First-Time Boat Docking Contest to Buyboat Races

The first annual Mathews Boat Docking and Buyboat Races comes to the docks June 22, rain or shine.

Competitive boat docking is a summertime spectacle up and down the Chesapeake Bay. Another competition that is uniquely Chesapeake? Workboat races. On Virginia’s Middle Peninsula, they’re about to combine the two.

On Saturday, June 22, the Mathews Volunteer Fire Department (MVFD) brings boat docking to the docks of Williams Wharf Landing on the East River in Mathews County, along with the long tradition of racing buyboats.

The docking competition will start at 12 noon and will happen rain or shine.

Workboat races were a tradition in Mathews, as many of these large deadrise boats were built in the county. On race days, those wooden boats 55 feet and over came to the starting line with houses, pilothouses, masts, and booms removed to lighten the load, with the hope of generating an extra knot or two.

There were several thousand of these boats on the Bay used to buy oysters, crabs, and fish from area watermen working in smaller craft. But today, there are currently only about 40 buyboats left on the Chesapeake, and 15 are expected in the competition.

Neal Hudgins, organizer of the event, said he is expecting the buyboats P. E. Pruitt, Mobjack, F. D. Crockett, Linda Carol, Emmett H. and Muriel Eileen and hopefully others to show up for the races. The Emmett H. is a clear favorite being the smallest buyboat on the Bay with comparable power to the others, said Hudgins. For sure, the houses, pilothouses, masts, and booms will not be removed for the races.

The docking competition will consist of 15 deadrise workboats from up and down the Bay. Boats will be staged a set distance away from a mooring slip. When given a blast from an air horn, the competing boat will take off, go full throttle to the slip, then turn and go back in between the poles. Crew members will tie off on the poles, ending the time. There will be three rounds each, said Hudgins.

There will also be live entertainment and vendors on the grounds. Tickets are $40 with children 10 and under free of charge. Tickets are available in Mathews County at the Mathews County Visitor and Information Center and at Moughons Ace Hardware; in Gloucester County at Phillips Energy and Chimney Corner Lawnmower; in Deltaville at J & W Seafood; and tickets can be purchased online.