The buyboat was expanded with a double pilothouse and became the Coastal Queen, seen here in Deltaville in 1996. Photo: Larry Chowning

Md. Buyboat-Turned-Yacht Featured in New Documentary

New York filmmaker Peter Slack came to the Chesapeake Bay region this month to interview six Bay historians for a documentary on the Coastal Queen, a Chesapeake Bay buyboat built in 1928 at Hudson, Md. and converted to a yacht in 1959.

The boat was originally named the A. G. Price and purchased by Slade Dale for $10,000 in 1958. The 53’ x 21’ oyster buyboat was taken to Ralph Wiley’s boatyard in Oxford, Md., where in 1959 it was lengthened to 72’ and converted into a double deck pilothouse yacht—one of the first such conversions of a buyboat on the Bay.

 The vessel received national attention in 1965 when writer Anthony Bailey published the book The Inside Passage that chronicles a trip on the boat along the intracoastal waterway up the East Coast of the United States.

 Before its upgrade to yacht status, A. G. Price was built in 1928 as a
53′ x 21′ oyster buyboat. Photo courtesy of Peter Slack.

 The Coastal Queen is currently at McMillen Yachts in Portsmouth, R.I., where the yard is replacing a worm damaged cross-plank bottom.

“I had done a web series on a 1962 Stonington (wooden boat) last year and thought it might be fun to do the same with the Coastal Queen,” said Slack.  

     “So I went up to Portsmouth and met with the managers, shipwrights, and carpenters,” said Slack. “I started collecting interviews and videos of the start of the process. So much of the story of the restoration is the cross-planked (bottom) boat and how it is native to the Chesapeake. Since the story is a Chesapeake Bay story I decided to go the region and talk with the experts.”   

On his trip south, Slack interviewed chief curator of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum Pete Lesher at the museum in St. Michaels, Md.; former captain of the Coastal Queen, Deacon Nelson at his home in Severna Park, Md.; William C. (Bill) Hight, John England and myself, Larry Chowning, at the Deltaville Maritime Museum (DMM) in Deltaville, Va.; and Allen Holston in Yorktown.

Lesher provided information on the early life of the A. G. Price; Nelson related life on the vessel as its captain for many years; Hight, who was the facilitator and researcher for the buyboat listing in the book Chesapeake Bay Buyboats, spoke on the history of buyboats; England, the DMM boat-shop director spoke on the construction of deadrise boats. As the author of Chesapeake Bay Buyboats who covered the Coastal Queen when it was up on the hard in Deltaville in 1996, I related stories I learned during interviews with the crew; and Holston, founder of Workboat Life on Facebook spoke on his experience working aboard buyboats.

     The documentary is being produced in a series. Two parts are complete and the fourth and fifth parts will speak to the history of buyboats on the Bay. The two completed films can be seen online on Peter Slack’s YouTube page. Or begin the series here:

-Larry Chowning