I'm printing that out Simon here, thanks!!! very cool
From the bay to Belize
An Eastern Shore family searches for their grandfather's watermelon buyboat, finds the Winnie Estelle in Central America
By Jackie Jennings
Nick Evans was about 13 years old the summer he climbed aboard his grandfather's wooden buyboat in Crisfield and sailed to North Carolina to pick up a load of watermelons. For a few years it was a summer ritual: Load the boat with melons and sail up the Chesapeake Bay to Baltimore.
"We would buy a whole field of watermelon and pile them on the boat -- all over the deck, in the hole and everywhere else," he said.
For a day and a half, the buyboat would make its way through the waterways and finally dock near the city where Nick would help sell the melons -- whole or by the slice -- to grocery stores and tourists on the docks.
The wooden buyboat (also known as a Bay boat or run boat) was one of three large boats Nick's grandfather, Noah T. Evans, built in Ewell 90 years ago. The first was the Island Belle, a mail boat used to shuttle passengers, packages and groceries to Smith Island from the mainland. Next, he built the 66-foot Winnie Estelle which he named for his two daughters. Finally, Noah Evans built the Dora Estelle which he named for his wife and youngest daughter. In the early part of the 19th century, buyboats were considered the workhorses of the Chesapeake.
"They used to go out and buy from oyster tongers on the water," Evans said. "The oyster tongers would sell to the captains (of the buyboats) and the captains would accumulate a load and take them into Crisfield. They would unload (the oysters) at the docks and sell them to the packers. So that's where the name buyboat came from."
All three of the boats disappeared years ago. The Island Belle sank in the Chesapeake Bay, the Winnie and the Dora were sold out of the family. "I went off to college in the '50s and the boats really disappeared from my life," Evans said. "At the time I didn't really have any use for them at all."
The Winnie and the Dora quickly became simple childhood memories. So Evans, a certified public accountant who now lives in Salisbury, was surprised about a year ago when his cousin called with news. "He said, 'I found the Winnie.' "
Noah Bradshaw had been searching the Internet when he came across a photo of the Winnie Estelle, fully restored and working as a charter fishing and tourism boat in Belize. A little more research turned up a sketchy history of the Winnie's travels. Bradshaw and Evans learned the family boat had left the mid-Atlantic region in the 1960s, bound for Florida and the Caribbean. Some time later, a Bermuda man bought the Winnie and used her to haul lumber from Honduras to Belize.
"Captain Dave," as he was known, was also a pilot and died in a plane crash in the 1970s. Following his death, the Winnie changed hands often but was finally left to rot on a shoal in Belize. She sat for years until a boat captain named Roberto Smith decided to restore the Winnie in honor of Captain Dave.
"I guess he thought he could get it cheap," says Evans.
According to 1980s newspaper reports from Belize, the Winnie was jarred from her grave on the beach and towed to a boat yard for evaluation. The estimate was six months and plenty of sweat, not to mention a king's ransom in lumber.
"They were going to rebuild it in six months but it took five years," says Evans, "and it cost them a fortune."
Captain Roberto pressed on, meticulously reconstructing the boat using the very same pine the Winnie hauled across the Caribbean years earlier. The boat was recommissioned in 1990. "Captain Roberto had a way of doing things perfectly," noted one article. "He is an ultimate Virgo."
It was Evans's idea to arrange a trip to Belize. He and Bradshaw, their wives and Bradshaw's brother, Jack, arrived in San Pedro in June.
"Oh my gosh, we were so excited," said Evans. "It felt terrific."
Captain Roberto made conch stew and served lunch on the deck of the Winnie Estelle. A few days later, he took them on a tour around the coastline. "It was the first time I had been on that boat in like 60 years," said Evans. "It was just like old times coming back -- it brought back so many memories."
"I still get chills thinking about riding on the Winnie," says Bradshaw. "Just knowing my grandfather nailed those planks to the boat was amazing."
The men exchanged information -- Nick and Noah showed Roberto drawings of the boat their grandfather had made in Ewell; Roberto showed Nick and Noah photos taken during the boat's rehabilitation.
"He had to replace about 80 percent of the boat," said Evans. "He said people would ask where the name came from -- so he was very delighted to know what the name stood for."
"I can only imagine it brought back so many memories of their childhood," said Smith by e-mail from Guatemala. "I really enjoyed their company; (they are) nice people. We reminisced and shared pictures and stories. They hadn't cruised on their grandfather's boat for at least 50 years and a good time was had by all."
Ironically, says Smith, he made a trip to the Eastern Shore in 1985 to learn more about buyboats before deciding whether to salvage the Winnie. "Some of the old hands in the boatyards convinced me that was the thing to do," said Smith. "I'm still wondering!"
Bradshaw now has the original drawings for the Winnie sealed under glass. He found them on pieces of old, yellowed paper nailed to the wall under his grandfather's house in Crisfield.
"We never thought that would lead to us getting back on the boat," he said.
The cousins are now searching for Noah T. Evans' other boat, the Dora Estelle, hoping to have similar success. So far, the trail is cold. "The latest I have is that a guy named Henderson owned it somewhere near Solomon's Island in the 1970s," said Evans. "I'm trying to talk to various people to see if any of the owners of these boats remember who owned the Dora."
The Winnie, meanwhile, continues to ferry tourists around Belize under the watchful eye of Captain Roberto. He took her to Guatemala in July for maintenance and "repainting her as pretty as can be." But the captain now says after decades of sailing the Winnie, he's ready to let her go.
"It has been a long time involvement for me with the Winnie Estelle, about 25 years starting with the five-year rebuild," he wrote. "I feel it is time to pass her on to the next lucky captain ... Best Wishes, Roberto Smith, Captain, Winnie Estelle, Belize, C.A."
VIDEO: The Winnie Estelle a Day Trip off the Coast of Belize
This is the Winnie Estelle. She was built in 1920 in Chrisfield Maryland. In 1986 we salvaged her off of a beach in Belize; bent and broken with rust streaks down her rotten planked sides.
It took us six years to restore her and for the past 16 years she has been taking tourist out to the reef in Belize. The Winnie has a mooring off of Ambergris Caye, where San Pedro Town is located. I went down to Belize and saw her during the rebuilding, but have never been back since she has been operating.
We are looking for a home for her, or she could be a home for some special people who may want a change of life style.
The Winnie has been written about in a book called Chesapeake Bay Buy Boats by Larry Chowning. The last pages of the book are devoted to the Winnie as she is the finest restoration of any of Chesapeake Bay Buy Boats ever built. We found her decaying on a beach in Belize and six years later set her out solid and strong in the Caribbean waters of the Quays of Belize.
Pass this video around if you know of any adventurous folks that would take the wheel of the Winnie Estelle . . . Boat and Business. . . Don firstname.lastname@example.org
Restoration - Perfection Every Bit Of The Way
Built in 1920 at Smith Island, in the Chesapeake Bay waters of Crisfield Maryland, and rebuilt in Belize from Honduras Heart Pine, Belizean Cabbage Bark, and other hardwoods of great strength and durability. The original keel is still sound and intact.
Attention was paid to every detail as this old Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat was restored to pristine condition. To the right is the cargo hold and guest quarters. She also has a custom mahogany pilot house with two bunks, galley and head.
An economical and reliable Straight six caterpillar diesel 3-33B.
2 1/2 to 1 reduction cat gear. Turbo charged with complete engine room top components.
A new shaft and prop was installed to match the engine.
"The Winnie Estelle is the finest restoration of a Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat that I have ever seen." As quoted by Melbourne Smith when he visited Belize and sailed aboard the Winnie Estelle. Melbourne Smith overseen the construction of the M.V. California and the M.V. Pride of Baltimore. Melbourne came to Belize seeking material for these ships and the incredible lumber available in Belize is also what the Winnie Estelle is rebuilt with.
The Chesapeake Bay Buy Boat, Winnie Estelle no longer carries cargo, but has remained active way down south and has been taking tourists out to the reef and Blue Hole in the warm caribbean waters of Belize since 1992. She is now docked on the Rio Dulce in Guatemala and it is our intention to bring her back to the Chesapeake, to the city Crisfield Maryland, where she was built in 1920. The 2000 mile trip will happen in early summer 2010, God willing.
The Chesapeake Bay Buy Boats are an endangered species in our American history. In the days long past, before tractor trailer trucks and highways, produce and sea food and mail and other cargo were moved from town to town and city to city along the Chesapeake Bay from Norfolk Virginia to Baltimore Maryland and the buy boats were there doing their part. Now with those years only memories to some there are very few buy boats left and only one that we know of that has remained original in design and in perfect condition thanks to the efforts of three men from Florida and Belize who salvaged the sinking Buy Boat and undertook a 6 year project to restored her.
It is not necessary to mention those gentleman now because the main focus of this web site is the destiny of the Winnie Estelle. Those men have done their part and have restored the Winnie Estelle; now a national treasure.
The purpose of this web site is to Bring the Winnie Estelle Home; back to the Chesapeake, 90 years since she was launched, and she will return in museum quality condition. Her final destination will be the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Her immediate destination is Crisfield Maryland.
You can Bring the Winnie Estelle Home. If you would like to own this amazing piece of American heritage, or if you or your organization, society, or association is qualified as a benefactor for the Winnie Estelle please contact us.
Here's the latest news on the 'Winnie Estelle', for those of you who grew so fond of her....many who grew up with her....and it's wonderful news! She is safely home in the Chesapeake Bay after a long and grueling trip from Guatamala that measured some 1700 miles and 59 days! The plans for her return to Crisfield, MD, then decomissioning at the Maritime Museum, fell through. Instead she was purchased by a private owner whos plans include repairs that will carry her through the strict US Coast Guard inspection that is necessary before putting her back to work running charters here! She will perform sunset cruises, educational tours, and load kayakers to different locations in and aroud the Chester River, in the Upper Chesapeake. 'Winnie' lives on! I was fortunate enough to be called upon to complete the journey from Fernandina Beach, Florida to home when Capt. Smith fell ill and couldn't complete the trip. I hope he's feeling better. After all, if it weren't for him, 'Winnie' may still be sitting on that shoal, or worse. After 9 days of rain, wind, fuel issues, and the always-interesting Intracoastal Waterway, we arrived at a private dock on the Chester River, near historic Chestertown, MD. We could feel the excitement surround us even as we cruised through the Navy shipyards in Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia, then spending our final night in Deltaville, VA. Many recognized her, and many more realized how important she was, and still is today. Thank you, Capt. Roberto Smith, from every one here in the Chesapeake. Without your dilligence and hard work over the years, this piece of our heritage would have been lost. Instead, the 'Winnie Estelle' is now the pride of the Chesapeake. She's in good hands....and will live on for many years to follow.
Capt. Mark Praschak Coastbusters Yacht Delivery Services
I'm not sure about the Captain's status. He had already been to the hospital and returned home by the time I got to Fernandina Beach. I surely would have loved to meet him. If anyone has info on him, please share it with us.
Capt. Mark Praschak Coastbusters Yacht Delivery Services
It began on Ewell, Smith Island, Maryland, in 1916 when Noah T. Evans was asked to build a boat to carry the mail, freight and passengers from Crisfield to Smith Island. He built the Island Belle which ran back and forth for 74 years.
In 1920, during the oyster boom he built a 66-foot buy boat and named it the Winnie Estelle after his two daughters. In 1922 he built the Dora Estelle another buy boat and named it after his wife and youngest daughter.
These buy boats were some of the original workhorses of the bay moving seafood and produce to ports in the US. The Winnie Estelle was written about in a book by Larry Chowning where he described her as one of the finest restorations of any of the Chesapeake Bay Buy boats ever built.
The Winnie Estelle has over a 90-year history as she was passed from oneowner to another and in the 1970s made her way to Belize where it was used to transport lumber and eventually used for tours off the island.
The Winnie Estelle has kept its original design and is in perfect condition. Only about 20 percent of the original material it was built out of remainssince she was salvaged in 1986 from a sure death where she was adrift ona reef off of Belize.
Capt. Roberto Smith and two other men undertook a 5-year project to restore her utilizing Honduras heart pine, Belizean cabbage bark and other hardwoods of great strength and durability. The original keel is still sound and intact.
Smith made a trip to the Eastern Shore in the 1980s to learn more about buy boats before deciding whether to salvage the Winnie.
"Some of the old hands in the boatyards convinced me that was the thing to do," he said.
After the careful restoration of the Winnie she was used to ferry tourists around Belize.
The summer of 2012 saw another changing of hands for the Winnie Estelle as she was purchased by Michael Whitehill and now she is at a private dock on the Chester River.
The following is from a message board in Belize about the trip to bring the Winnie Estelle home:
"Here's the latest news on the 'Winnie Estelle', for those of you who grew so fond of her....many who grew up with her....and it's wonderful news! She is safely home in the Chesapeake Bay after a long and grueling trip from Guatamala that measured some 1700 miles and 59 days! The plans for her return to Crisfield, MD, thendecomissioning at the Maritime Museum, fell through. Instead she was purchased by a private owner who's plans include repairs that will carry her through the strict US Coast Guard inspection that is necessary before putting her back to work running charters here! She will perform sunset cruises, educational tours, and load kayakers to different locations in and around the Chester River, in the Upper Chesapeake. 'Winnie' lives on! I was fortunate enough to be called upon to complete the journey from Fernandina Beach, Florida to home when Capt. Smith fell ill and couldn't complete the trip. I hope he's feeling better. After all, if it weren't for him, 'Winnie' may still be sitting on that shoal, or worse. After 9 days of rain, wind, fuel issues, and the always-interesting Intracoastal Waterway, we arrived at a private dock on the Chester River, near historic Chestertown, MD. We could feel the excitement surround us even as we cruised through the Navy shipyards in Portsmouth and Norfolk, Virginia, then spending our final night in Deltaville, VA. Many recognized her, and many more realized how important she was, and still is today. Thank you, Capt. Roberto Smith, from everyone here in the Chesapeake.Without your diligence and hard work over the years, this piece of our heritage would have been lost. Instead, the 'Winnie Estelle' isnow the pride of the Chesapeake. She's in good hands....and will live on for many years to follow."
Capt. Mark Praschak
Coastbusters Yacht Delivery Services
A piece of the Chesapeake Bay history has returned home and she is a beautiful site.
From the descendants of Noah T. Evans, we also offer our thanks to Capt. Smith for his care and work at restoring the Winnie Estelle and to her new owner for returning this piece of history back to the Chesapeake Bay.
I'm sorry but I was mistaken about the identity of the Captain who fell ill on Winnie's return home to the Chesapeake. It was not Capt. Roberto, but Capt. Jim Johnson, whom the new owner had hired to make the move. My error! I hope both are doing well. Winnie has been undergoing some much needed repairs here in the Kent Narrows of Maryland, and will be fit as a fiddle very shortly. She's had a week of engine overhaul, bullwark repair, and even a chimney sweep to clean her stack! She got a clean bill of health from the Coast Guard and plans are to equip her with a 'Mini-Winnie' tender that will look just like her, but only be 18 or so feet long. Can't wait to see that! Pics will come as soon as it does. Take care, my Belizean friends....more later.
Capt. Mark Praschak Coastbusters Yacht Delivery Services