The original Chesapeake deadrise boats were built by and for commercial watermen who scoured the Bay for crabs, oysters and finfish. Ruggedly constructed for year-round fishing, the deadrise boat had a low profile, large cockpit, small cabin and hull with a proud entry and modest transom deadrise. It appealed to watermen who needed weather protection, stability and capacity to make their living. The boats were constructed of wood—generally Atlantic white cedar or pine planking and oak frames that were durable and easy to maintain and repair.
Over time, wood was challenged by fiberglass as the better material for construction. One fiberglass model that took the deadrise design to the next level was the Markley 46. It combined low maintenance with more engine power so that the operator could cover the Bay’s fishing grounds faster and more efficiently. Those features made it appealing to both commercial fishermen and recreational boaters.
Hull No. 1 of the 46 was built in wood by designer Robert Meekins of Golden Hill, Maryland, for Ben Markley, a boatbuilder and waterman who wanted a larger commercial vessel. It was built on Markley’s property on the Bay near Baltimore, from the plug that was made to build the mold. Later, Glenn Manning, considered the Godfather of fiberglass in the Bay area, laid up more than 100 Markley 46s. Eventually, Composite Yachts of Trappe, Maryland, purchased the hull molds; the company continues to build variations of the original today.
Form follows function on the 46, with its straight, unbroken sheer and ample flare in the bow to control spray on windy Bay days. Its work-at-sea roots are obvious in the close-to-the-water cockpit, which spans nearly half the length of the boat. The 13’6” beam that carries most of the way aft provides plenty of room. A fiberglass roof extends over a good portion of the cockpit, offering protection from sun, spray and rain. The boat’s low profile and shallow draft make it necessary for engine boxes on deck; here they double as seats. The aft bulkhead of the wheelhouse keeps noise and weather away from the helm. Air conditioning and heat can be added for year-round use. There is room inside the cabin for a galley and a settee that seats six. The forward trunk leaves plenty of room for a head, a work bench, stowage areas and a V-berth.
In some ways, the Markley 46 is like Downeast lobster boats that were eventually designed for cruising. However, the Markley also is a popular Chesapeake Bay charter fishing boat that can carry as many as 30 passengers. It’s also a turnkey option for an operator with a more modest six-pack license.
Many 46s are offered with a yacht finish, including stainless-steel hardware and varnished interiors. The boat has been built with single and twin diesels. One recently sold Markley 46 with a single Cummins QSM 635-hp diesel had a cruise speed of 21 knots and a top end of 25 knots.
Like many classic vessels, the Markley 46 has an adoring fan base, so it’s not always easy to locate a model for sale. Enjoy the hunt, though. According to current owners, if you capture one, you will most likely love the boat.
This article was originally published in the February 2022 issue.