Just Yesterday: Hard work and a hearty meal


It’s 1910 and this galley must have been a welcome haven for a Chesapeake Bay oysterman after working for hours on the deck of the E.C. Collier, newly built by Deal Islander George Washington Horseman.

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Equipped with a “wheelbarrow and a tool kit,” Horseman turned out the 52-foot two-sail bateau using white oak, loblolly pine and rule-of-thumb plans. (The length of the bowsprit equaled the beam, the boom was as long as the deck, the mast height equaled the boat’s length and beam, and so forth.)

These were the waning days of large-scale Bay oystering and the single-masted, shoal-draft bateaux were supplanting the big two-masted schooners, bugeyes and pungys of a previous generation. They were especially popular along the lower Eastern Shore. For her spring launching, the Collier was rolled down into the Big Ditch Slough, near Wenona Harbor, on wooden poles.

Imagine this: It’s November and you’re working the Eastern Shore with skipper Moody Webster. It’s cold and you’ve been cranking the hand winch, hauling the dredge and dumping the bivalves onto the semifrozen deck as an icy wind blows down the Bay. Ducking into this little galley, there’s the smell of steaming hot coffee. Peewee Grace, the Collier’s well-known cook, might just have some bacon sizzling in the cast-iron fry and hot biscuits coming out of the oven.

The cook’s position was an important one. Good food — and lots of it — kept the crew working hard. And Grace had a “talent for turning out hearty meals on the little butane stove in the cabin,” according to the National Registry of Historic Places, which listed the vessel in 1985. Today, thanks to the work of dedicated preservationists, you can visit Peewee’s galley. The E.C. Collier is on exhibit at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Md.

October 2012 issue.