Historic Chesapeake buyboats cruise into N.C. port

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For the last decade, members of the Chesapeake Bay Buyboat Association have taken its fleet of historic fishing boats to the water in an annual reunion tour, with stops at selected ports of call that connect to the Chesapeake Bay. Elizabeth City, N.C., will be a featured stop on this year’s 11th annual tour, Aug. 5-7, offering the public a rare chance to view 10 of the historic boats and learn about their origin.

The graceful wooden vessels, also known as deck or oyster boats, were prevalent in the Chesapeake Bay and North Carolina sounds in the early-to-mid 20th century. Providing a time-saving service between the oyster fisherman and the processing houses, buyboat owners cruised to where the fisherman worked on the water, loaded their boats with the freshly-caught bivalves and headed directly to the shucking houses to drop off that day’s catch.

“In their hey-day, these boats were the tractor trailer for the region,” said Theodore Parish, owner of the Nellie Crockett, which dates to 1925 and will be part of the tour. “When the combustion engine became reliable, boat owners cut off the masts and could get to market no matter how the winds were blowing.”

Re-creating the 1900-1960 trade route, this year’s reunion tour will begin in Poquoson, Va., and make its way to Elizabeth City via the historic Dismal Swamp Canal, with stops planned afterwards in Manteo, Coinjock and Chesapeake. In Elizabeth City, the boats will be docked along the downtown waterfront at Mariners’ Wharf, Aug. 5-7, and open to the public to view on Thursday, Aug. 6 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

For info on the Elizabeth City stop, visit www.discoverelizabethcity.com or call the Elizabeth City Area Convention & Visitors Bureau at 1-866-ECity-4U.