Top Places For

Learning How to Build a Boat

From dories and deadrises to bugeyes and buyboats, a diverse array of boats were birthed in the Chesapeake region. Though the heyday of boatbuilding has passed, there are still many places where you can learn about these ships and their stories.

Discover a rich maritime world at spots like the Watermen’s Museum and the Calvert Marine Museum, where the Chesapeake’s historic boatbuilding culture comes alive through exhibits, hands-on activities, and even a few trips out on the water.

Boat building at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Building a boat at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. The Museum offers a number of hands-on programs in the Boatyard, such as woodworking, carving classes, mosaic workshops, metal casting, tool sharpening, and the Apprentice for a Day Public Boatbuilding program runs year round.

At these museums and historic sites, you’ll explore a world where shipbuilders engineered new kinds of boats to meet the needs of men working a plentiful Bay. These locations preserve the region’s boatbuilding tradition and honor those who built the Chesapeake’s storied skipjacks, skiffs, and schooners.

  • A maritime museum is a great place to start exploring the different types of boats built in our region. At the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, take a seat on a wooden work bench surrounded by tools used to build skipjacks like the Martha Lewis. Down in Tidewater Virginia, the Deltaville Maritime Museum preserves the local river’s vast boatbuilding history. And at the Mariners’ Museum, see examples and artifacts of log “dugout canoes” that the Powhatan people designed more than 400 years ago.
  • Want to see boatbuilding in action? Head to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and the Richardson Maritime Museum, both located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. These museums are home to active boatyards where shipwrights and their apprentices carry on the tradition of boatbuilding -- and they’re open for visitors like you to watch, learn, and appreciate.
  • Once you’ve learned so much about boatbuilding, you’ll want to step aboard a real live boat, of course! Visit the Nathan of Dorchester, a dredge boat built in the 1990s to celebrate the Chesapeake’s vanishing skipjack heritage. Or check out the Schooner Sultana, a floating classroom about colonial maritime history and local ecology.

The Bay’s fabled boatbuilding tradition is yours to explore at the top places for learning how to build a boat.

Annapolis Maritime Museum

Annapolis Maritime Museum

The Annapolis Maritime Museum is dedicated to preserving and commemorating the maritime heritage of Annapolis and the neighboring waters of the Chesapeake Bay and features rotating exhibits celebrating the area's unique maritime heritage.

Annapolis, MD

Indoor Exhibit at Calvert Marine Museum

Calvert Marine Museum

The Calvert Marine Museum invites you to explore how our prehistoric past, natural environment, and maritime heritage come together to tell a unique story of the Chesapeake Bay.

Solomons, MD

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Introducing visitors to the Bay story, and telling the Chesapeake's maritime history on the Eastern Shore. The museum houses examples of historic bay working boats, exhibits, guns, decoys, ship models and the 1879 Hooper Strait Lighthouse.

St. Michaels, MD

Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park

Deltaville Maritime Museum and Holly Point Nature Park

Just off the Chesapeake Bay in the heart of Deltaville, Virginia, the Museum and Park offer a unique opportunity to enjoy the "Boat Building" history of our area and the serenity of "river' life.

Deltaville, VA

Fell's Point Historic District

Fell’s Point Historic District

Best known for the fast sailing schooners built and equipped there, Fell's Point was a center for privateering and the slave trade, and played an important role in both the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

Baltimore, MD

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum interior exhibit

Havre de Grace Maritime Museum

The Havre de Grace Maritime Museum collects, documents, preserves and interprets the maritime skills and cultural heritage of the Lower Susquehanna and Upper Chesapeake Bay region.

Havre de Grace, MD

Guests Playing Ninepins at Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement

Jamestown Settlement is a historical site and museum at the site of the first successful English settlement on the mainland of North America. Expansive exhibits trace Jamestown's beginnings in England and the first century of the Virginia colony.

Williamsburg, VA

Painting of Mariners

Mariners’ Museum

One of the largest and most comprehensive maritime history museums in the world, The Mariners' houses a treasure trove of items inspired by human experience with the sea.

Newport News, VA

Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester

Nathan of Dorchester

Sail aboard a genuine Chesapeake skipjack to learn about the rich maritime heritage of the Bay. A volunteer crew takes visitors out for two-hour sails on the Nathan from its home port in Cambridge, Maryland.

Cambridge, MD

Deck Boat Elva C at Reedville Fishermen's Museum

Reedville Fishermen’s Museum

The Reedville Fishermen's Museum sits in one of the most active fishing ports in America, telling the story of menhaden fishing in the Chesapeake. The museum houses a collection of artifacts and historical material.

Reedville, VA

Richardson Maritime Museum

Richardson Maritime Museum

A Waterman's Museum Dedicated to Jim Richardson and the Craftsmen and Culture of Traditional Eastern Shore Boatbuilding.

Cambridge, MD

Schooner Sultana

Sultana Education Foundation

This traditional 18th century ship, based out of Chestertown, Maryland, sails the Bay providing hands-on education in the history and natural environment of the Chesapeake Bay and its watershed. Today, the Sultana Education Foundation offers a diverse variety of history and science-based field programs serving students and teachers throughout Maryland and beyond.

Chestertown, MD

Skipjack Martha Lewis - Michael Land Photography

Skipjack Martha Lewis

Martha Lewis is a V-bottom, two sail bateau (skipjack). She is one of the few remaining working dredge boats that make up the Chesapeake Bay oyster fleet -- the last to fish commercially, under sail, in the United States of America.

Havre de Grace, MD

Water view of Smith Island Center

Smith Island Center

Small museum on Smith Island, home to many working watermen, tells the story of working and living on the Bay.

Ewell, MD

Watermen's Museum exhibits

Watermen’s Museum

Located in Yorktown, the Watermen's Museum demonstrates the role that Chesapeake Bay watermen played in the shaping of our nation through a historical display of crafts and methods of their trade.

Yorktown, VA