Mildred Belle’s Facts
Buy Boat – A vessel whose function was to purchase oysters directly from sailing workboats on the fishing grounds and then carry the oysters to market to sell for a profit. This saved the oyster fleet a long sail to market. Sailing buy boats (like Pungies) were used during the 1800’s and then motor vessels like Mildred Belle were used in the 1900’s. Recently, buy boats have also been used to seed oyster bars (transplanting young oysters to a new destination).
Mildred Belle’s Purpose – A buy boat that carried oysters, freight and people on the Chesapeake Bay. Other Mildred Belle workboat functions included: dredging for crabs, trawl fishing and even pioneering sportfishing in the Atlantic Ocean off the Virginia Capes and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. The Living Classrooms Foundation purchased Mildred Belle from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 1988 to operate as a Living Classrooms Foundation educational vessel assisting student exploration of Baltimore Harbor, Chesapeake History, economics, and ecology through fun learning adventures.
Built – in 1948 in Odd, Viginia on the Chesapeake Bay’s Western shore. Her builder, Odell Carmines, used yellow pine (known as Bull Island mahogany) to construct her. The wood was hand picked by the builder in 1947 and dragged by a team of mules to a salt marsh to season properly. One year later, the logs were hauled out of the marsh to dry out and then sawed into planks for Mildred Belle’s construction. Carmines was such a fine builder that he didn’t even use a sketch plan.
Name – Originated from the first owner’s (Capt. Garland “Porgy” Evans) two daughters – Mildred Lee and Hattie Belle.
• Length Overall: 56 feet
• Length on Water: 47 feet
• Beam (width): 15 feet
• Draft (the distance between the waterline and the lowest part of the keel): 4 feet, 5 inches
• Weight: 23 gross tongs
• Power: 165 horsepower Diesel engine
Mildred Belle’s History
Mildred Belle is a boat for students to explore the history and economics of the Port of Baltimore and the Chesapeake Bay while investigating the ecology of the Chesapeake Bay region. The Living Classroom Foundation’s Mildred Belle gives students a hands-on adventure operating this traditional Chesapeake Bay workboat.
Mildred Belle was built in 1948 in Odd, VA and has enjoyed a lively history around the Chesapeake Bay. Her first owner, Capt. Garland “Porgy” Evans, used it for many different purposes. Capt. Evans often brought his daughters, Mildred Lee and Hattie Bell on his expeditions. Porgy’s grandson, John “Sonny” Hanson, was born the same year Mildred Belle was built and began to accompany his grandfather on board at the early age of two. Sonny was practically an “old hand” by the time he was eight years old as he helped crew aboard whenever he could – especially when school was out each summer.
Originally fitted with nets, Mildred Belle spent her first five years trawl fishing off Cape Henry at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay. She returned home to Messick Point each night with a typical catch of flounder, trout and croaker to sell to the local markets.
In the early 1950’s, Capt. Evans began to take passengers fifty miles offshore out in the Atlantic Ocean to fish for marlin, tuna and swordfish. Mildred Belle was the first Chesapeake Bay workboat to head South off the North Carolina Coast on deep-sea sport fishing charters (trips paid for by the passengers). On many summer evenings, Mildred Belle would leave Messick Point just before dusk and head 50 to 120 miles offshore on a fishing adventure. On board would be Capt. Evans, Sonny, their dog, Meg (she went out on every trip), and six paying passengers with fishing rods. Twenty-four hours later, all hands would return to Messick Point sometimes laden with prize-winning catches; sometimes with nothing to show for their efforts but calluses on their hands and the memories of a fun adventure at sea.
For 21 years Capt. Porgy Evans worked Mildred Belle year round changing his work according to the seasons. Each summer he went deep sea or trawl fishing. In fall, Mildred Belle was loaded with young seed oysters that were “transplanted” to a different oyster bar to grow. When winter came, Mildred Belle dredged for crabs in Virginia waters of the Chesapeake Bay where this is legal. During this period, Mildred Belle earned Capt. Evans a nice living. The work was hard and Mildred Belle rode out many storms with rough seas – always emerging as the victor!
In 1969 Capt. Evans died and Sonny worked Mildred Belle a few more years before selling her to T.T. Richardson whom owned a crab and oyster business. Over the years, Mildred Belle was sold twice more but each owner continued to work her, always trying to fill her cargo hold with fish, crabs or oysters. One owner, Melville “Stumpy” Bryant used Mildred Belle for family trips in addition to crab dredging. In 1975 he converted her to a family cruiser by putting bunks in the large cargo hold and clearing away the dredges and winches that had been a necessary part of her fishing, crabbing and oystering career.
Mildred Belle has ventured to Florida twice on pleasure cruises but each time returned to the Chesapeake. The Living Classrooms Foundation now operates this classic Chesapeake Bay workboat for educational trips. When you step on Mildred Belle’s deck, you can be sure she and her crew have experienced many adventures at sea!