The Outdoor School's historic wooden Chesapeake Bay work boats are the cornerstone of the Bay science and history programs. The boats are used for a variety of classes and ventures that allow participants to study and discover first-hand the wonders of Chesapeake Bay ecology. Each vessel is outfitted with a variety of laboratory equipment, enabling it to function as a mobile Bay Studies classroom.
These Chesapeake Bay craft were used in the Bay's fisheries for decades. The School maintains them in the tradition of work boats to provide an authentic historical perspective for students studying current Bay issues. Our boats are certified by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) as small passenger carrying vessels, and they are operated by Echo Hill staff who are USCG-licensed captains.
Spirit and Twilight
Spirit & Twilight
These two boats are central to the School's Bay Studies program. The 40-foot work boat Spirit (1944) was built in Kent County, Maryland by the well-known Chesapeake Bay boat builder Stanley Vansant. The work boat Twilight (44 feet) was built on the Potomac River in 1911. Both vessels are traditional Chesapeake Bay work boats that were used for commercial crabbing, fishing, and oystering. The School has equipped the boats with charts, nets, aquariums, and numerous other collection tools, observation devices, and educational materials. This equipment enables students to have hands-on learning experiences as they carefully examine the water and organisms of the estuarine ecosystem.
Built in 1901, the 40-foot skipjack Elsworth is one of a handful of skipjacks remaining on the Chesapeake Bay. The Elsworth is listed among 21 skipjacks built previous to 1912 on the National Register of Historic Places. Skipjacks are the last fleet of sail-powered work boats in the United States.
Skipjacks were designed to dredge for oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The Elsworth dredged for oysters commercially between 1901 and 1996; the last seven of these years were with Echo Hill Outdoor School, which acquired the Elsworth in 1988. The Outdoor School began rebuilding the Elsworth in 1996, and the boat is now used solely by the School for educational programs, helping students connect to the ecology and history of the Chesapeake Bay.
The oyster buy boat Annie D. was built in 1957 on Tangier Island, Virginia. With a wide beam and roomy cabin, the Annie D. was built to buy and transport oysters. The working mast and boom were designed as a crane to load and unload oysters rather than for sailing purposes.
Oyster buy boats played an important role in the economy of the Eastern Shore before the building of the first Bay bridge in 1952. During the oyster season buy boats would travel up and down the Bay purchasing oysters from watermen and carrying them to the great shucking houses of the Eastern Shore. During the months when oysters were not in season, the boats transported produce and lumber across the Bay. The construction of the Bay bridges and the decline of oyster harvests gradually eliminated the need for oyster buy boats. The Annie D. was donated to Echo Hill Outdoor School in 1983 and, after being restored, began its service with the Outdoor School in the summer of 1985.
The Elsworth and Annie D. are the foundation of the School's Chesapeake Heritage Initiative and Summer Explore Trips programs.