Wayne Brady, Rock Hall waterman, built a boat called Promise . He named her that because when he pulls away from the dock his wife, Nancy, always wants an assurance -- a promise that Wayne will be back.

"She wants to know what time I'll be back. Of course there's no way of telling that. There could be fish out there. I can't tell her so I put that name on, and when she sees me going out she sees that on the stern, and she knows she has my promise."

Like most Chesapeake Bay watermen, Brady is a little bit sentimental, and that may explain why there was an extra urgency to his hammering last week as he drove stainless nails in the transom of the second Brady boat, a boat that mirrors the lines he conceived when he made Promise .

Brady was in a hurry because there was a wake in Tilghman Island that evening and a funeral the next day.

The funeral was for Sam McQuay, Chesapeake boat-builder, from whom Brady had learned what he needed to know to design and build Promise .

"I hope you can do something to cheer Wayne up," Nancy said when I called. "Sam McQuay died today, and Wayne is taking it hard."

A little background. Chesapeake Bay workboats comprise one of the last strongholds in a dying art form -- the design and construction of seaworthy wooden boats.

Sam Mcquay was the son-in-law of the late John B. Harrison, who was a legend in his time around the turn of the century. Harrison built some of the fastest and most eye-pleasing boats ever to sail the Bay -- skipjacks, bugeye ketches and racing log canoes, among them the legendary Jay Dee and Flying Cloud.

McQuay learned his boat-building from Harrison and continued to build Chesapeake workboats and work on sailing craft after his father-in-law died.

Now McQuay is gone, leaving behing only good boats and the knowledge he imparted to young boat-builders like Wayne Brady.

Brady met McQuay years ago when Brady, then a lad, was helping tow a racing log canoe to St. Michaels. The log canoe was almost safely home when a fleet of power boats steamed by, leaving the canoe pitching and yawing in their wake. In the hubbub one of the masts snapped.

The mast had to be fixed right away because the boat was to race the following day. Someone mentioned that McQuay might fix it overnight. The boat-builder was summoned to take a look. He decided it could be done, but he needed help.

"Sam picked me to help him fix it. He said I was the dumbest-looking one in the crowd. He figured he could tell me what to do," Brady said.

Brady and McQuay took off for the boat-builder's shop with the broken mast.On the way they stopped and bought a pint of whiskey, and when they finished the patch job at 2:30 the next morning, the whisky was gone and each had made a friend for life.

The next winter Mc@uay and Brady rebuilt the log canoe from stem to stern, and Brady learned how boats were made.

A few years later it was McQuay who helped Brady, this time when the young man laid the keel for his first boat, Promise .

Brady, the waterman, now is thinking about giving up his fishing nets and oyster tongs to go into boat-bulding full time.

The boat he's building this winter is on commission for the Cheasapeake Bay Foundation, which needs a workboat to ferry youngsters around the Chesapeake on scientific studies.

CBF isgetting a bargain. Brady built Promise right, and she's never leaked or scared him in atroubled sea. He's putting the new boat together in the same way.

That means that all the important joints are getting baths in bedding compound before the nails are hammered home. The transom will be doubled, with teak planks over pine. The keel is a solid trunk of longleaf yellow pine selected from the marshes of Dorchester County. The stem is hand-hewn oak, as are the knee braces and ribs.

McQuay was there when Brady laid the keel for this boat, and he gave his approval. Brady uses no drawing or plans -- he builds by what he calls "the rack of the eye," and McQuay's go-ahead eased his mind.

Now Brady works alone in the big pole shed he built to house his creation. He's got all the tools he needs, from a giant bandsaw to a jig he invented to cut the hole for the drive shaft.

The new boat will be done by spring. Then Brady will face one more question -- whether to go back to fishing and oystering or give himself to boat-building for keeps.

From the looks of the shed and the boat inside of it, he's already made his promise.