Ernest (Cap'n Dick) Hartge, 84 who designed, built and raced sailing craft on the Chesapeake Bay for 40 years, died Sept. 3 in a Eustis, Fla., hospital after a stroke.

The largest boat he built was the 52-foot Empress in 1927, but he was best known as the father of the "Chesapeake Twenties," racing boats which he designed specifically for Chesapeake Bay. He built the Chesapeake Twenties, 55 of them, between 1936 and 1941. It has been estimated that 20 of the craft are still sailing. One is preserved at the maritime museum at St. Michaels, Md.

In 1933, Mr. Hartge helped organize the West River Sailing Club and served as its commodore. He won five regattas in a row with one of his "Twenties", something one boat critic said was "unheard of in a class where you'll see skippers fighting each other tooth and nail for seventh place." The critic went on to say, in a 1977 Post interview, "There are faster boats now, but none sweeter to sail."

Mr. Hartge had lived in Eustis since retiring from the family business, the Hartge Yacht Yard in Galesville, in 1961. But he returned to the Bay from time to time, and won another West River Regatta at the age of 80. He also had helped form the Lake Eustice Sailing Club in Florida and continued to design small boats.

A native of Galesville, Mr. Hartge was born to a family of craftsmen, farmers, and schooner captains, and like his father, became a boat builder.

Hr Hartge once recalled, "All my life I have been interested in the shapes of hulls. I would go along the docks of Baltimore with my father and sight along the hulls of steamboats to see which was prettiest." He began building boats in 1919.

He became an expert in the free-style design and construction, known as "rack o' eye," which was the core of the tradition of Bay-built boats. The Chesapeake is unlike almost any other body of water, and the boats that go the best upon it are those built by men who grew up with the Bay's breezes, tides, shoals, and sudden squalls.

A boating columnist wrote in the 1970s that Mr. Martge's boats were "built for the Bay, on classic lines to look like sailboats should look. They each have a soul. They were great boats when they were built and they are grand boats now."

Mr. Hartge is survived by his wife the former Jane Robinson, of the home in Eustis; a son, Charles W. (Totch), of West River, Md.; three daughters, Maryland H. Cole of Annapolis, Alice H. Wilson of Bethesda, and Susanna H. Day, of Minneola, Fla.; a sister, Evelyn Sears, of Liberty, S.C.; and seven grandchildren.

The family suggests that expressions of sympathy be in the form of contributions to the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons Island, Md.