The 100-year-old Wm. B. Tennison bugeye, a floating artifact of Southern Maryland history, will get a $120,000 major overhaul after one more summer of ferrying tourists and museumgoers around the Chesapeake Bay.
Calvert County is including $50,000 for the project in its budget that takes effect July 1. The state has agreed to pay another $50,000, and the Calvert Marine Museum Society has committed the remaining $20,000.
The Tennison, one of fewer than 50 U.S. boats designated as National Historic Landmarks, was used for 70 years to harvest oysters off Solomons Island. The boat, which has a 60-foot hull made of nine hand-hewn pine logs fastened together, is a rare surviving example of a kind of watercraft that was common on the Chesapeake generations ago.
Since 1980, it has belonged to the county-owned Calvert Marine Museum, where it is a key tourist attraction and is moored behind the museum in Solomons Island. Museum officials have researched the boat for years but have not determined who Wm. B. Tennison was or on which day the boat was first launched.
The Tennison is the oldest passenger vessel licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard still afloat on the bay and is believed to be the third-oldest in the country.
The Tennison carries about 9,000 passengers between May and October each year on regularly scheduled trips on the bay and on privately chartered cruises, said Doug Alves, museum director. Ridership has been slowly increasing in the past several years and there has been a surge in the number of school groups, Alves said.
Over the last 15 years, the boat has undergone periodic repairs, to make sure it meets Coast Guard requirements and maintains its historic appearance, Alves said.
But now the Tennison needs serious work, including renovation of its stern area, rehabilitation of its pilot house, an engine overhaul, replacement of 12 frames, and repair of deck planks. Compared with other historic wooden boats, the Tennison relatively has more of her original material intact, including the nine original logs that make up her hull as well as some beams, knees and other components.
Work on the boat is expected to begin in November and be completed by next April, in time for the 2000 tourist season, Alves said.