Boats Built in the Chesapeake Bay Featured at the Vintage and Classic Boat Festival

For multi-generational interactive fun, head to the Antique and Classic Boat Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday this Father’s Day weekend. The CBMM campus opens up to an array of private, classic, vintage and
old boats that deserve to be in museums. Whether it’s pride, nostalgia, love of tradition or
the joy of sharing a piece of history that motivates these owners, they keep their boats in a state worthy of a museum.

The festival spotlights boats built in the Chesapeake Bay, and this year’s showstopper is sure to be the
US Air Force P-520 crash boat that was deployed in World War II and the Korean War. The P-520 was restored by a crash boat crew member and revived in 2005 in Southern California. In 2021, she set sail for Mexico on her own funds before being cradled on a yacht transport vessel to cross the Panama Canal en route to Miami, Florida.

Used to perform search and rescue for combat crews who sank over the sea, the official military designation for these crashed boats was Patrol Aircraft Rescue Vessel. During the Korean War, the crash boats, with their twin 1350hp Packard engines powered by high-octane aviation fuel and reaching speeds of over 45 knots, served a dual purpose. Not only did they rescue pilots and aircrew downed in the freezing waters of the Sea of ​​Japan, but they often went behind enemy lines on special operations and intelligence missions.

Because they transported and protected spies, guerrillas, prisoners of war, and rescued civilians, relief boats also had guns mounted. Boats and their crews played an important role in the origins of today’s special forces development.

The 85-foot mahogany double-plank crash boat is the last surviving crash boat in its original configuration of the approximately one hundred that were built in Wilmington, California and Cambridge, Maryland. It is complete with mounted anti-aircraft guns, bridge, crew and captain’s quarters, galley, engine room and an aft medical bay. With plenty of headroom and an enthusiastic crew, the P-520 is a joy to visit for all ages. The P-520 was built in California from the same plans used for boats built in Cambridge.

Cambridge, Md. is the home base for the P-520. It’s appropriate because Cambridge made little-known, but very significant, contributions to the American WWII effort. With one of the largest packing plants in the United States, it supplied K and C rations to the troops. More importantly, the rails used to launch its fleet of 83ft crash boats are in Cambridge and they are still operational.

After the P-520’s busy summer schedule of appearances at various maritime events, including as the lead boat during Fleet Week in Baltimore, September 7-13, she will go into repair.

Everyone is welcome for a visit, especially veterans. Other ways to see a boat that people of all ages identify with is to visit P-520.org or watch the 1997 film, McHale Navy with Tom Arnold.

-Lynn Fitzpatrick

Earnest A. Martinez