Wilma Lee Update – July 2019

The Wilma Lee first arrived at the docks of McNasby’s on June 20, 2018. Over the summer, necessary repairs were identified and plans were made to move her to Tilghman Island on the Eastern Shore for a makeover.

In early September, she was moved in advance of the anticipated landfall of Hurricane Florence. Upon arrival, she was removed from the water and placed “on the hard” at Knapp’s Narrows Marina. Involved from the beginning were Museum volunteers Captain Craig Biggs and Dennis Krizek. These gentlemen have put in countless hours making sure that she is in tip top shape. Read more about their mission to make her shine below.

At Tilghman Island after a 3 hour, 20 minute cruise.


On the hard at Knapp’s Narrows Marina.

In early October 2018, her sails were removed and transported to Force 10 Sail Loft in Easton for necessary repairs. The main sail is so large it took three people to lift it into the truck. Also in October, a portion of the port-side rub rail was replaced, the props and shafts were removed and and sent for evaluation and reinstalled after no issues were found, all of the through-hull fittings were reconditioned by the Shipwright, Mark Wiest, the transom finish was stripped (including the name and hailing port) and refinished.  Other small repairs to posts and planks were made, and the “walkboards” were removed.

Main sail ready for transport.


The bottom has been repainted.

Three major items were identified that needed to be addressed:

  • The bowsprit needed to be replaced. A new one will be handmade by the Shipwright.
  • A section of the “strongback,” most commonly known as the mast step, needed to be repaired.
  • The keelson needed repairs. A remedy was proposed but needed USCG approval.

All of these actions required mast and standing rigging to be pulled, which took place in early November. While off, the mast, its 15 hoops, the standing rigging, the running rigging, and block were also evaluated.

The bowsprit free from the vessel.


The mast free from the vessel.

 Around this same time, winterizing processes began, starting with the fresh water system.

On November 19th, after two months on the hard, she was returned to the water so the winterization process could continue. After an overnight stay in the slings, she was found to be “tight as a drum.” At this point, the engines were winterized and the A/C system was inspected.


The Wilma Lee being lowered back into the well.


After a long day of work, she is secured at Knapp’s Narrows.

In early December and through January, Dennis and Captain Craig worked to get the bilge system inspected and cleaned. Other cleaning and winterization efforts continued. They also reviewed the Coast Guard’s inspection list to ensure that all areas of concern were being addressed. Mark continued to work on the mast, bowsprit and strongback.


Hand tools used to work on the bowsprit. Some are vintage.


Mark fine tuning the end of the sprit.

In February, work continued on the bilge system. Much progress was made in getting the automatic systems functional. Benches were also being refinished for the deck. By the end of the month, the bowsprit was nearly complete (with the exception of painting and varnishing). The team was still waiting to hear back from the USCG on the keelson issue.

Benches for the deck under construction.

In March, warmer weather allowed for more cosmetic work on the exterior of the vessel to be tackled. Doors and trim were sanded and varnished. Labels were made for the bilge system and the decks were swabbed! Dennis also measured the mast to order new hoops.

The exterior of the cabin was caulked in preparation for painting.


Captain Craig posts necessary signage on board.


Dennis Krizek measures mast hoops.

By the end of March, the Wilma Lee was ready to be outfitted with the refurbished benches, generator, and the bowsprit. In order to get these heavy items on board, she had to be dewinterized and relocated to Severn Marine (just a half mile away and home to Mark’s shop), which had the necessary equipment. The bridge didn’t go up as Wilma could fit beneath with no mast.

Wilma on her way to Severn Marine.

In April, smaller ongoing projects have kept Dennis and Craig busy as the larger issues with the keel and mast are tackled. The name and hailing port will be painted on soon, a major milestone commemorating her new home in Annapolis! A few more months of work should have the Wilma Lee looking brand new again, and we hope to see her grace our docks once again in the summer. Be sure to follow our Facebook page for more updates in the coming months!

Ariel shot of Wilma Lee at Knapp’s Narrows.

In early May, Wilma Lee had the benefit of assistance from two additional members, and able craftsman, Jim Sandison and Jim Bunce. The finish coat was painted on the four remaining cabin ports and the sanding of the boom was completed.

Jim Bunce paints the cabin ports.

Both Jim B. and Jim S. applied a coat of Cetol, a protective wood finishing stain, which significantly helped move the project along. Additional coats will be required to complete this project phase for the boom.

Jim S., left, and Jim B., right, apply Cetol to boom.

Johnathan Dodge prepped the railings of Wilma Lee, scrapping the paint off and sanding the railings. Soon a primer will be applied, followed by a finish top coat.

Johnathan sanding the railings.

Dennis and Craig were finally able to complete the repairs to the fresh water system. Meanwhile, Mark Wiest begun lofting the paint scheme on the original bowsprit to transfer to the new sprit.


Late May and June made for an exciting few weeks for Wilma Lee.

Towards the end of May, Mark Weist completed the installation of a new strongback and maststep, constructed from five separate large pieces of wood. Each piece was placed individually in Wilma Lee and then epoxied together. The strongback was too large to mate outside of the vessel. A massive structural element of the vessel as well as a wonderful example of Mark’s engineering & fabricating skills. Wilma’s starboard and port walkboards were dry fitted and installed too!

The assembled strongback with the maststep hole outlined.


Mark Weist sanding top of the starboard walkboard.

Her volunteers started the labor intensive job of developing an electrical schematic for the 12 volt systems on board, starting in the engine room. Although space to work was near non existent, with a bit of moaning and groaning progress was made on the starboard side.

Dennis was able to repurpose a bit of an old sail cover as a cover for the instrument panel to keep the sun and rain off the engine instruments & ignition switches. Recycling at it’s best!

By early June Wilma Lee was getting nods of approval from even the most gnarled watermen with her freshly painted decks and newly installed teak deck benches.

Wilma’s volunteers tackled the decayed sections of wood in the steering gear box, sealed the leaking seam in the steering gear hatch, and changed the engines primary fuel filters.

Jim Bunce applying the first coat of paint to the steering gear box.

While the volunteers were working, Mark Weist and his crew were busy delivering the Douglas fir for the laminated mast, measuring out each piece precisely, truing up, and laying up a few of the many courses needed for the mast.

Diagram of the mast drawn on a piece of plywood.


The torrential rains of mid June gently reminded us that, while our attention has been focused on repair, Wilma is still an eighty year old wooden boat which demands constant maintenance and inspection. The conditions resulted in the re-appearance of an old pesky leak in the galley and the boom developed a new check. However, both were investigated and quickly repaired.

Towards the end of June, the apprentices from the Chesapeake Maritime Museum’s boat building program assisted Mark Weist with the beginning stages for the lay up of the mast, including the scarf joint and specially constructed jig.

Jim Sandison assists with clamping mast boards.

By mid July the laminating process for Wilma Lee’s new mast was well underway. Each “layer” of lamination takes a day to glue and set up.

Layer number five drying.

The laminating process was taken place outside of Mark Weist’s shop because the length of the mast is too long to construct inside. Mark used 113 clamps to secure each layer! Once the final four layers have been added the build-up of the mast timber will be complete and the shaping will ensue.

Lamination outside of Mark’s shop.

While the mast is an enormous undertaking, Wilma’s volunteers could not forget the smaller, yet equally as important, projects that will make her into an operating vessel. The wooden blocks from the main sheet were disassembled, cleaned and lubricated. The blocks were then refinished and the main sheet was washed. The sheet was made ready to be turned end-for-end to evenly distribute wear when placed back in service.

In the end of July, Mark Weist completed the lamination of the mast “timber” and begun shaping the timber into Wilma’s mast. Mark defined the center line with string and marked off the 64 foot length in 2 foot increments. At each increment, he calculated the width of the mast at that point so that it will be tapered to the specifications of the old mast.

The defined center line on the mast timber that is 12 1/2 inches square and over 64 feet long.

Stay tuned to hear how Wilma Lee approaches the finish line of this amazing restoration process!