Letter from Norman Smith.
Agnes Sterling under the ownership of Captain Lyman R. Smith and Captain Franky Smith of Willis Wharf, Va. 1954-1961
Capt Lyman R. Smith (my grandfather) purchased the Agnes Sterling from Dick (One Armed Dick) Crocket of Crisfield, Maryland. Dick was the Son-in-Law of Captain Gus Forbush. Capt. Lyman had wanted to buy the Rebecca Forbush from Captain Gus as she was a little bigger but at the time there was not enough money around to justify the bigger boat just to work oysters in Delaware Bay.
The story of One Armed Dick Crocket. Dick Crocket was either drafted or enlisted in the army at the start of the War in 1942. He went to Baltimore from Crisfield to be sworn in, take care of his paperwork, and get his physical. On the way home, he was involved in an automobile accident and lost his right arm. As he had already been placed on active duty, he was given a medical discharge and benefits for his accident. He used the money from his discharge to buy the Agnes Sterling. He then had the wheelhouse set up for him to run her from the starboard side so he could use his left hand to steer and work the controls. Originally the gear shifter was a solid piece (Captain Lyman had this cut so it would fold down into its current appearance) that he could work with his right hip. There was also a foot starter installed on the floor just to the left of the wheel that he could reach with his left foot. After the war, he had her re-powered with a surplus WW II Landing Barge 671 Gray Marine (current power plant is a 671 Detroit re-powered in early 1990's)
Captain Lyman and my father Captain Franky Smith worked the Agnes Sterling from Bowers Beach, Delaware from 1954 to 1961. She use to load and unload at Massey s Landing (Long Neck, Delaware). They worked in Delaware Bay, Rehoboth Bay, and Indian River Bay. She had never done anything but buy oysters up to that point, so my father had her set-up for dredging at Deagles Boatyard in Deltaville, Virginia with the working hardware installed in Willis Wharf, Virginia. Captain Johnny Ward (Ward Brothers, Nora W., John W.) installed a dredge post of white oak 14 x 14 and had it stepped into the keel just behind the mast. His comment as to why it was so much bigger than other dredge boats was that a dredge post can never be too big and Captain Lyman would want it bigger. Mayhew Shockley a machinist from Willis Wharf installed the working hardware and truck transmission on the front of the engine to handle to the dredges. She had the typical rope pull tensioner to engage the winches. At the time, it was usual to have a double prong hook set by deckhands when the chain paid out to where it would pick up the drag. Captain Lyman thought this was too time consuming so he had Mayhew Shockley install a hand levered truck brake handle attached to two brake bands to stop the winches until he hauled back. That way Captain Lyman and my father had complete control was in the wheelhouse.
Captain Johnny also hauled shells from the York River and Deltaville to Willis Wharf for Captain Lyman with the Ward Brothers, Nora W., and John W. from the mid 50's until early 60's. Apple Ellsworth also used the Myrtle Virginia (now Captain Woods) to hauls shells for Captain Lyman as well.
My father also hauled shells with her from the York River to Willis Wharf and the Delaware Bay for 3 summers (56-58). The was a really long trip (up the Chesapeake to the C&D canal and down the Delaware Bay to Bowers Beach for planting) and was only able to make about 4 trips a summer. Dad ran her about 1200 rpm s so she only made about 7-8 knots Dad told me that after the first trip she rolled so bad with the deck load that he installed a wall just behind the winches up forwards and filled the hold with shells for ballast beneath deck to keep her steady for the long trip.
Dad always had a thing for the O.A Bloxom and always thought of her as the high liner of the Oyster Fleet and had a mahogany Instrument Panel installed in her to match the one on the Bloxom. William Wright (Lee Deagles Yard Supervisor at the boatyard) installed the mahogany panel (tilted to match the Bloxom). This was done unbeknownst to Captain Lyman until the bill came later. I remember when we were still in the oyster business in the late 60's in Willis Wharf and the O.A Bloxom coming into Willis Wharf with seed oysters from the Bay for us (J C Walker Brothers and Cobb Island Oyster Farms), the Bowen's and the Ballard's.
After the oysters died out from MSX in the Delaware and my grandfather died in 1961, Dad sold her to Captain Carol (Duck Egg) Bradshaw of Tangier.
The Story of Bunksey and how I got my name Norman. When my parents got married in the fall of 1957, my mother gave my father a Cocker Spaniel puppy as a birthday/wedding present. They were married on my Fathers birthday so he would not forget it. He always took the puppy on the boat with him and kept him in the bunk in the wheelhouse and tagged the name Bunksey on him. He would take Bunksey everywhere including the grocery store in Rehoboth Beach where they lived at the time. One day they had Bunksey in his coat in the store when he was spotted by an older couple that also had cocker spaniels. They quickly became friends. Norman Lutz had played with the Yankees as a pitcher in the mid 20 s but never really became big name because he wore thick glasses to see. My father was a die-hard Yankee fan as the rest of his family (I have a cousin named Joe Paige Doughty) so instead of naming me after Captain Lyman, I was named for Mr. Norman Lutz. After baseball, Mr. Lutz spent his career as an engineer for GM and retired to Rehoboth Beach.
The Myrtle Virginia (now Captain Woods). I was a Sea Clammer on several boats and worked alongside her when I was on the Ocean View , Chesapeake, and Captain Bucky Smith in Atlantic City when she was owned by Barnie Truax (NASCAR Racer Martin Truax Jr's uncle).
The Mobjack. I worked on her sister the Ocean View two different times, once when she was owned by J H Miles and was surf and sea clamming out of Ocean City, Maryland in 1979 and again when Donnie McDaniels of Cape May owned her and I worked her out of Cape May, Wildwood, Atlantic City, and Barnegat Light, NJ. The last time I physically saw her and was aboard her was back in 1979-80 when she was still owned by the Miles and was tied up at the plant in Norfolk. At the time, she was towing shell barges up the bay and the Rappahannock to plant shells during the summer. She did not have a mast on her as she does now again. The Sarah Conway and Flora Kirwin both worked out of Ocean City, Maryland during the late 70 s when I was first mate aboard the "Christy". The Sarah Conway was eventually owned by Bill Gifford of Atlantic City, NJ. At the time, he owned the Captain Bucky Smith and several other sea clam boats. We both tied up together on Maryland Ave. He sold all of them to Barnie Truax except for the Sarah and had her when she sank in 1986.
The picture attached shows the Agnes Sterling sitting at Massey's Landing with a load of oysters in 1959 (Photo from the private collection of Norman Smith). The picture on your web site of the Agnes Sterling would have been after Dad sold her to Carol Bradshaw in the 60s because she already had the dredge tow post on deck.