Photo: Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal

Boatworks Fire Destroys $1 Million in Historic Boats

A devastating fire in Talbot County didn’t take any lives, but it cost some their dreams, as a million dollars’ worth of historic, lovingly restored boats went up in flames.

The fire broke out at Abreu Boatworks in Trappe, east of Oxford on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. The boat shed caught fire around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon, according to the Office of the Maryland State Fire Marshal.

It took the Trappe Fire Department an hour and a half to bring the two-alarm fire under control. Damage to the shed is estimated at $250,000, but damage to the wooden boats inside is estimated at $1 million.

The Boatworks building housed four historic boats in various stages of restoration. The projects got frequent updates on the Abreu Boatworks Facebook page, showcasing the painstaking work spent on each. One, a 39-foot 1972 deadrise workboat, was featured in Chesapeake Bay Magazine this fall.

The Miss Sandy B carried the dreams of Ross Hubbard, a California marine surveyor who discovered his biological father, Richard Miller, was a Chesapeake Bay boatbuilder. He went on a quest to find, buy, and restore one of his late father’s boats. Hubbard found the Miss Sandy B, Miller’s last deadrise still in use on the Bay. She had structural issues and needed an engine rebuild, as well as adaptations to fulfill Hubbard’s plans to use her as a charter and ecotourism boat.

Hubbard found Andrew Abreu, owner of Abreu Boatworks, nationally acclaimed for his boat restorations, who was touched by Hubbard’s story. Work on the deadrise began in June. Hubbard docked a Catalina 27 in Cambridge, to live aboard when he flew in to visit the Boatworks. In Abreu’s most recent Miss Sandy B update, just three days before the fire, he wrote in a Facebook post:

“The plans for this boat are non existent, so we made a full size deck beam camber pattern that we are using to shape the new sheer clamps that were installed.” Abreu had to improvise multiple aspects of the rebuild.

Just three days later, Hubbard’s boat, which he saw as a way to get back to his roots and connect to the father he never knew, is gone. But Hubbard has managed to keep some perspective. He tells Bay Bulletin:

“My loss is but a boat, but Andrew Abreu’s business has been devastated. The only saving grace here is that Andrew and his family all are safe. Boats can be replaced; people can’t.”

The state fire marshal’s office says when the fire began, Abreu immediately tried to put it out, but the fire “erupted uncontrollably.” Their investigation finds that the fire started in the interior of one of the boats, a 38.5-foot 1936 Elco powerboat, and that contractors “had just recently left the premises after completing work detail” when the fire began.

A GoFundMe page has been set up to accept donations for the Abreu family. According to the page, Abreu and his wife have three young children. It notes that in addition to the boats lost in the fire, there were “a lifetime of specialty tools” that will be difficult and expensive to replace.

To donate, click here.

-Meg Walburn Viviano