The USAAF P-520, an 85-foot crash boat used in WWII, will be a highlight of this year’s Antique & Classic Boat Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum from June 17–19. Handout photo.

Chesapeake Bay Built Boats Featured at Antique & Classic Boat Festival

For interactive fun for multiple generations, check out the Antique & Classic Boat Festival at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday this Father’s Day weekend. CBMM’s campus opens up to an array of privately-owned, classic, vintage, and
antique 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 museum-quality condition.

The festival highlights Chesapeake Bay-built boats, and this year’s showstopper is sure to be the
U.S. Army Airforce crash boat P-520 that was deployed during WWII and the Korean War. P-520 was restored by a crash boat crewman and relaunched in 2005 in Southern California. In 2021, she set sail for Mexico on her own bottom before being cradled on a yacht transport vessel to go through the Panama Canal en route to Miami, Florida.

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

Because they were transporting and protecting spies, guerillas, P.O.W.’s, and rescued civilians, the crash boats also had mounted guns. The boats and their crews played a significant part in the origins of the development of today’s special forces.

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

Cambridge, Md. is P-520’s homeport. It’s fitting because Cambridge made little-known, yet very important contributions to the United States’ WWII effort. With one of the largest packing houses in the U.S., it supplied K and C rations to the troops. More importantly, the rails used to launch its fleet of 83 foot crash boats are in Cambridge and they are still operational.

Following P-520’s busy summer schedule of appearances at a variety of maritime events, including being the lead boat during Fleet Week in Baltimore, September 7-13, she’ll go in for repairs.

Everyone is welcome for a tour, especially veterans. Other ways to see a boat that people of all ages relate to is by visiting P-520.org or watching the 1997 movie, McHale’s Navy with Tom Arnold.

-Lynn Fitzpatrick