2023 Big Little Boat Festival Recap: Part 1

Skip to Part 2 and Boatbuilding Awards

Chesapeake Light Craft's Big Little Boat Festival

The Big Little Boat Festival was held on the Chester River near Centreville, Maryland, on May 13, 2023.

Here's a quick video recap!

It wasn't the first time it rained, and as in the past, a bit of warm rain did not keep lovers of small wooden boats from our annual bacchanal. 

In the past three years we've changed the name of the event once (from "OkoumeFest" to "Big Little Boat Festival") and the venue twice (from Kent Island to the West River, and from the West River to the Chester River). The first CLC event like this was held in 1999, and we haven't missed a year since, even during the socially-distanced plague years.

The new site, at Conquest Beach on the Chester River, has absolutely everything we could want: a stretch of the Chester River protected from extremes of wind and wave; plenty of room for parking; excellent camping facilities; and of course a broad beach suited perfectly for playing in small boats.

Big Little Boat Festival Map

The Big Little Boat Festival site on the Chester River is about an hour northeast of CLC's Annapolis headquarters. Yes, the same Chester River after which the Chester Yawl is named. 

Big Little Boat Festival by Chesapeake Light Craft

Conquest Beach, situated within a 748-acre wildlife reserve, on the broad, smooth middle reaches of the Chester River near Centreville, Maryland.

A typical Chesapeake Bay beach: saltgrasses and lovely small boats.

Here's the scene Saturday morning at the Big Little Boat Festival. Light winds, and the rain was still hours away.

As always, CLC mustered a half-dozen trailer loads of demo boats, about 60 in all! They were available for any participant to slide into the water.

Another view of Conquest Beach, looking northeast up the Chester River.

PocketShip, one of only a handful of CLC boats that can't be hand-launched from a beach (not easily, anyway) arrived on her own bottom from the nearby launch ramp.

There was less sailing than usual, thanks to light winds. CLC's Southwester Dory is being rigged up here.

The Lighthouse Tender Peapod glided around all day. A modern underbody and plenty of sail area makes these double-enders fast and fun in all condition.

The rain held off until midafternoon, and we were delighted with the space on the beach at our new Festival site, and with the ease of launch and retrieval. The prevailing winds here are usually blowing away from the beach.

Seminars were held in the spacious pavilion at Conquest Beach. Here, CLC's Jay Hockenberry walks us through epoxy and fiberglass.

John C. Harris, here wielding a hot knife, gave a talk about small boat rigging in general and the esoterica of lug rigs in particular.

A cardboard boatbuilding race has been a feature of the last few Big Little Boat Festivals, and we had a vigorous and creative crew this year.

Young people poised to launch their boats! 

All cardboard vessels proved seaworthy, even as the rain began to fall. 

Onwards to Part 2 and Boatbuilding Awards