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Over 80 Years on the Chesapeake Bay

The Iva W, built in 1929The Oyster Buyboat Iva W was built by John Wright of Deltaville, VA for Captain Johnny Ward who was only 26 years old when she was launched in 1929.  He named her for his wife, Iva, and paid about $2800 for the complete boat minus an engine, wheel and compass.  Captain Johnny treasured Iva W for almost 70 years, when he sold her just prior to his death at age 96.

The first 50 years of Iva's life were spent hauling crabs and oysters from the lower Chesapeake to markets in Crisfield and Baltimore, MD.  Captain Johnny and a crew of three would spend the day tonging their own oysters off the mud bottom (in later years they "drudged" the bottom with a 6ft rake operated off the boat's engine), and at the end of the difficult workday, they would buy tons more oysters and crabs (depending on the season) from the smaller work boats and ("skipjacks") in the vicinity and head off to sell the daysí catch.  Because Iva's primary mission was to buy the bays produce at one point and deliver it to another, Captain Johnny had to carry substantial quantities of cash on board, and would thus have to face the threat of robbery.  He also had to face the risk that he might not be able to sell the boat load for more than he paid for it.  Captain Johnny was successful on both accounts and enjoyed an almost legendary status in the lower Chesapeake.

Iva W is 60ft long and has a beam of 16.5ft. and she draws 4.5 ft. She "weighs" 40 tons and often carried an additional 60 tons of the Bay and Regionís bounty.  For decades, Iva W left the Ward home on Jackson Creek in Deltaville, Virginia on Monday mornings and ran 24hours a day until the following Saturday evening when they returned.  On Sundays the captain and crew of 3 went to church, had dinner with family, changed the oil in the engine, and cleaned and prepared the boat to leave the next day.

Over the course of her life, Iva W has had three different engines.  The first engine was a four cylinder, Regal engine that was augmented by a sail.  The Regal engine was replaced with a 60 horsepower Atlas engine and also required a sail.  In the mid-1940ís, Captain Johnny installed the engine that remains in place today: A 115 horsepower Caterpillar D13000 diesel engine.  This engine is 10 feet long, 6 feet high, almost 3 feet across and weighs over 8000 pounds.  Designed and built in the late 1930ís, the engine turns a 40 inch wheel mounted on a 3 inch stainless steel shaft at 700 rpmís.  Using 3 gallons of diesel fuel per hour, the propulsion system moves the Iva W forward at 7 knots.  The engine requires 13 gallons of engine oil, and 26 gallons of water in her closed keelson cooling system.  In her early years of life, Iva W had a gaff sail on the mast that remain in place.  It was used to steady the boat when the crew needed her sideways in the swells to harvest oysters and crabs brom the Bay.  The original mast and boom remain in place, and show over 80 growth rings when she was felled in 1927.  The wood in the boom had even more growth rings when it was cut down as a tree, probably in 1927 or 28.  It is safe to say that the wood that makes up the Iva W is approaching 200 years.

As the years flew by, Iva W began a transition to hauling mostly seed oysters and produce such as watermelons, tomatoes and cabbages throughout the Bay area, but with each new bridge across the rivers and creeks of both the Virginia and Maryland sides of the Chesapeake, and the advent of a more efficient highway system and refrigerated trucks, Iva's effectiveness in the transport of products from the point of harvest to distant markets diminished.