About nine years ago, after extensive research, the Calvert Marine Museum opened a new exhibit highlighting the Golden Era of Powerboat Racing in Southern Maryland. The primary focus of their exhibit was the racing period between 1940 – 1980 where thousands of spectators would attend the races along the shorelines of the Potomac and the Patuxent Rivers and cheer on their favorite boat.
To celebrate the opening of this exhibit, in June 2013, a long overdue 40 year reunion of the members of the Southern Maryland Boat Club was held at the museum. Expecting a gathering of 100 or less, our hosts, the Calvert Marine Museum’s Richard Dodds and Robert Hurry were pleasantly surprised with a turnout of nearly 300 “old racers” and friends.
What that told us was the love of boat racing was still in our veins and we needed to do something about that, and here we are!
We have been very fortunate to be invited to former race sites and new events such as the Antique Power Show at the Calvert Marine Museum, or being welcomed by the Town of Leonardtown to exhibit these beautiful boats in a display of thrills and spills in the waters of Historic Leonardtown Wharf. These boats and their motors range from the 1960’s to the 1980’s and as you can imagine, there is a lot of excitement to this returning sport.
The Southern Maryland Boat Club held its first planning meeting in 1957 at Capt. John Bean’s Fishing Center at Wynne to organize a group to oppose proposed legislation to license and regulate pleasure boats. At the point of organization, the club was founded under the name of the St. Mary’s County Boat Club and didn’t put much effort into the political agenda for which it was founded, but did hold several organized events. On July 28, 1957, Capt. John Bean’s Fishing Center hosted a crab feast that featured the first boat races by the club using peach baskets and inner tubes to make the race buoys.
SMBC sponsored racing events after that first race on July 28, 1957 through 1979 and in that time joined and operated under the Outboard Pleasure Craft (OPC) rules of the American Power Boat Association (APBA). Whether it was the oil embargo of the 1970’s or the aging out of the drivers, or if life simply happened, the Southern Maryland Boat Club went into hibernation until a warming ray of sunshine from the folks at the Calvert Marine Museum slowly awakened it’s old time members to return to their boats and start their engines! SMBC officially restarted in 2015.
In 2021 we added a hallowed site to our vintage schedule...Piney Point. This is the same location many knew as Swann's Pier in "downtown" Piney Point. It was an exciting return by old "racing members" and new members who remembered the summer Sunday afternoons spent there after church. Others were delighted to participate in the event after hearing all the stories from yesteryear. It is an excellent facility for both drivers/owners, organizers, advertisers, and our spectators to view the action.
We are a growing club with new boats each year. If you are interested in getting that old raceboat out of the barn and want to come play with us, please contact us via the website with what you have, and we will help get you headed in the right direction for an enjoyable and rewarding pastime.
For a more detailed history of boat racing in Southern Maryland, we encourage you to read “Thrills and Spills” written by Robert J. Hurry and Richard J. Dodds of the Calvert Marine Museum in Solomons, Maryland.