Virginia designated the classic Chesapeake Bay deadrise workboat as the official state boat in 1988. During the first half of the 20th Century, a fleet of these boats worked the Chesapeake for oysters.
Simple but elegant, the deadrise was built specifically to work the shallow, choppy waters of the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers. Many watermen built their own boats, with unique variations on the basic design (differences in craftsmanship, materials, and detail).
The origin of the use of the term “deadrise” has created debate. The late Frances Haynie of Northumberland County built boats most of his life and said the term deadrise was related to dead wood. When building the vee in a Chesapeake Bay deadrise, short boards called “staving” are used. Haynie referred to the ends of staving wood that were cut off to even out the vee as dead wood.
The most popular theory though is that dead is a colloquial term to denote a straight rise, thus the term deadrise. An official definition of deadrise is the “dead” straight rise of the wood from the keel rabbet (where the staving attaches to the keel) to the chine. The chine is a seam where longitudinal side planks and the vertical cross planks come together.
Over time, the use of the word deadrise became more associated with the entire boat than in the vee-planking and cross-planked bottoms. That is why today people refer to the vee-bottom and cross-planked boat, in a general way, as the Chesapeake Bay deadrise.
Deadrise boats ranged in size from 12 feet to over 100 feet.