Years spent living around boats and the water. A love of centuries-old history, and learning new skills. The chance to meet people from throughout the East Coast, the nation and the world. These are just a few reasons why Lloyd Devigne decided to become a docent volunteer at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, located on 18 waterfront acres at Navy Point, in St. Michaels, Maryland. Devigne is one of over 250 active volunteers supporting the non-profit Museum. What’s more, there are opportunities for new volunteers.
“No experience is required. Volunteers need not have an intense knowledge of the Bay or maritime activities beforehand, but merely have a desire to learn about the Chesapeake Bay and the Museum, and the time to commit to a weekly shift. The Museum is particularly in need of individuals who are able to volunteer on weekends or who enjoy working with the public, especially school children,” explains Tracey Munson, the Museum’s vice president of communication.
Devigne spends much of his some 300 to 400 annually volunteered hours taking groups of 15 or so for a one and a half-hour tour around to the museum exhibits, sharing stories of the Chesapeake along the way.
“There are water-oriented opportunities for volunteers since we are a maritime museum,” says Devigne. “We maintain a floating fleet of historic vessels. One of these, the 1920-built 65-foot buy boat, the Winnie Estelle, takes visitors out on the Miles River for a 30-minute cruise while we interpret what visitors see, ranging from sea life, birds, and historic buildings to the working watermen…trying to make a living from the waters around us. When the opportunity came up to become a crew member/interpreter, I jumped at the chance….[Then] I took the necessary courses, passed the required exams and obtained a U.S. Coast Guard Master’s license, and now serve as captain. I also help to train the crew. It is a most fulfilling volunteer activity.”
Mary Sue Traynelis started volunteering in 2007 after she and her husband moved to St. Michaels from California. Traynelis helped out exclusively in the Museum’s working boatyard alongside shipwrights and apprentices who taught her skills such as how to lay a keel, and to steam and bend wood. One of the Museum’s most popular programs is Apprentice For a Day in the public boat building program. Here, under the direction of the Museum’s staff and volunteers, anyone age 16 or older can sign up to be part of an entire 17-week process, or take just those classes for skills they want to learn. Today, Traynelis wears many hats.
“One day I could be in the boat shop, the next day recruiting new members at one of our annual festivals, and the day after, playing a game of Jenga with a group of school children,” Traynelis says, “where the wooden blocks they use to build towers several feet tall are stamped with pictures of crabs, oysters and grasses (for example), that show how each of these is integrated into our surrounding eco-system.”
There are several husband and wife teams of volunteers. One of these is Pat and Kirby Scott. Pat volunteers each Wednesday afternoon in the administrative office responding to phone calls, greeting visitors who have appointments with staff, and sending out membership mailings. Her husband Kirby says, “I am usually at the Museum twice a week, once for a general meeting of the model boat guild, and then to prepare the children’s model boat kits sold at the Museum store. One of my favorite experiences is the children’s model boat building at the Museum’s festivals throughout the year.”
To volunteer at the Museum requires an annual eight-session 20-hour total training course taught by the Museum staff as well as other Chesapeake Bay non-profit professionals. Basic instruction includes Chesapeake history, interpretive techniques, and Museum information and logistics. A mentoring program teams new volunteers with seasoned docents. Upon graduation, docents are asked to commit to one 4-hour shift weekly.
“Volunteers remain an integral part of the success of the Museum, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2015,” says Munson. “Nothing could have been accomplished in these last 50 years without their help, including our on-the-water programs, historic boat restorations, festivals, collections management and upkeep to our gardens, buildings and grounds. We rely on the help of volunteers, and in return, they feel great, knowing that their help has made the difference in delivering an excellent guest experience here every day.”
For more information, visit www.cbmm.org