Chesapeake Shipbuilding owner Charles A. Robertson honored

The National Maritime Historical Society recently held its annual awards dinner at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Among those honored with a Distinguished Service Award for contributions to the preservation of America’s maritime legacy was Chesapeake Shipbuilding and American Cruise Lines owner Charles A. Robertson.

Also honored were Chesapeake Bay seafood restaurant owner, Steve Phillips, and Enterprise rental car heir Andrew Taylor.

Robertson is best known to WorkBoat readers as the builder of the Baltimore-based Vane Brothers’ Sassafras-class tugs at his Salisbury, Md. shipyard. In a video shown at the awards dinner, shipyard president, Tony Severn praised Roberson’s remarkable eye and hands-on leadership at the yard, which he visits frequently.

The last time I visited Chesapeake Shipbuilding, Robertson was eager to get out of the conference room and walk through a nearly complete cruise ship and a set of three tugs in varying states of completion. He stopped and greeted many employees by name and was genuinely proud of bringing good-paying skilled jobs to Maryland’s struggling eastern shore.

Robertson’s American Cruise Lines pioneered small ship cruising on U.S. waterways. Many of the tours have an historical theme celebrating the Mississippi River of Mark Twain and the Pacific Northwest of Lewis and Clark. Another venture, Pearl Seas Cruises will begin cultural trips to Cuba beginning next spring.

About the author

Kathy Bergren Smith

Kathy Bergren Smith has been a correspondent with WorkBoat since 2002. She is also a writer and photographer for the Port of Baltimore Magazine covering shipping and port activities. Smith, also a noted commercial and fine art photographer, resides in Annapolis, Md.


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    Kathy I think you should check your facts before writing. I believe Luther Blount from Blount Marine and American Canadian Line (now Blount Small Ship Adventures) was responsible for the claim of “Pioneered small ship cruising on U.S. waterways” when they developed the market back in 1966. Just thought it was appropriate to get the facts correct and give credit where credit is DUE. However; copying is the highest form of flattery. 😉

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    Peter is correct. Luther Blount, of Warren, RI, was indeed the first on the east coast to operate inland water overnight passenger cruises with his 42 passenger boat, the Mount Hope. I was a passenger on one of that boat’s early cruises on the Intracoastal Waterway from Florida to Rhode Island in 1970. It’s interesting to note that before Mr. Robertson started his own company (originally operating day boat trips on the Connecticut River and Long Island Sound), he was an employee of Mr. Blount, working as captain of the Mount Hope on a 5000 mile circumnavigation of the eastern US in the fall of 1970, a trip on which I was fortunate enough to be a crew member.

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