Vernon St. George Hartge, 74, managed Galesville yacht yard


Vernon St. George "Buddy" Hartge, a former Galesville resident whose family's handcrafted vessels were prized by Chesapeake Bay yachtsmen, died Oct. 8 of respiratory failure at his home in Palatka, Fla. He was 74.

In 1978, he retired as general manager of the Hartge Yacht Yard in Galesville, the family business he operated with his brother and sister, and moved to Florida.

Mr. Hartge's ancestors immigrated to Shady Side in southern Anne Arundel County from Germany in the early 1800s. After making pianos, his great-grandfather, Emile Alexander Hartge, opened the boatyard in 1865 in Galesville.

"He began working in the yard as a kid and was closely associated with his Uncle Dick, who designed the Chesapeake 20, a 20-foot center board racing sloop that was especially designed for the bay's shoals," said a daughter, Edna-Wynne Hartge Raley of Galesville.

"They also designed and built the Onaway -- which is short for on-her-way -- which was a 22-foot power boat, and the Lil Onaway, used for crabbing and fishing," Mrs. Raley said.

Another daughter, Mary Tod Winchester of Galesville, said, "They converted in the 1960s from a working boatyard to doing repairs and maintenance and expanded into yacht brokerage."

Mr. Hartge's expertise was in fashioning hollow masts from Sitka spruce.

"He was a master at making these masts, which were hollow to lessen their weight," Mrs. Winchester said. "He could turn a mast in no time. Someone would break a mast, and he'd either repair it or make one from scratch in a week's time."

Mr. Hartge was known for his ability to quickly size up the type of repairs a boat needed, the weather and his penchant for racing.

"He loved challenges, was competitive and always wanted to be first," Mrs. Winchester said.

"He was hellbent last year to race one more time, and he did when he raced in the Chesapeake 20 race from Annapolis to West River," Mrs. Raley said.

Despite his illness and dependency on oxygen tanks, Mr. Hartge, with the help of a friend and a son-in-law, sailed his boat Endeavor to victory.

"He started last and came in first, and it was perhaps one of the most memorable events of his life," Mrs. Raley said. "It demonstrated his skills, determination, knowledge of the bay and strength of character."

"He had a curious way of steering," Mrs. Winchester said. "He'd hook his big and little toe on the tiller, which allowed him to move his head to see the sails and the deck while feeling the elements and the movement of the boat through his toes."

"He represents a piece of Southern Maryland that is no more. He stood for a way of life and boat-building traditions that are no more," said his son, William Preston Hartge of Galesville.

Born and raised in Galesville, Mr. Hartge was a graduate of Anne Arundel County schools. During World War II, he served in the Coast Guard aboard patrol boats and was discharged in 1945.

He was a founder of the Galesville Volunteer Fire Company, the West River Sailing Club and enjoyed hunting, fishing and bowling.

Services will be at 3 p.m. Saturday at Hartge Yacht Yard.

Other survivors include his wife of 49 years, the former Mardi Robinson; five brothers, Emile Hartge, Erwood Hartge and Robert Hartge, all of Galesville; Lawrence Hartge of Fernandina, Fla., and Henry Hartge of Huntington Beach, Calif.; two sisters, Alma H. Strong of Galesville and Elsie H. Wallace of West River; and six grandchildren.

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