Stanfords Marina – A Barn Find Marina?

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As we reported yesterday, we set out to go see what may have been a cool set of classic boats tucked away in a local marina. What unfolded was far far more fun. The destination, Colonial Beach Virginia, just a tad over an hour from Washington, DC on the Virginia shore of Potomac River. Colonial Beach is a small beach side community that has been a fun summer hangout for over 100 years.

This vintage postcard could have been shot yesterday

It’s a tad off the main road though, and when you arrive in town.. You are hit with an over whelming feeling that you have slipped back in time. There is even an old metal diner on the corner.. Nothing has been slicked up either by the last ten years of over development. It’s the real deal.

So you can image the excitement as we arrived to our destination. Stanford Marine Railway. The first thing you notice when you pull up is that, this is one very nice business set up if you are into wood boats.

This is a composite picture taken from the Stanford home right across the street. That is the office and store on the left and a killer workshop on the right.

Arial shot showing the slips, covered boat slips and workshops.

Clarence Stanford was one of the top boat builders in the mid Atlantic. His work and pleasure boats are still in use in the area. And this was his home base. Sadly we lost Clarence in 2006 and from what it looked like, time stopped at the marina. One turn of the key into the Marina office and you would have trouble trying to tell someone what year it was outside.

Even some of the inventory is frozen in time. Amazing.

Amazing displays still in use. The Picker in me wanted to take the entire place home. But it all belongs here. In its home still being used.


Even if you want to go boating here, you only have to obide by rules from 1998.. The local cops would understand.

This sign on the wall says far more than what the business hours are. Clarence was known in the area for having a fantastic sense of humor. And it showed all around the place

The walls are full of parts, head gaskets, belts, all of it. Fully stocked to help keep your boat going. I would imagine they have that part you cant find. And I am sure they know where every part is.

Cases of old NOS chrome throttles

Can't find a nice new set of plastic numbers for your wood boat? Here ya go.

Lots of cool parts ready to go. Like you walked into the shop in 1973, bell bottoms and all

Just open the door and you are in the small workshop. OH GOD another Chris Craft. This shop is full of cool tools and a bunch of chairs that the guys that work there use. You can tell that this is the hang out spot in the Marina. There is also an elevator to put stuff up in the top area.

Just one of the boxes laying around the workshop. Yes that says Black and Decker.

Out the back door of the workshop and the lift and open slips are visible. It looked like there were over 30-40 slips, still in use. Lots of cool local wood work boats.

Then into the large work area. Yes its a mess, but look closely and you will see its got a rail in the center so you can bring your boat into the shop. The shop was full of cool hard core tools, and small wood working tools. AMAZING.

One of the many large tools that are needed to make life that much better.

One of the hundreds of smaller yet much needed tools all set aside in there place

Mary Virginia Stanford is still around and full of energy and running the show.  Mary Virginia and Clarence have been running the marina since 1945.

Clarence and Mary Virgina back when they met. Clarence in his Navy uniform.

To say there is a lot of history in this place is an understatement. It’s still of a living marina living the lifestyle that is a way of life when wood boats ruled the seas. And as we found out.. For Sale. Dear god, is this the next evolution of Woody Boater? All the emotions of a barn find boat amplified times 1000.. Not just an old Chris Craft barn find, but a fully stocked inventory of parts, flags, letters, books, wood working tools, wood, tools, all of it. Right there included in the sale. Working rentable slips, two marine railways, one that goes into a massive workshop. It goes on and on.. It was mind blowing. You really feel the history and more importantly feel the humor and love that this family poured into the Marina. This was far more than just real estate, or a business, this is the living breathing embodiment of the Stanford Family. You would not just be buying a cool piece of property or a business, but a way of life.

Did I mention an entire building full of wood, glorious wood, a work truck and the Chris Craft U22 ready to go in the water.

If you think, hey Woody boater why don’t you get this place? Don’t think for a second that it has not occupied every part of my pea brain all weekend. I almost did not do this article for that reason. This may be one of the few times where anyone gets a chance like this. No one has screwed up the place. And there won’t be many opportunities like this ever again. Where a place has not been changed or picked apart. It’s more than a marina, it’s what heaven must be like.

One of the cool wood models just laying around the place.

What a privilege to be able to see such a cool place, to be able to go back and feel what it was like to work and live this life. Not in a cleaned up museum sort of way where you are taken through a image of what it was like behind a rail. But to see it in all its clutter, with engines still on there motor stands apart. The imperfection of history is always richer than the pasteurized restored version. I wanted to just shrink wrap the place to save it. But that’s not realistic. What is realistic is for someone to continue the marinas destiny. To restore, or preserve the place. To be a cool place where wood boat lovers can gather near Washington DC. where people that appreciate history and the lifestyle that woody boats are all about can get there classic boats worked on.  Washington DC and the area surrounding have no such place. Here we are in one of the most historic places in the US, with one of the strongest economies in the US, Colonial Beach is ripe for a restoration , and this Marina, could be a focal point of that preserved image. So if you have a pile of mula and want to check out of this century and take it to the next level. Click here and let the varnish engulf you.





20 replies
  1. Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy
    Randy Rush-Captain Grumpy says:

    Interesting place, looks just like my favorite marina in NH Fays. The listing price is like 80% more than the assesse price. In NH were lucky to get the assessed price for RE. How much is the inventory worth?

  2. RiverRat
    RiverRat says:

    The sights are amazing, the sounds and smells must be too. Look at all the storage you would gain if one just straightened the piles. How many boats could be saved? With Powerball tickets doubling in price the dream only gets more expensive. Buy now think later.

  3. matt
    matt says:

    This artical does not do this place justice. There is a mountain of space, the large workshop is on the water and you could fit all soerts of stuff in there, including a nice cruiser if you liked. Its all there set up. 60 years of experence and refinement. The mess is actually in a way a sort of controled chaos. If you cleaned it up and worked there for a while it would most likley wind up just like this.

  4. Greg Lewandowski
    Greg Lewandowski says:

    Great story. It was extra special for me, as the first shot inside the work shop looks like the 30ft. CC sedan that my uncle had on Lake St. Clair back in the day when I was a kid. Great memories of that boat!


  5. matt
    matt says:

    A funny story from Mary Virginia regarding the cruiser. They had a person that wanted to sell it, as he said, he could throw some plastic in it and sell it. She said, no way, nothing leaves this place half way done, it’s done right or not done at all.. DANG.. I fell in love at that second. She is amazing.

  6. Frank Miklos
    Frank Miklos says:

    Love the cans… think we have some of the light blue ones..
    The plastic numbers, the marina at Sayer Marina at Buckeye Lake had the same display… A few years ago.. I think it is closed down now…

  7. Anonymus
    Anonymus says:

    Just thinkin’ here…Clear off all those old buildings and you could squeeze maybe 25 condo’s in…….

  8. matt
    matt says:

    And a mini mall.. Dont forget the mini mall with tanning salons and check cashing stores.. Its a money maker for sure. Dear god..

    • Rick
      Rick says:

      Call it the Marina Mall. Put the U-22 on the roof as a display (don’t ever cover it and allow the leaves to rot inside, hey didn’t a town do that to a famous persons boat already?) and use all that extra mahogany piled in the workshop to panel the food court.

    • matt
      matt says:

      This reminds me of the old saying from Steve Martin regarding making a million Dollars without paying taxes..

      You can be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes! You say.. “Steve.. how can I be a millionaire.. and never pay taxes?” First.. get a million dollars. Now.. you say, “Steve.. what do I say to the tax man when he comes to my door and says, ‘You.. have never paid taxes’?” Two simple words. Two simple words in the English language: “I forgot!”

  9. John Rothert
    John Rothert says:

    I feel like Matt sent the world the map to heaven. Many of us in Virginia, and in the Tidewater Charpter of the ACBS…back in the day…Know Stanford’s well and cherish the place. We used to have meetings there because our fearless leader, Bill Bowman, kept his boat there (still does I think…) and knew Clarence and his family. Sadly, Clarence’s grandson that had an interest in continuing the tradition, died quite young.
    The sheds and parts and especially the atmosphere and the TOOLS are breathtaking to the WoodyBoater.
    That railway could pull multiple boats end on end up into the covered shed. When they got new stationary tools they just shoved the old ones against the wall and carried on. Unreal early stationary tools there. Colonial Beach was once a rockin place, boats brought DC types to gamble on the pier…it was out OVER the Potomac, thus in Maryland…Va. did not allow folks to gamble….same today. Great place to cruise. (and I cruised again this weekend on the Bay!!!). We should have a Boat Buzz Unplugged event there, in the spring perhaps??? Get you cold bloods back to Virginia. Clarence built himself a really cool personal yacht that stayed there for years, he intended to cruise more than he ever got the chance to. Soud familiar? Go BOATING….try Colonial Beach!
    Thanks Matt….I guess ? secret’s out
    John in Va.

  10. matt
    matt says:

    The crowds are gathering now. Sorry john, no more room for you.. All the slips are full, you had your chance.. What a cool place for meetings and working on your boat..

  11. Big Black Hole Where You Dump Your Tax Dollars
    Big Black Hole Where You Dump Your Tax Dollars says:

    Mr. Smith. Taxman here. That joke you made? We’re looking into it.

  12. matt
    matt says:

    What joke, thats another matt.. and steve martin, and well.. is that my wife i hear.. Yes dear.. gotta go

  13. kfd
    kfd says:

    I spent my childhood there, my family and I lived on a 1948 Trumpy. I couldn’t ask for a better upbringing. The famed author Sloan Wilson lived there as well. In fact, I think you fellas might have passed by the forlorn 23′ 1961 Chris kit that resides on the south side of the storefront. I have been meaning to pick that thing up for the past fifteen years now! I am glad to know Mary Virginia is still around. I remember Clarence, and yes, he had a real wry sense of humor. Thanks for the nostalgic trip down memory lane!

  14. Jim Schafer
    Jim Schafer says:

    The Standford’s entered my life in 96 when I was introduced to my first wooden boat. Looking for a cheap way to live at NAS Patuxent River while testing the MV-22, I was convinced that buying a 1964 40 foot Owens for $3,500 that needed a little bottom work was the way to go. Clarence told me she could be rebuilt. As I power washed the barnacles off, I blew a 5 foot hole through the starboard quarter. As I was trembling in my shoes, Clarence assured me that everything would be fine. There was nothing Clarence could not construct, reconstruct, manufacture, re-manufacture, weld, rebuild, fix, repair, tune, tighten. As a master craftsman, he was equally talented as a carpenter and machinist. Clarence took me under his wing and taught me how to re plank and rebuild a wooden boat. As a boat builder/shipwright, he was the equivalent of Chesty Puller to the Marines. Under his careful watch, 9 months later (oddly enough, yes 9 months), my Owens saw water again.
    Without question or any uncertainty, all knew who ran the Marina. Mary Virginia is all of 5’6,” however, you would rather cross a 6’5” rough neck before crossing Mary Virginia. My first week there, I made the mistake of calling her Mary. She allowed me to do this twice before hanging myself. She stopped me in my tracks and said in a very bold tone, “My NAME is Mary Virginia!” I settled with “Yes Mam” for a good while. When Clarence had his stroke, Mary Virginia was a power house. She looked after her soulmate and ran the yard without skipping a beat. I asked Clarence if I could take his bride out on a date, and he gave me his blessing. Mary Virginia looked like a million dollars when I picked her up. Betty White ain’t got noth’n on Mary Virginia. We went to Claiborne’s in Fredericksburg and had dinner and even danced.
    I grew fond of their grandson Stephan as I watched him develop as a craftsman from his high school years until is tragic passing at the age of 27. I wanted to see him carry on with the Stanford legacy.
    Lastly, I am very blessed with all the friends I made over the last 16 years of visiting Stanford Marine Railway and Colonial Beach and will not even try to make a list of names.

    To Clarence and Mary Virginia – thank you for being my friend and taking such good care of me! Love You!

  15. matt
    matt says:

    It’s a very rare deal here at Woodyboater to have such fondness and good feelings poured out for anyone or anyplace. This place as i said, is far far more than just another marina. It has all the good vibes from a good life put into it. It’s almost impossible to capture such things in stories like this. WOW, the web makes this a very very small world indeed.

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