The CBMM Dreamboats

By Sandra Zunino

On Saturday, September 5 this year, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum (CBMM) will be a flurry of activity for spectators and boat lovers alike at the 12th Annual Boat Auction.

This popular event run by Lad Mills has grossed more than $200,000 per year for the past three years with every penny going to the CBMM’s operating budget. Lad came on board in 2001, and has been running the museum’s boat donation program fulltime ever since.

It started years ago when someone donated a boat to the museum that was not suitable for the collection, according to Lad. “They sold it with the profit going to the museum,” he says. “Then it caught on from there.”

Almost 1,500 participants attended the event last year with a record-breaking 74 vessels auctioned. About 300 participants purchased bidder’s tickets.

Boats range from six-foot homemade dinghies to 40-foot cruisers and sailboats with prices spanning $10 to $140,000. “It’s a bargain shot for everyone looking for a boat to fix up and sell, a first boat or one more boat for their fleet,” says Lad. “We have classic boats, home-built boats, factory-built boats, boats in dire need of rehabilitation and boats that are in pristine condition.”

As an absolute auction, there is no reserve. “If a boat goes for a ridiculously low price, so be it,” says Lad. “When I go home that day, I have zero inventory.”

The CBMM accepts and sells donated boats 365 days a year. The auction is a way to clear out boats that have not been sold and sell boats that are donated specifically for the auction.

Donating a boat serves two purposes. It removes a boat from a boatyard that the owner can no longer use and provides a tax write-off for the amount the CBMM sells the boat. Boatyard fees and insurance can mount up to thousands of dollars a year. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone,” says Lad.

“There is no cost or expenses out of it,” he assures. “We take a boat in and complete all the paperwork. The donors receive documents they can give to their accountants.”

After evaluating a boat to ensure its marketability, Lad will pick up the boat from the boatyard, home or marina. “We’ve picked them up all up and down the east coast,” says Ladd. “I travel a lot getting boats.”

Additionally, the CBMM has delivered boats as far away as California and even Europe. In the boating business for more than 15 years, Ladd knows a great deal about boats of all sizes and types including power and sailboats.
While the auction begins at 1:00 p.m., bidders arrive as early as 6:30 a.m. to inspect the vessels and are encourage to bring marine surveyors or boat-savvy friends. Bidders are allowed to inspect a boat a few days before the auction and can preview boats on the CBMM website.

“People want to look at the boats before buying,” says Ladd. “A whole lot of tire kicking is done trying to figure out what they want.”

Local auctioneer, Herb Andrew donates his services for the event. The CBMM accepts cash, checks and credit cards to pay for the boats. As a Maryland boat dealer, the CBMM collects taxes and handles registration and other paperwork on site.

For more information, visit To donate or purchase boats, contact Ladd Mills at 410-745-2916 ext. 112 or