WASHINGTON – A typical Saturday evening at National Harbor is busy — to say the least. But take a step onto the skipjack Minnie V. and all of that bustle seems to fade away.

The sailboat, made in 1906, is a relic from an era when the oyster business dominated Maryland’s Chesapeake Bay and quick-moving skipjacks could efficiently dredge the bay floor for oysters.

As the boat motors away from National Harbor, Capt. Andrew Samworth describes a river far different from today. Once abundant, oysters kept the brackish water so clear “you could look down 30 feet.”

Far from shore, the engine is turned off and the mammoth sail is raised up the 57-foot-tall mast. It is a wonderfully quiet moment that enables everyone to take in the scene — a fiery sunset over suburban Alexandria, Va., a soft breeze filling the sail. In the distance, just past the Woodrow Wilson Bridge, is the D.C. skyline.

The boat’s path depends largely on the wind, but it can go as fast as seven knots. The ride lasts 90 minutes to two hours, and Samworth and his crew keep the group of 18 entertained with tales of the river’s past.

At its peak in the 1880s, oysters were in demand and the Potomac was bursting with them. Immigrants, drunks and anyone else whom captains could coerce would be put to work on the boats.

“Oysters were like the gold rush,” Samworth said.