Skipjacks are the last working boats under sail in the United States. In winter, fleets of skipjacks used to dredge oysters from the floor of Chesapeake Bay. "Drudgin," as watermen called this process, was hard, cold, dirty, sometimes dangerous work.
Skipjack under sail on Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Marion E. Warren (Marion E. Warren Collection, MSA SC1890-BP7506, Maryland State Archives).
Skipjack Norman Lewis docked at Annapolis harbor, Annapolis, Maryland, April 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
Bow of Skipjack H. M. Krentz, St. Michaels, Maryland, February 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In November 1999, the skipjack fleet was selected as "Treasure of Month" in the Save Maryland's Treasures program of the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000. The Commission's Save our Skipjacks Task Force explored ways to preserve the fleet and, indeed, the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Fleet has been recognized as a national treasure in danger of extinction. On June 6, 2002, the Fleet was named to the 2002 list of America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In July 2003, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark as a national historic landmark. The 117-year-old Rebecca T. Ruark is the oldest vessel in the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Fleet.
Skipjack races are held each Labor Day weekend in the lower Chesapeake, off Deal Island, Somerset County.
July 1, 2009
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