Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks

I shot this photo of a Skipjack off Oxford, MD last Saturday. She was carrying what looked like charter guests for a sunset sail under fair skies and a light breeze.

As this article details, the Skipjack was introduced to the Chesapeake in the 1890s and became the preferred oyster dredge boat. By some estimates nearly two thousand Skipjacks were built, all specifically designed for dredging oysters from the Chesapeake Bay. The peak building years were during the 1890s and the first decade of the 20th century.

Skipjacks carry a sail design known as the "Leg-O-Mutton" Sloop Rig consisting of a main sail and a jib. The standard design formula calls for a mast height which is the same the as length of the vessel on deck, plus the width of the beam. According to legend, no Skipjack was ever built from a formal set of plans, but rather by "rack of the eye". They were developed from the lines of the Chesapeake Bay Log Canoe, the Brogan, and the famous Clipper Ships. They are unique to the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The few remaining skipjacks still dredge oysters under sail during the fall and winter oyster season on the Chesapeake Bay.

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