CLARENCE CROCKETT (skipjack)
Lower Thorofare, Wenona, Somerset County
This vessel is a 44.6'-long two-sail bateau, or V-bottomed deadrise type of centerboard sloop, commonly referred to as a skipjack. She was built in 1908 in Deep Creek, Virginia, and has sailed in the oyster-dredging fleet since then. She is built in typical Bay fashion using cross-planked construction methods. She has a beam of 14.7' and a depth of 3.0' with a net registered tonnage of 7. She carries a typical skipjack rig of jib-headed mainsail and large jib. The vessel has a longhead (clipper) bow and a square transom stern. The wooden hull is painted the traditional white and is sheathed with metal against ice at the waterline. This vessel has a longhead bow with a straight, slightly raking stem and a square, or transom, stern. The transom is steeply raking with the rudder hung outboard on pintles and a jig for the pushboat to the starboard side. There are guards on the hull to protect it from the dredges. The single mast is slightly raked aft and finished bright. The mast is rigged with double shrouds, adjusted by turnbuckles rather than the more traditional deadeyes, a forestay, and a jibstay. There is a topping lift leading to the end of the boom, which is jawed to the mast. Both mainsail and jib are furled by means of lazyjacks. The mainsail is jib-headed and laced to the boom. The large jib carries a club on its foot. The bowsprit, rigged with double chain bobstays and chain bowsprit shrouds. is slightly bowed down and is painted white. In addition to its sail rig the skipjack carries a motorized pushboat, suspended over the stern on davits. The vessel is flush-decked with several deck structures. These include: a wheel-box located against the after rail, a cabin trunk with an added "doghouse" with six small horizontal windows and a full-length door; and a small fore hatch. The cabin has a single round port on either side. There is a box covering the winder engines and a sampson post, with winch heads, on the foredeck. The deck is surrounded by a low pinrail atop a solid lograil forward, and a higher pinrail aft. The boat is open amidships where the dredges come aboard over rollers. Other gear includes oyster dredging equipment--dredges, winders, and winder engines.
This vessel is significant as being one of the 36 surviving traditional Chesapeake Bay skipjacks and a member of the last commercial sailing fleet in the United States. Out of a fleet of hundreds of skipjacks that worked Bay waters in the early years of the 20th century, today only this small number remain to carry on the tradition of working sail. The skipjack evolved as a distinct type of Bay vessel in the 1890s as a cheaper-to-construct alternative to the earlier bugeyes and other traditional framed craft, in a period when shipbuilding costs were rising and the oyster catch was diminishing. The type was devised by enlarging (to 25' to 60') the hull of the ordinary, unframed, square-sterned Bay crabbing skiff, and giving it a deadrise bottom, a-deck, a cabin, and a sloop rig. The result--with its unframed, hard chine, cross-planked, V-bottom-proved inexpensive to build, easy to repair, and could be constructed by a competent house carpenter. Skipjacks were specifically designed as oyster dredge boats, with wide beams and low freeboard lending stability and providing a large working space on deck. The single masted rig, with sharp-headed mainsail and large jib, was easy to handle, powerful in light winds, and handy in coming about quickly for another pass over the oyster beds. CLARENCE CROCKETT is of interest as being one of the older skipjacks still dredging in the Chesapeake fleet. She was built in 1908 in Deep Creek, Virginia following traditional Bay-area design and construction methods. She has worked in the oyster-dredging fleet since her building and is presently based at Deal Island. The vessel is one of the 19 surviving working skipjacks to have been built previous to 1912, although, like the other members of the fleet, she has been much repaired over the years. A most recent addition includes an added "doghouse" with windows and a full-length door, an improvement designed to make the helm more comfortable for the skipper.