HILDA M. WILLING (skipjack)
Gibsontown Road, Tilghman, Talbot County
The Chesapeake Bay skipjack HILDA M. WILLING, official number 202528, is a historic working oyster dredge sailboat homeported in Tilghman Island, Maryland. Built in 1905 at Oriole, Maryland, she is 40' long, 14' wide, and has a depth of 3'-1". The hull is cross-planked with a sharp convex bow, flat transom, and hard chine. The clipper bow has a sharp raking stem with a curved longhead or cutwater beneath the bowsprit. Mounted on the longhead are hand-carved trailboards with a typical patriotic design. On the cheek boards is an American eagle sitting on a U.S. shield with a cannon, ram rod, and flag crossed at the bottom. On the long board are three U.S. shields separated first by the name of the vessel in yellow and then two leaf clusters painted green. The shields are painted red and white but where it should be blue it is painted black. The vessel name is also painted in yellow on black nameboards mounted just aft of the stem on the bow. The bowsprit is 18'-11" long, and painted white except for the forwardmost 6'-6" which is painted light tan. It measures 9" wide and 7' thick at the aft end. WILLING’s stem is square with the rudder mounted amidships on pintles. A jib or push block for the pushboat is mounted on the starboard side of the transom and is 17" wide and 24" high. There are guards mounted along the sides of the hull midships to protect the sides from bumping dredges. The hull is painted white. HILDA M. WILLING carries the standard skipjack rig of a jib-headed mainsail and a large jib. Her single mast has standing rigging of double shrouds which are adjustable by turnbuckles, a forestay, jib-stay, and topping lift.
The Chesapeake skipjack fleet is the last commercial sail powered fishing fleet in North America and the only 'cohesive' sailing fleet in the western hemisphere. Introduced to the Chesapeake Bay in the 1890s, the skipjack became the preferred oyster dredge boat. During the first quarter of this century the skipjack fleet numbered into the hundreds; today only about 35 have survived the hard demanding work of a sailing oyster dredge boat. Only 16 of those survive afloat. Among these HILDA M. WILLING retains essentially her physical appearance as originally built. WILLING is also one of the few early skipjacks which is in good physical condition, and represents one of the smaller and better sailing vessels of the fleet. Of the skipjacks that survive, two were determined worthy of NHL nomination, KATHRYN and HILDA M. WILLING. Among the skipjacks built prior to 1943, most either were in poor condition, or are no longer working as oyster dredge boats. E. C. COLLIER, one of the older boats, is now a display in dry storage. The better conditioned skipjacks such as LADY KATIE, HERNIAN M. KRENIZ, and ROSIE PARKS are younger than 50 years old. KATHRYN, represents one of the earliest extant and one of the few fore-and-aft planked skipjacks; while WILLING represents one the smaller, better maintained, and better sailing skipjacks.