Photo credit: M.C. Wootton , 11/1983

Property Name: KATHRYN (skipjack)
Date Listed: 5/16/1985
Inventory No.: T-532
Location: Gibsontown Road, Tilghman, Talbot County

Description: The Chesapeake Bay skipjack KATHRYN, official number 161189, is a historic working oyster dredge sailboat homeported in Tilghman Island, Maryland. Built at Crisfield, Maryland, in 1901, she is 50' long, 16'-8" wide, and has a depth of 4'-2". KATHRYN’s hull is a modification of the standard hard chine skipjack design. The hull has the same general form as a standard skipjack with a sharp convex bow, beamy midsection, and counter stem. The difference lies in that KATHRYN, like a few other skipjacks such as SUSAN MAY (1901) and MAGGIE LEE (1903), is planked fore-and aft with a rounded chine rather than having a hard chine and being planked athwartships in a herring-bone pattern. KATHRYN carries the traditional Chesapeake longhead or clipper bow with straight raking stem. The bowsprit is 22' long and sided 12" x 11" at the after inboard end. The forward 5 1/2' are varnished with the rest painted white. The ornamental trailboards mounted on the longhead identify the boat. The letters are hand-carved and gilded with vines and leaves worked into the design on each end. The flat background around the letters is painted maroon and the rest of the trailboard is dark green. An eagle figurehead is mounted at the end of the trailboards. KATHRYN also carries two sets of name boards on the hull, one pair just abaft the bow and the other near the stem. They are made of varnished mahogany with gold painted letters. There are hawse-holes in the knightheads on each side of the bow. The stem is a square or transom stem with a long overhang. The rudder is a plug rudder carried well inboard and beneath the transom on a round rudder stock. The hull is painted white with a red stripe painted along a bead cut in the sides beneath the guards (wales) located at midships to protect against the bumping of the dredges. A push plate to accommodate the bow of the push boat is mounted in the center of the transom of the skipjack. It is 12 1/2" wide, 31'-3" long, and is made of 2" stock. KATHRYN carries the standard skipjack rig or a jib-headed mainsail and a large jib. Her single wooden mast measures 12" in diameter at the deck and has wire standing rigging of double shrouds, a forestay, jib-stay, and topping lift. A gold leafed wooden ball is mounted on top of the 64' mast. All running rigging is nylon line. The mainsail is laced to a laminated, varnished boom and is carried on wooden hoops at the mast. The boom is jawed to the mast. The jib has a club along its foot and rigged out to the bowsprit. The bowsprit is set up with double chain bobstays and double chain bowsprit shrouds.

Significance: Soon after its introduction to the Chesapeake 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. Some have estimated 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. When the skipjack fleet was nominated to the National Register in 1985, it was estimated that 35 skipjacks existed; by 1993 only about sixteen survive afloat. MINNIE V is preserved by the City of Baltimore, Maryland, as a summer floating exhibit at the Inner Harbor. When oystering was profitable she was leased to watermen for winter dredging. ROSIE PARKS is maintained, interpreted, and sailed by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. They also use E. C. COLLIER as a dry storage exhibit. Echo Hill School has ELSWORTH, and the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum CLAUDE W. SOMERS. DEE OF ST. MARY’S, operated by Jackie Russell, is frequently used by the Chesapeake Bay foundation, which works with several captains and uses their skipjacks for educational excursions on the Bay. 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. KATHRYN has the distinction of being the best sailing skipjack in the fleet and is usually considered the favorite among the fleet's captains. She is good in light winds and excellent in heavy winds. As testimony to KATHRYN’s sailing qualities, she has come in either first or second place in her class in every skipjack race she has entered during Chesapeake Appreciation Days with the exception of one, where she came in third. Of the approximately 16 skipjacks that survive afloat, two were determined worthy of NHL nomination, KATHRYN and HILDA M. WILLING. Of the skipjacks built prior to 1943, most either were in poor condition, or 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, HERMAN M. KRENTZ, 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 of the smaller, better maintained, and better sailing skipjacks.




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