Photo credit: M.C. Wootton , 11/1984

Property Name: NELLIE L. BYRD (skipjack)
Date Listed: 5/16/1985
Inventory No.: T-538
Location: Gibsontown Road, Tilghman, Talbot County

Description: This vessel is a 53.6' long, two-sail bateau, or V-bottomed deadrise type of centerboard sloop, commonly referred to as a skipjack. Built in Oriole, Maryland, in 1911 for the oyster dredging fleet, she is Bay-built using cross-planked construction methods. She has a beam of 26.7', a depth of 4.8', and a net tonnage of 18 tons. She carries a typical skipjack rig with a jib-headed mainsail laced to the boom and carried on wood hoops at the mast, and a single large jib with a club on its foot. The hull is painted the traditional white. The vessel has a longhead bow with a slightly raking stem and a wide, square transom stern with considerable rake. The stern shows a long, shallow tuck where the chine meets the transom. The vessel is particularly wide amidships, giving her generous work space on deck. The rudder is carried outboard on pintles mounted on the transom and skeg; the jig for the pushboat is set on the starboard side of the transom. The hull has heavy ice sheathing carried well above the waterline. The boat is flush-decked. From the stern forward deck structures include: a box over the steering gear; a cabin with a slide offset to port; a small hatch; a box over the winders; a main hatch; and a medium-sized cuddy with a slide, located just aft of the mast. There is a low taffrail surrounding the deck, higher at the stern. The pipes of the rail and the davits for the pushboat are painted white. The single mast is well-raked aft, about 15 to 20 degrees, and is set up with double shrouds and turnbuckles. There are also a forestay, jibstay, topping lift, and lazyjacks. The boom is jawed to the mast; both mast and boom are natural oiled wood. The bowsprit is hexagonal, round at its end. It is set up with one chain and one cable bobstay, and two chain bowsprit shrouds. The boom is set high and is patched with metal strips. The pushboat is carried on pipe davits over the stern. Decorations include trailboards mounted on the longhead, with the name NELLIE L. BYRD in gold on a green field with a red surround, and eagle, flag, and arrow motifs on the nameboards at the bow, the name is painted red on a black ground. There is a painted eagle billet-head on the longhead.

Significance: This vessel is significant as being one of the 35 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 this century, today only this small number remain to carry on the tradition of working sail. NELLIE BYRD is of interest as being one of the older skipjacks still dredging in the Chesapeake fleet. She was built in 1911 in Oriole, Maryland, following traditional Bay-area design and construction methods. She has worked in the oyster-dredging fleet since her building. For many years NELLIE BYRD was owned by Capt. William Todd of Cambridge and, at 53 1/2' long, was the largest skipjack in Dorchester County. A trio of skipjacks, owned and skippered by the Todd family, was for many years based in Cambridge. Capt. William Todd's brother Wilson owned the SALLY BRAMBLE and his brother Emerson, the REBECCA T. RUARK.




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