REBECCA T. RUARK (skipjack)
Gibsontown Road, Tilghman, Talbot County
This vessel is a 47.3' long, round-bottomed centerboard sloop rigged as a skipjack, and commonly referred to as a skipjack. She was built in 1896 in Taylor's Island, Maryland, and is fore-and-aft planked, in contrast to other vessels in the skipjack dredging fleet which are of cross-planked construction. According to her owner, she may have been built to carry a schooner rig. She has a beam of 15.7', a depth of 3.7', and a net registered tonnage of 10 tons. She carries a typical skipjack rig of jib-headed mainsail laced to the boom and carried on white-painted wood hoops at the mast, and a single large jib with a club on its foot. The hull is painted the traditional white. In shape the vessel has a longhead bow with a raking straight stem and hollow, clipper-like bow lines. Her transom stern is shallow and well raked with some tumblehome; it is carried fully out of the water without the "tuck" at the transom/chine line seen on most cross-planked skipjacks. This feature gives the vessel a long afterdeck. Her rudder is carried inboard. There is a jib for the pushboat in the center of the transom. The vessel is flush decked, with a spacious deck layout. From the stern forward deck structures include: a steering-gear box placed well forward of the after-rail; a tall cabin with a sliding hatch cover (slide) and three square windows; a hatch with a box for the winders fitted partially over it; a main cargo hatch; and a slant-topped cuddy hatch on the foredeck forward of the mast. Other fittings include oystering gear, rollers for the dredges, a capstan mounted on the sampson post, and pipe-rail around the decks. There are davits for the pushboat at the stern. The single mast is well raked aft, and is set up with shrouds and turnbuckles, a jibstay, forestay, and topping lift; the forestay is adjusted with deadeyes. The bowsprit is rounded, with wooden grips along its length; it is set up with double bobstays of chain and cable, and chain bowsprit shrouds. The vessel is decorated with trailboards on the longhead, with the name REBECCA T. RUARK in gold on a black lozenge, a green background, and an eagle/flag/shield/ arrow motif in red, white, blue, and gold; red stripes, leaves, vines, and shields fill in the trailboards. There is a gold eagle billet-head on the longhead. The hull is decorated with a red stripe parallel to the sheer but below it. There are carved nameboards at the bow and further aft on the hull, with the name in yellow paint on a black ground and daisy wheels at the ends. There is a black-on-white nameboard on the transom.
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. REBECCA RUARK is of interest as being one of the oldest skipjacks still dredging in the Chesapeake fleet. She was built in 1896 in Taylor's Island, Maryland, and last rebuilt in Deltaville, Virginia, in 1969. She is unusual among the oyster-dredging fleet because, although she carries a typical skipjack rig, she is round-bottomed and fore-and-aft planked, instead of the more typical cross-planked, V-bottom construction. The round- bottomed boat is very strongly built in comparison to the V-bottom type, but, due to her age, little remains of her original construction. The vessel is one of the 21 surviving working skipjacks to have been built previous to 1912 and one of only 2 surviving to have been built previous to 1900. REBECCA RUARK has enjoyed a reputation as the best dredger in the state of Maryland.