VIRGINIA W. (skipjack)
Knapps Narrows, Tilghman, Talbot County
This vessel is a two-sail bateau, or V-bottomed deadrise type of centerboard sloop, with a typical skipjack rig. She measures 37.5' register length, meaning 49' on deck and 56' overall. Her beam is 13.5', and she draws 3.3' with centerboard up, 6' with centerboard down. Originally built in 1904 in Guilford, Virginia, by Harrison Lewis, she was extensively rebuilt in 1980-81, using predominately fir instead of the more usual local pine. She is cross-planked in typical Bay fashion. Fir was used for her sides, stem, stemline, and mast. Painted white, VIRGINIA W. has a longhead bow, with an almost-plumb stem; she is square-sterned, with a well-raked transom with some tuck to the corners of the chine. Her rudder is carried inboard; which is apparently unusual in such a small skipjack, but it may also reflect the practices of the era in which she was built. The vessel is flush-decked with several deck structures: a box over the steering gear on the afterdeck; a tall trunk cabin with a slide to port and a main hatch. Other fittings include a wheel original to the boat, made by "J.W. Neilly, Balto."; new rollers; original davits and steering gear. The winders are powered by a 4-cylinder Wisconsin air-cooled engine, located amidships. The pushboat, carried on davits, is 11' long by 4 1/2' feet wide, and is powered by a 6-cylinder Ford engine; there is a jig for it centered on the transom. The single mast is set up with little rake, rigged with double shrouds and turnbuckles, a forestay, and a jibstay. The boom, which is jawed to the mast, is new and of Norwegian spruce. The bowsprit, squared on top with wood runner-grips along its length, ends at a square sampson post; it is set up with chain bowsprit shrouds and a double chain bobstay. The rig is typical of skipjacks: a jib-headed dacron mainsail, laced to the boom and carried on wood mast-hoops, and a single large dacron jib with a small club on its foot. The vessel is decorated with trailboards: the name VIRGINIA W. in gold on a green background, with motifs of eagles and arrows, flags, a red-white-and-blue shield, all surrounded in black and gold.
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. VIRGINIA W. is of interest as being one of the older skipjacks still dredging in the Chesapeake fleet. She was built in 1904 in Guilford, Virginia, by Harrison Lewis following traditional Bay-area design and construction methods. She has worked in the oyster dredging fleet since her building. The vessel is one of the 21 surviving working skipjacks to have been built previous to 1912, although like most, she has been extensively repaired. VIRGINIA W. was extensively rebuilt by Tim Sterns in 1980-81 and like the STANLEY NORMAN is an example of a "nearly dead" vessel being brought back to life as an active oyster dredge boat. She is small for a skipjack and was built as a "100-bushel boat," meaning she can carry a 100 bushels of oysters on her deck.