At that time, the General Assembly noted that: ". . . Recent efforts to restore the environmental integrity of the Chesapeake Bay have rekindled interest and appreciation in the majestic estuary as not only an economic asset but also as the foundation for a way of life for many Marylanders; and . . . Nothing better represents the way of life of Maryland watermen than the historic Chesapeake Boat known as the Skipjack . . ."
Skipjack under sail on Chesapeake Bay. Photo by Marion E. Warren (Marion E. Warren Collection, MSA SC1890-BP7506, Maryland State Archives).
Skipjack Norman Lewis docked at Annapolis harbor, Annapolis, Maryland, April 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
On Maryland's Eastern Shore, the skipjack originated in the 1890s. It was better known as a small "two-sail bateau" with a V-hull. The craft evolved into a larger, hearty skipjack, powerful in light winds. Ranging in length from 25 to 50 feet, these boats have a shallow draft with centerboard and carry a single mast, two-sail sloop rig.
Bow of Skipjack H. M. Krentz, St. Michaels, Maryland, February 2005. Photo by Diane F. Evartt.
In November 1999, the skipjack fleet was selected as "Treasure of Month" in the Save Maryland's Treasures program of the Maryland Commission for Celebration 2000. The Commission's Save our Skipjacks Task Force explored ways to preserve the fleet and, indeed, the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Fleet has been recognized as a national treasure in danger of extinction. On June 6, 2002, the Fleet was named to the 2002 list of America's Eleven Most Endangered Historic Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In July 2003, the U.S. Department of the Interior designated the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark as a national historic landmark. The 117-year-old Rebecca T. Ruark is the oldest vessel in the Chesapeake Bay Skipjack Fleet.
Skipjack races are held each Labor Day weekend in the lower Chesapeake, off Deal Island, Somerset County.
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