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Skipjack

By handlerstudio  
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In Maryland waters on the Chesapeake Bay, it is only legal to drag for oysters (pronounced arsters) under sail. The workboats are called skipjacks. The newest ones were built in the 1950s, the oldest still working were built in the late 1800s. They are all wood, mostly hard chined boats with huge mains'ls (that is, mainsails) with very long booms and relatively small jibs. They have immense power, not so much speed. For some reason, this one has a single reef in the main....funny, cause not a lot of wind. The small boats behind them are called push boats. The skipjacks have no engines. They were allowed to have motor assist one day a week. That power was the push boats. And if you look carefully at the water behind the push boat.it is under power....Visible both the boat on the water, and the Lady Katy at the dock in Cambridge MD. Their season is Nov. 15 to March 15...so they are sailing in the coldest dead of winter. And captaining a boat often passed from farther to son. At one time, Chrisfield MD was the busiest port in this country....and it was all shipping out oysters...which (as is human folly) seemed to be endlessly abundant in the Bay. The Chesapeake was at one time the richest estuary in the world. And then, over time, between viral diseases and over catching...they started to decline, and almost disappear, which is the case now. The water in the Bay used to be pretty clear, because oysters are filters. Not now...there are not enough. The skipjack fleet, as a commercial fleet probably had its last days in the late 1990s. These boats, of deep lore and history, survive now as charter boats, for people who want to experience a taste of the past, go out as tourists. At least, for those that do that, there can be the funds to keep them sailing. A few have gone into private hands (shown in the versions). It is a sad story. The blue crabs are still there. The watermen still go out in the warmer weather and catch them...and they are delicious and still mostly abundant. But not the oysters. They are close to gone. Some say they are making a small comeback..and if so...it will take years and years. And these boats will never fish again.

Peter

Tags: Photo journalism History Sailboats Oysters Cheapeake Bay Skipjacks

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Comments


Daisymaye Plus
12 23 18 Canada
23 Sep 2020 5:23AM
An interesting set Peter.
23 Sep 2020 6:06AM
Lovely set, Peter, and a great and interesting write-up about these boats and the 'arsters' which I hope make a successful come-back.
Mike
Alfie_P Plus
13 927 2 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2020 6:37AM
Splendid set Peter 😊

😎
AlfieK Plus
4 1 1 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2020 6:38AM
An excellent set Peter and a very interesting write-upon the history of these boats,
Alfie
johnke Plus
8 223 16 England
23 Sep 2020 7:43AM
Love the set Peter and would like to see with my eyes these interesting vessels. thank you for sharing and for the Info....John
dales Plus
5 11 Australia
23 Sep 2020 12:30PM
A wonderful boating set Peter
Ian
Mollycat Plus
7 21 2 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2020 1:11PM
Excellent set and narrative Peter.

Peter
Saastad Plus
1 16 15 Norway
23 Sep 2020 10:25PM
Lovely set Peter!

Arne Smile
Chinga Plus
10 3 2 United Kingdom
23 Sep 2020 11:42PM
Boatabilia and appeal. great set, great write-up Peter !!
Excellent work, Isabel GrinGrin

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