From the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy:
The Skipjack Martha Lewis was not operating last season due to a compromised mast. After successful repairs on the hull two years ago, an inspection determined that the boat’s mast needed to be replaced before it could resume sailing with passengers. This was an unexpected setback after significant hull work had been completed, work that had been accomplished through a Maryland Heritage Areas Authority grant provided through the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway. But such is the nature of old Chesapeake Bay wooden work boats that were used hard and often abandoned on the shore after their utility and lifespan had run its course.
The Skipjack Martha Lewis was built in 1955 in the village of Wingate, Dorchester County, just outside of Cambridge, Maryland. Crafted by Bronza Parks, it is one of three sister skipjacks built in a two year period, with Martha’s sister, Rosie Parks, most recently making news after being rebuilt and launched by the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, Talbot County in November 2013. November, it turns out, was a fortuitous month for the sister vessels because this was also when it all came together for a replacement mast for the Martha Lewis.
A five state search was conducted for a tree – not just any tree, but a traditional loblolly pine or Douglas Fir – that would be tall enough, thick enough, and straight enough to shape into a mast in the traditional method of Chesapeake Bay craft shipwrighting. The search took Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy (CHC) board members and its Executive Director, Cindi Beane, from Pennsylvania to North Carolina and all of Delmarva to find a tree with the right specifications. Commercial foresters were asked to keep an eye out for a loblolly to fill the need, and it was through one break in fate from a conversation between Brian Michalski at Hardwood Mills, Inc. in Millington, MD and Kenneth Pusey, president of Paul W. Jones, Lumber Company, Inc. in Snow Hill, MD that yielded a tree just the right dimensions.
After confirming its dimensions, the seventy-five foot length of loblolly trunk was de-barked, set aside, and graciously donated by Mr. Pusey and is awaiting transport from Snow Hill at the far southern reaches of Maryland’s Eastern Shore to Havre de Grace located at the very top of the Chesapeake Bay. The tree, which was originally from a farm in Accomack County, VA, was cultivated from a managed yellow pine forest dedicated for large-scale timber production. Transport of this length of tree poses another challenge, and it is through specialty services of the transport company, Wood Preserver, that it is anticipated that the future mast will make its way overland to be shaped, stepped, and rigged in Havre de Grace, ideally in time for this sailing season.
The quest to get the Skipjack Martha Lewis sailing again is a shore-to-shore partnership that has turned strangers into friends. The compelling effort to keep the skipjack fleet alive touches many in Maryland – certainly most keenly by those on the Eastern Shore where these iconic vessels were built, but also here at the top of the Bay and elsewhere in the State of Maryland, where these boats have been identified as Our Boat. For those dedicated to the effort, it is a small world but a very big family.
Article provided by:
Dianne Klair, Volunteer with the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy, Inc.
A not-for-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of the Skipjack Martha Lewis
Havre de Grace, Maryland
The need for continued support and additional funds for the skipjack restoration is urgent and immediate. For those interested in helping the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy, Inc. get the Skipjack Martha Lewis sailing again, please join us for a Save Our Skipjack fund-raiser on April 5th, 2014 from 6 to 10 PM at the American Legion Post #47, 501 St. John Street in Havre de Grace, right on the water. Tickets are $30.00 per person and include a variety of Chesapeake Bay-inspired foods with a cash bar on-site (including beer, wine, rum punch, and mixed cocktails). Music provided by Havre de Grace’s own, The Rowdy Boys. It should be a rockin’ good time!
Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy is a 5013c corporation that owns and
operates the Skipjack Martha Lewis in Havre de Grace, Maryland.