Chesapeake Bay - Watermen - The Mariners' Museum
The Mariners' MuseumChesapeake Bay - Our History and Our Future
Native AmericansColonial PeriodOyster Wars20th CenturyEconomyLighthousesWatermenResourcesCreditsSponsorsHome

Chesapeake Bay Workboats
The Development of the Deadrise Workboat
Harvesting the Bounty
Suggested Reading

Chesapeake Bay -
Our History and Our Future
has been made possible
in part by:
Bank of America
Chesapeake Bay Workboats

The Skipjack

View of a bugeye to the right and skipjack to the left. The bugeye has two raking masts.
View of a bugeye to the right and skipjack to the left. The bugeye has two raking masts.
Like the deadrise, the skipjack is a V-bottomed boat. Developed in the 1880s and based on a smaller sailing skiff like a bateau, the two-masted skipjack was used for oyster harvesting. The skipjack under sail was powerful enough to haul two full-sized oyster dredges. Traditionally, the skipjack was called the "bateau" by watermen, but in 1900, a newspaper article from the Baltimore Sun described these boats as being fitted-out for oyster season in the Baltimore Harbor. The writer portrayed them as a "skipjacks" referring to their speed on the water. The "city" name stuck, but the words "skipjack" and "bateau" become almost interchangeable.

Skipjacks on the Chesapeake Bay
Skipjacks on the Chesapeake Bay
Today,"skipjack" refers to a two-masted boat with a "leg-of-mutton" mainsail, jib, and hard-chine hull. The main mast is raked for two reasons; first, to keeps the sail's center of effort in good position for dredging under various winds or point of sail. The rake also places the top of the mast over the middle of the boat so a crane can be used to unload bushels of oysters. After Maryland passed a law forbidding the use of motors to dredge for oysters, the sailing skipjack became the primary oyster boat on the Bay. Today, the skipjack is seen as the "queen" of the Bay and a few skipjacks still ply the waters around Baltimore, Norfolk, and Havre de Grace.
Bugeye that has been adapted with an engine and cabin. Most likely used as a buy boat. The Pearl D. Evans, 1908
Bugeye that has been adapted with an engine and cabin. Most likely used as a buy boat.
Skipjack Harvey A. Parks under sail with push boat in view.
Skipjack Harvey A. Parks under sail with push boat in view.
Skipjack dredging oysters.
Skipjack dredging oysters.


 

 

Native Americans | Colonial Period | Oyster Wars | 20th Century | Economy
Lighthouses | Watermen | Resources | Credits | Home


Navigation Bar