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Chesapeake Bay's Quest for Eco-Balance and Sustainable Seafood
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Steve Berry Books. Paperback Cookbook. Paperback Books Mary Berry. Steve Berry Paperback Books. This item doesn't belong on this page. Five skipjacks have been lost completely since I began this project, with another currently being dismantled. Yet there are a couple guys building a brand new skipjack in their back yard in Dorchester County.
When I started back in , there were only about five skipjacks dredging commercially that season. Oyster harvests were at disastrous lows due to disease, pollution and overharvesting. With oysters rebounding a bit in recent years, some of the watermen—both old hands and newcomers—have put some of the skipjacks back to work and even turned a few of the recreational skipjacks into dredge boats. Whether they will survive the inevitable next downturn is a big question.
In recent years, interest in the heritage associated with these boats has led to a number of them being retasked or multi-tasked into tourist vessels, taking passengers out for charters and public sails in the summer months.
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While this will keep some of the skipjacks alive, there are others that will take so much work to bring them into Coast Guard compliance for safe passenger vessels that the cost would be prohibitive. The best news is that there are organizations and groups of dedicated people who are working hard to save some of these boats. We went out for a sail and I volunteered for crew training the next spring. I fell in love with the boat and ended up spending thirteen seasons on her.
Traveling around the Chesapeake Bay on the Nathan for races or special events, I came into contact with many of the other skipjacks. These wooden boats with their raked masts and huge main sails always struck me as so beautiful and unique. I wanted to help keep them alive.
A lot of the skipjacks have had numerous lives. George W. Collier was built in at Deal Island and worked for more than half a century as a dredge boat before being bought by Allegheny Beverage Corporation. They renamed her Allegheny , rebuilt her and used her as a promotional vessel for the company. The City of Norfolk later acquired her, renamed her Norfolk , and used her to train Sea Scouts and as an ambassador for the city. Next she went to a non-profit organization that planned to restore her, but ended up letting her sit on land in Cape Charles, Virginia, for years.
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Now, Deal Island Skipjack Preservation has brought her back home to Deal Island for restoration, including her original name! Barbara Batchelder is one of the few that have lived just one life. Anna McGarvey is one of the youngest skipjacks. Only 25 boats are still operational, and fewer than five still dredge. The Details of a Skipjack. Skipjacks on the Water. The Business of Dredging. The Chesapeake Bay Oyster. Skipjacks Today.