Our Skipjack Heritage

In the 19th and early 20th centuries the Chesapeake Bay was the worlds largest single producer of oysters. The decline of oyster populations in the mid 19th century brought about a series of conservation laws limiting the dredging of oysters to mostly sail powered vessels, the most suitable of which was the Skipjack.

Originating on Maryland's Eastern Shore in the late 1800's, the Skipjack was better known as a two-sail bateau with a V-hull.
Ranging in length from 25 to 50 feet, the shallow draft with centerboard, single mast, two-sail sloop rigged vessel once roamed the Chesapeake in the hundreds. Most were built by house carpenters and local watermen who fished for the elusive bivalve, the oyster. Now, some 100 plus years later, only a handful fish the bay, numbering in just the teens.
Skipjack Heritage, Inc. promotes appreciation for the Skipjacks, their owners, captains, crews and families, as well as the seafood industry and the watermen's way of life in general, in order to preserve the social and cultural heritage for current and future generations.
Funded in part by a grant from
The Lower Shore Heritage Area Council

Skipjack Heritage Inc. and the University of Maryland Have Developed A Partnership to Preserve Deal Island Heritage

The Skipjack Heritage Inc., a local civic organization is partnering with the University of Maryland, College Park, to document the cultural heritage of Dames Quarter, Chance, Deal Island and the Wenona areas.

Milton "Bunky" Carew, President of Skipjack Heritage Inc. and its members are very concerned that the rich heritage of these areas will be lost unless efforts are taken to document the culture, history, heritage, stories and past events of the areas, as well as to preserve the photographs and available literature of the communities' watermen, skipjacks and local residents.

Through this partnership with the University of Maryland, families will be able to bring their photos and other documents of interest to pre-scheduled events. Advance times can be reserved to document and tell your stories of work and play on the Chesapeake Bay, Tangier Sound and surrounding estuaries, marshes, wetlands and beaches of these communities. You may even have some of those special news articles, stories, food recipes from your parents, or other relatives and friends that are unique to the area. There is also interest in capturing events, stories, photographs and maps you may be in possession of to document how the Deal Island area is losing some of its valuable land and marshes due to tidal fluctuation and storm events. According to William Wheatley, Skipjack Heritage Inc. member, "if for some reason you cannot attend one of the scheduled events or special meetings to be interviewed, we will be glad to make an appointment to visit your home, or other mutual agreed to place, to conduct our interviews and scan and/or photograph the documents/pictures you would like to share with us."

Now is the time to dust off those old photos of your families and friends to have them scanned, copied and permanently preserved to capture the heritage and rich history of the Deal Island area communities. Michael Paolisso, Professor from the University of Maryland and a Chance resident, wants folks to know that the original photos, maps and other documents used will be handled with great care and inventoried as they are scanned and copied in the presence of a family member, or other designated party.

It is the wish of both the Skipjack Heritage Inc. and the University of Maryland to document this data for preparation of various heritage and educational purposes and to showcase these photos, stories and other documents at the future site of a Maritime Museum on Deal Island that is planned by the Skipjack Heritage Inc. for the near future. According to one local resident, Bill Sailer, "if we do not work to preserve the heritage of this area, it will gradually fade away like the sail loft, the hotel, and the steamboat wharf and so many of our skipjacks. You have lived here and seen these disappear, so please help us."

Watch for these events in the upcoming months, so you can help preserve the history and heritage of the Island. For more information, or to set up an appointment, contact Milton "Bunky" Carew, President of Skipjack Heritage Inc. at mbcarew@verizon.net (410-422-6333) or other local folks involved in this project:

For more nformation about this partnership project visit www.dealislandmarshandcommunityproject.org

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