The upcoming Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race will be on Saturday, September 24, 2022. Hosted by the Dorchester Skipjack Committee, the parade of boats will begin at 9:00am lead by the Nathan of Dorchester. The race start is expected at 10:00am. Skipjacks from across the Chesapeake Bay can be viewed from Long Wharf, the Choptank Lighthouse and the City of Cambridge Marina. This is the best race for viewing these beautiful ladies.
This event hosted annually by the Dorchester Skipjack Committee supports the preservation of the existing fleet of approximately 30 boats. Each skipjack that starts the race receives monitary reward as well as finishing captains. Funds to support this event are from the Nathan Foundation, Pauline F. and W. David Robbins Foundation Trust, BayVanguard as well as individual community donors.
Additionally, the Dorchester Skipjack Committee has a yearly raffle to support the event. This year there are two prizes: 50:50 and a beautiful model of the Nathan of Dorchester. Tickets are available at the Farmers Market, Long Wharf public sails as well as at the event and Dorchester Showcase on Sunday, September 25.
The model which is approximately 24 inches wide and 24” tall was built from plans drawn by Harold Ruark for the skipjack Nathan of Dorchester. The actual skipjack Nathan of Dorchester was built and is owned and operated by the nonprofit Dorchester Skipjack Committee. Nathan is the last of about 800 skipjacks built to dredge for oysters under sail power. The Nathan of Dorchester was launched in 1994 and today dredges and carries passengers on the Choptank River.
The model was modified to show the on-board diesel engine installed on the port side of the Nathan early in the boat’s career. The life boxes, safety equipment, water cooler and fire extinguishers are shown where the actual equipment is placed on the Nathan when carrying passengers.
The push boat mounted at the stern; “Miss Eleanor” was named in honor of Harold Ruark’s wife. Push boats were enough boat to float a large automobile engine that pushed the skipjack from the harbor to the oyster beds. For many years, oysters could only be dredged while under sail. Push boats had to be hauled up when dredging.
Traditional Chesapeake Bay skipjacks used parts salvaged from older boats. In keeping with that tradition, the base for this model was salvaged from the skipjack Flora Price which was scrapped and burned in Cambridge in 2014. Mid-shore watermen made do or found creative ways to keep their boats running. Spare craft beads were used as blocks to rig this model, as a tribute to watermen’s creativity.
Experience this unique event and help preserve an important part of the maritime history of Maryland’s Eastern shore.