Now that summer is drawing to a close and most of us have been on that long trip to the seashore or the mountains or some other of our favorite spots and are now back home to rest up from our journey. If you haven’t done anything for the summer yet or you would like a break from the normal daily routine, I may have something for you that you would really enjoy. For my ZONE readers and their friends it would be less than an hours ride to begin their adventure.
Enough mystery…In Havre de Grace there is an organization called The Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy and they own a Skipjack. Now a Skipjack, as most of you know, is a wooden sailing ship, about 50 feet long. They have been a part of the Chesapeake Bay heritage for many years, harvesting oysters by dredge, under sail and more recently under power. There were probably more that 2000 Skipjacks built and now there less than 40 left with only about 20 of these actively engaged in working the bay.
The Skipjack owned by the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy in Havre de Grace is named the Martha Lewis and she was built in 1955 in Wingate Maryland by a boat builder named Bronza Parks, and she is 49 feet in length. He also built the Rosie Parks in 1955 and the Lady Katie in 1956 and that was his last Skipjack. He built the Martha Lewis for a Captain James Lewis who named it after his mother. Most Skipjacks were named after mothers or daughters and it is said this is because relationships with mothers and daughters seldom change and there is little need to ever change the name of the vessel. Apparently naming it after wives is not always a permanent thing.
Captain Lewis sailed her for 7 years and in 1962, he stopped oystering and since then there have been 4 more owners who have actively sailed her on the Chesapeake Bay in the quest for the bivalves. The last full-time waterman to sail her, was William Roe of Tilghman Island, who purchased her from his brother-in-law, Gene Tyler, in 1991. Captain Tyler had oystered with her for 20 years, but after just 2 years Captain Roe found he could not afford the upkeep on her so he had to sell.
In 1993, the Skipjack Martha Lewis was purchased by a Dr, Randy George and donated to the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy in Havre de Grace. The City of Havre de Grace and the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum joined the Conservancy in a long project to restore her to her original condition. Hundreds of volunteers, ship builders and other professionals, headed by master shipwright Allen Rawl, worked long hours and days to bring her back. Today, in addition to being a classroom for school children and a cruise ship for guests, she still works occasionally oystering and still holds her own, racing in a contest with her sister ships.
Between now and the end of this year, she is inviting you to join her in about 25 excursions on the Bay, out of Havre de Grace. Some of the short trips last just half a day and may take you on a tour, by water, of the light houses in the upper Chesapeake Bay area. There are also dinner cruises that take you to witness a sunset you will long remember. Or one of the local wine makers may serve their wares on an evening sail. Another exciting trip option is an entire day on the Bay, with a trip to Charlestown, bird watching and lunch at a local eatery. The trip up the Susquehanna to Port Deposit takes you to a food festival and brings you back the same day. One of the more memorable trips is out to view the fall colors along the shores of the Upper Chesapeake Bay and it’s tributaries. Many and varied are the adventures available to you, provided by the Conservancy and the beautiful old sailing ship, The Martha Lewis.
A slow walk through Havre de Grace is well worth the time in itself and a voyage on this vestige of past days of sailing glory, be it a few hours or a day, will be something to long remember and tell your friends about. For more information, visit www.skipjackmarthalewis.org. If you are in Havre de Grace sometime soon, stop and see them at 121 N Union Ave, Suite C, Havre de Grace or you can call them between 10 and 4 at 410-939-4078. They will be happy to talk about their cruises, their availability for school outings and their need for your help in the many volunteer activities that go on year-long.