The skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark has recovered from that December. 2022 collision when a truck driven by a drunk driver ran off a pier at Tilghman Island, Md., landed on the deck and damaged the boat.

The crash tore off the starboard aft corner of the boat, taking out the railing, a portion of the stern, davits and GPS system. The boat was repaired and brought back to life in 2023 at Madison Bay Boat Yard in Madison, Md.

The vessel is back at the Madison yard this April to have top decks fiberglassed with West System Epoxy. Yard co-owner Benny Horseman said when the vessel arrived last year after being damaged by the truck, she was almost ready for the burn pile. “She looks like a new boat now,” says Horseman.

Last year, the yard fixed the damage to the boat and in addition built and installed a new cabin, replaced 15 bottom planks, installed a new stem, built a new centerboard well out of coosa board, and rebuilt the damaged stern, davits, etc. The entire bottom and sides were fiberglassed using West System Epoxy.

The Rebecca T. Ruark is the oldest working skipjack on Chesapeake Bay. She was built as a sloop in 1896 on Taylors Island, Md. and designated a National Historic Landmark in 2003. 

The vessel was worked in the 2023-24 oyster seasons by owner, Capt. Wade Murphy III of Tilghman Island, Md. Murphy says that he worked the vessel on power days and sailed her two days a week.

Sailing skipjacks are alive today because of Maryland’s law requiring boats working in the oyster dredge fishery to be powered under sail. In 1967, the law was modified to allow the use of powered push boats to power skipjacks on specified “power days.”

After the boat was damaged in the accident, a GoFundMe fundraising program raised about $7,500 which was used to pay for the services of a crane to haul the boat in and out of the water at the boatyard.

“I want to thank everyone who contributed to the fund to help us get the Rebecca back on the waves,” says Murphy. “She is a classic and I believe after what we have done to her she will be working the bay for many years to come.”

A 170-ton crane hauled the Rebecca T. Ruark on May 12 in Madison, Md., to repair damage to the boat caused when a pickup truck was driven onto the vessel's deck in December. Photo courtesy of Benny Horseman.

Brothers Benny and Alex Horseman are owners of Madison Bay Boat Yard and Seafood. Benny said that the yard is also going to fiberglass, using West System Epoxy, the sides and bottom of the skipjack Kathryn. The 50’ x 15’ x 4’ skipjack was built in Crisfield, Md. in 1901 by James E. “Jimmy” Daugherty.

Kathryn was worked in the 2023 Maryland oyster dredge season by Captain David Whitlock of Deal Island, Md. The Horsemans are doing the work on the boat at Ruark Boatworks part of The Richardson Maritime Museum in Cambridge, Md.

“They have a larger marine Travelift to haul the vessel,” said Benny. “They also have more workspace on the grounds for us to work.”

The Kathryn was designated a National Historic Landmark on April 19, 1994. 


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Larry Chowning is a writer for the Southside Sentinel in Urbanna, Va., a regular contributor to National Fisherman, and the author of numerous books.

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