The historic sail-powered skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark will not be going out dredging oysters in January this year as a freak accident has taken the oldest Maryland skipjack out of commission.

On Dec. 27, a driver of a 1997 Chevrolet pickup truck ran through a shoreline piling at Dogwood Harbor on Tilghman Island where the boat was moored and landed onto the starboard portion of the stern.

Wade Murphy III, whose father Wade Jr. owns the boat, says that the driver Charles Riggs of Rock Hall, Md. is lucky that he landed on the boat because if he had gone in the water he could have “drowned or froze to death.”

Murphy says the crash tore of the starboard back corner of the boat, taking out railing, a portion of the stern, davits, and GPS. “We are not going to know for sure what else has happened until we get her hauled,” says Murphy. “She is not leaking any worse than she was before the accident so that’s a good sign.”

Murphy says he is going to have several boat carpenters come and look at the damage and “we plan to fix her.” Riggs provided his insurance card to Murphy at the scene, said Murphy.

Wade (Wady) Murphy Jr. is the oldest and considered one of the most knowledgeable skipjack captains in the Maryland oyster dredge fleet. The Rebecca T. Ruark built in 1886 at Taylor’s Island, Maryland as a sloop is the oldest working vessel in the sail dredge fishery. She was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

Wade Murphy III represents four generations of Tilghman Island watermen to dredge oysters under sail. He is owner and captain of the skipjack Hilda M. Willing.

“Dad has gotten some age on him so the last few years in January myself and my crew go out with him on the Rebecca and work her with him,” he says. “We will have to stay with my boat this year.”


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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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