After a pickup truck landed on the deck in December of the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark, - a National Historic Landmark - it is up on the hard for repair, just a short ways from Taylors Island, Md., where she was built in 1886.

On Dec. 27, 2022, an alleged drunk 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.

The accident destroyed the house and wheel box, broke two spokes on the ancient steering wheel and damaged the stern and decks.

The boat is being repaired by Benny and Alex Horseman of Horseman Enterprise, LLC in Madison, Md. On Friday, May 12, a 170-ton, eight strap crane gently lifted the ancient vessel up onto the hard at the yard.

“She was built just down the road from here on Taylors Island,” says Benny Horseman. “She has come home to be fixed.”

Wade Murphy Jr. recently sold the boat to his son, Wade III and he is having the work done to the boat. “Dad is 81 years old and he just didn’t feel like he could properly care and work the boat anymore,” says Wade III.

Wade “Wady” Murphy Jr. of Tilghman Island is a legend on Chesapeake Bay. He and the Rebecca have won more skipjack races than any captain and boat alive. His success as an oysterman and his will to maintain and keep the Rebecca T. Raurk afloat and working has greatly enriched the bay’s maritime heritage.

Two spokes on the wheel of the Rebecca T. Ruark were broken off when the truck landed on the vessel. This photo shows a spoke and the hand of longtime owner and captain Wady Murphy Jr., from a 1988 feature story in National Fisherman. Larry Chowning photo

Wade III plans to continue in that way. “We are going to fix what was damaged and take it several steps further,” he says. “The hull of the boat is going to be sandblasted, bad wood removed and replaced and then we are going to fiberglass the bottom and sides,” he says.

Insurance woes

As of yet no insurance funds from the accident have arrived. “I’m not expecting much help on this from the insurance company,” says Wade. “The driver had the lowest amount of collision insurance that the state of Maryland allows ($25,000) and I’ve been told that Talbot County has to be paid for the pole that was broken off and the wrecker company that removed the car from the boat also has to be paid,” says Wade.

He noted that just the onetime expense of the crane to haul the vessel out of the water cost $6,800 and it will likely cost that again when the boat is returned to the water. “There is some talk that a smaller crane can be used to put it back in the water which could lower the cost,” says Wade.

A account “Save the National historic Rebecca T. Ruark,” organized by Lori Secrist has been setup to raise funds to help with cost. So far, $1,160 has been raised. The goal is $50,000. Maryland’s oyster dredge skipjack fleet is the last commercial sailing fleet in North America and the Rebecca T. Ruark is the oldest surviving vessel in the fleet.

A 170-ton crane hauled the Rebecca T. Ruark on May12 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.

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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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