“Day’s End on the Chesapeake”
As the day comes to a close, these skipjacks heavily laden with fresh oysters are heading over to the motor vessel in order to offload and sell their catch.
In 1865 The state of Maryland decreed that oyster dredging could only be done by wind-driven vessels as a means to conserve their oyster resources. The locally built wooden sailing skipjacks were designed specifically for this task during the 1890s. They could sail across the shallow oyster beds and collect the bivalves in two steel dredges that were pulled by the boat off the port and starboard sides. In the early days these boats would sail their catch back to their home ports for sale.
In the early 1900’s the gasoline engine was fitted to motor vessels that became the “workhorses” of the Chesapeake. Called freight boats, deck boats and later buyboats they hauled various cargos around the bay and also ventured out to the oyster beds in order to “buy” the day’s catch from the smaller boats. These “buyboats” would in turn take the catch to larger ports for sale and shipment to a broader group of consumers nationwide. The vessels would signal that they were “buying” on the oyster beds by raising a bushel basket up the mast.
There are still a number of buyboats working the Chesapeake as well as a handful of skipjacks, some over 100 years old and the latter constitutes the nation’s last commercial sailing fleet.
Oil on stretched linen canvas 12” x 24” Framed overall 19″ x 31″. $8,500.