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HdG Oyster Ship Needs $30K to $45K for Renovations

The Skipjack Martha Lewis is due for mast, deck repairs.

Skipjack Martha Lewis
Skipjack Martha Lewis

Havre de Grace-based oystering ship Skipjack Martha Lewis was out of commission last year due to a rotting mast, and she will only make it back in the water this year with help from the community, according to the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy.

While the ship's hull was being repaired recently, inspectors discovered her mast needed to be replaced, according to the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy, the nonprofit dedicating to preserving the ship, which was built in 1955.

Made of Douglas fir, the mast was splitting along the grain of the wood and its base was rotting, according to Dianne Klair, Havre de Grace City planner and volunteer fund-raiser for the skipjack.

The mast was approximately 20 years old and had been shortened already due to rotting wood at the base, she added.

According to Klair, the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy hopes to raise $30,000 to $45,000 for the vessel's renovation, which includes shaping, rigging and installing the mast and replacing some of the bottom boards and decking.

A grant through the Lower Susquehanna Heritage Greenway in 2012 paid for work on the hull, according to the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy, which said that most ships like the Martha Lewis were used and abandoned.

There were approximately 2,000 wind-powered oyster dredging ships like her at one time; today, there are about 20, the Coastal Culture Preservation Project reported.

The Martha Lewis has been docked at Tydings Park in Havre de Grace since the mid-1990s, where, starting in April, she usually picks up passengers for cruises along the Susquehanna River and educates them about the Chesapeake Bay.

To keep the Havre de Grace ship on the water and hopefully to get her sailing this season, Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy affiliates said they searched five states for a tree that would be tall enough, thick enough and straight enough for her mast.

The group also asked commercial foresters to keep an eye out for a loblolly.

A conversation between two men in the Eastern Shore lumber industry caused "one break in fate" leading to just the right tree, the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy said in a statement.

Taken from a farm in Accomack County, VA, the 75-foot loblolly trunk was debarked and donated by Kenneth Pusey, who owns a lumber company in Snow Hill, MD, the statement said.

Transporting the tree from the Eastern Shore will be challenging, and installing it will be costly, the organization reported.

Advocates described the need for funds as "urgent and immediate," asking anyone interested in helping to attend the "Save Our Skipjack" fundraiser from 6 to 10 p.m. on April 5 at the American Legion Post #47 (501 St. John Street) in Havre de Grace. 

Tickets are $30 and include Chesapeake Bay-inspired foods with a cash bar and music provided by Havre de Grace band The Rowdy Boys. Tickets are available at Amanda's Florist, Bahoukas Greenjoy, Bahoukas Antique Mall and Beer MuZeum, the Havre de Grace Visitor Center or online at the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy.

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