Willy L. Bennett

Skipjack Model by Harry Belflower - January 27, 2011

Harry Belflower, 2nd Co., has submitted photos of a skipjack sailing boat model that he recently completed. He named the vessel " Willy L. Bennett". Following is a note from Harry to your webmaster with a history and description of skipjack boats:

The skipjack is an all wood work boat that is peculiar to the Chesapeake Bay.  Most are based at Smith Island and Tilghman's Island.  During the 1800's, the oyster industry developed on the bay and various sailing craft were used to harvest them.  Also, various methods.  One of the more efficient methods was and still is dredging.  In the very last part of the 19th century, the skipjack was developed to provide a boat that would be powerful enough under sail and also stable enough to provide a working platform that would be suitable for dredging the bay oysters.  The boat is also called a log canoe because the early ones were literally made from three logs hollowed and shaped to form the hull.  It would require a shallow draft and therefore was a centerboard boat.  My model is of the Willie L. Bennett, ca. 1899, out of Cambridge, Maryland.   She is about 44 ft. long, 12 ft. wide and draws about 3.5 - 4 ft.  After the gasoline marine engine became available in the early 20th century, the powered push boat was utilized to get around the law that the boats must not be engine powered.  The push boat which is on davits at the stern is utilized to move the boat to and from the oyster grounds (bars).  Her sole source of power while dredging is provided by the very large set of sails that she is fitted with.

John, it is difficult to write a short paragraph about a boat with so much history and that so many people have built there lives around.  Unfortunately, other methods have made the skipjack almost obsolete and the disease that is decimating the Chesapeake Bay oysters has almost spelled an end to the industry.  Tonging is the preferred method now but, until the oyster disease is conquered and they regenerate, it is somewhat of a dying industry.  However, I enjoy building wooden models and the skipjack seemed a good choice.

 Harry also submitted picture of this model of "Sovereign of the Seas" about one year ago. It can be seen by clicking here.
001                                                     Skipjack ("Harry L Bennett")
002                                                     Skipjack ("Harry L Bennett")