Skipjack book called ‘a work of art’

DEAL ISLAND — Three local watermen are featured in a history-making book about skipjacks.

Captains Scott Todd, Joe Laber and Phil Todd, and their crew members, are shown in the just-released Working Skipjacks of Deal Island pictorial book by award-winning writer and photographer Brice Stump. As a teenager, Mr. Stump was a freelance writer and photographer for The Daily Banner.

The 350-page hardback book, with 650 photos, captures the fleet of skipjacks that worked out of Deal Island during the 2015-2016 oyster dredging season.

The Lady Katie is unique in that three of the skipjack crew — Capt. Scott Todd’s sister, Mary Lynn Todd and their father, Donald Todd, also of Cambridge — have worked on the water together for decades.

The Lady Katie, on the National register of Historic Places, was rebuilt by Capt. Todd. He completed the restoration after 11 years and returned the skipjack to dredging the Chesapeake Bay in 2014-2015 season. The Lady Katie is regarded as the finest maintained of the 11 or so remaining skipjacks working the bay.

Capt. Todd said the photographs of his skipjack “are absolutely beautiful,” particularly one that shows the boat waiting to unload in Deal Island Harbor as a winter storm approached.

The Curlew III, built a pleasure craft by the famed late Dorchester County shipwright Jim Richardson, was about to be in a “burn pile” when Capt. Stoney Whitelock, of Dames Quarter in Somerset County, saved the boat. It was eventually sold to Capt. Joe Laber of Cambridge who repaired what is now the smallest skipjack working the bay. It was a peculiar sight on the bay as it dredged the 2015-2016 without a mast and sails.

Laber dredged with his father, Donald, one of the few father-son teams working the bay aboard skipjacks.

Capt. Laber sold the Curlew to Capt. Phil Todd, who in turn sold it to Capt. Phillip Holland of Deal Island and is set to again dredge this season.

Also pictured in the book is Capt. Floyd “Bunky” Chance Jr., and his crew, some from Cambridge, that worked aboard the Ada Fears.
The Ada Fears, formerly the Lady Agnes also worked out of Deal Island for the 2015-2016 season and is working from there this year as well. It also goes by the name “Faith.”

The captain and its crew routinely make the almost two-hour ride from Talbot County to Deal Island to dredge oysters.

Also featured from Talbot County is Capt. Ed. Farley, who is this year working out of Deal Island aboard his skipjack, the H.M. Krentz. Capt. Farley, learned how to dredge aa a crewman aboard the skipjack City of Crisfield with the late Capt. Art Daniel of Deal Island. Capt. Farley is important to skipjack captains as he often secures hard-to-find almost century-old winders used aboard skipjacks to haul in dredges.

“I was more than surprised when I learned there has never been a comprehensive book about what skipjacks really do — dredging oysters on the Chesapeake Bay.

“This is a historic first, a definitive look at the skipjack at work,” Mr. Stump said. “There are photos of skipjacks at work, and maintaining them, that very few people have ever seen. The photos of the crew of the City of Crisfield pulling in two full dredges by hand is a scene that’s never been photographed.

“The winders on the skipjack broke and three crewmen had to pull the dredges onboard by hand. I just happened to be at the right place at the right time, photographing from another boat,” Mr. Stump said.

It took four months of shooting to get the photos featured in the book. “On some assignments I was shooting a photo every 15 seconds for 8 hours. It was a demanding, intense and difficult project, but worth it all to produce this unique, one-of-a-kind book,” he said.

The book which Pete Lesher, chief curator of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in St. Michaels, called “a work of art,” is available through the Dorchester County Historical Society in Cambridge by calling Ann Phillips at 443-786-8522. A portion of each sale benefits the society. It is also available online by visiting myshorehistory@gmail.com.

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