The lure of the water can be strong at places like St. Michaels, so if you want to experience firsthand what it’s like to be a bay waterman, you’re in luck. Skipjacks are sail-powered oyster-dredging boats, about 50 feet in length, that covered the waters of the bay in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Today, with the state’s ban on motorized boats near oyster beds, skipjacks and their descendents continue to harvest oysters from the bay. There are two working skipjacks that take out passengers: the H.M. Krentz (410/745-6080, www.oystercatcher.com, two-hour sails 11 a.m.–1 p.m., 2–4 p.m., $30 adult, $15 child) in St. Michaels, and the Rebecca T. Ruark (410/886-2176, www.skipjack.org, two-hour sails Mon.–Fri. 11 a.m.–1 p.m. and 6–8 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11 a.m.–1 p.m., 2–4 p.m., and 6–8 p.m., $30 adult, $15 child), a brief drive south in Tilghman.
Both are old vessels, but the Ruark is the most ancient mariner, as she was first built in 1886; the Krentz was launched in 1955. Both ships offer two-hour sails, where the captains regale visitors with tales of life on the water and the difficulty of making a living as an oysterman, and even let passengers do some manual labor, including dredging up oysters.
These are working oyster boats, so don’t plan on donning your dress whites and navy blazers for these excursions. The Krentz departs from the Crab Claw Restaurant, located at 304 Mill Street in St. Michaels. In tiny Tilghman, the Rebecca T. Ruark is docked at Dogwood Harbor (look for the skipjack with the “29” sign on the rigging).
© Geoff Brown from Moon Baltimore, 1st Edition