Deal Island: The Beauty of Reconstruction

Gravel tumbled beneath the tires of our Washington College Bus as we pulled into the ship yard. We filed out into the biting cold, rushing into the reconstruction tent, to meet Professor Weist on site. We huddled like penguins in the arctic as wind whipped through the tent, listening intently to Professor Weist’s commentary. He informed us that this skipjack was constructed in 1901, and that she is recognized as a National Historic Landmark.


Source: Coastal Heritage Alliance

Great care is taken in reconstructing this. Members of the Coastal Heritage Alliance work on this project as shipwrights would have in the past. While there may be slight alterations to the Kathryn, this is done simply to ensure their work will last longer, as technologies have advanced. I was awestruck that such dedication is given to using the same methods  of previous generations. This waterman culture found in the Chesapeake is not only on the water, as I previously thought. It extends to the land; to the methods of construction of the skipjack.


Source: Coastal Heritage Alliance

We had the privilege to work on her ourselves, branching off into different sections. Some students were planing, some creating bungs, some painting boards already a part of the Kathryn. I was lucky enough to work with the next panel to be placed on the stern of the skipjack, tarring the board before it would be screwed into place. Our Chesapeake Semester group got to sign our names on the inside of the plank, to commemorate our hard work.  Working on this project has given me a new appreciation for this culture. I have dipped my hands into the waterman’s paint, soiled my workpants with the waterman’s tar, and rinsed my hair with the waterman’s sawdust. I feel a stronger connection to what we strive to do in the Chesapeake Bay; as environmentalists, we strive to Save the Bay, in turn saving the oysters. And the way I see it, we’ll be saving these watermen, too.