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Part 3: “They race for beer and bragging rights”

By Eileen Mansfield — October 2002


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• Part 2: Chesapeake
• Part 3: Chesapeake
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The walls of the Chart House are covered with photographs of old boats and builder's mounts. After dinner we linger to admire the collection before deciding to walk back to our slip at the Annapolis Yacht Basin. Before crossing over the Spa Creek Bridge, we pass a wooden boatyard where Silva had once worked, and he reminisces about the good times he had there while learning the ropes.

We return to Tireless, and I settle into my comfortable accommodations: I am sharing the twin-bed stateroom with my father, and Rank takes the master forward of it.

The next morning we take a short walk around the Naval Academy--it is "Plebe Summer," meaning the only students there are the incoming freshmen--before preparing to depart. Our next destination is St. Michaels, also known as "The Town That Fooled the British" because in 1813 before the British attacked the town from barges, the residents moved lanterns to the tops of the trees, causing British cannons to overshoot the town.

We arrive in St. Michaels after a two-hour run (about 25 nautical miles) early in the afternoon and dock at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Our slip overlooks the museum's lighthouse, which originally stood 40 miles north in Dorchester County. The museum was started in 1965 in a small brick building and has since grown to include the lighthouse, a working boatyard, and many exhibits on log canoes, steamboats, skipjacks, and the seafood industries of the Chesapeake. The museum also displays boats that are being worked on as part of the Skipjack Restoration Project. Skipjacks are the only fleet of commercial fishing vessels working under sail in the United States today. They are indigenous to the Chesapeake and have become all but extinct. The few that remain are in desperate need of restoration, yet only a handful of people have the skills needed to repair them. The project not only trains apprentices but also plans to restore nine skipjacks over the next two years. Three have already been restored, and one more is nearing completion.

I find Mike Vlahovich, the project manager, in one of the sheds, and he explains that a "Skipjack Task Force" made up of local captains and community members picked the boats the museum would work on. There were originally only three apprentices, a number that doubled over the last year. Funding for the project comes from the Maryland Historic Trust, but a struggling economy has caused it to scale back its contribution. Fortunately the project is still afloat thanks to donations from groups like the National Endowment of the Arts and Black & Decker, which donated all of the power tools. Vlahovich is hoping for a second round of funding because the museum would like to be a part-time home to these boats, hauling them out every winter and doing routine maintenance.

The fishermen who make up this fishing fleet are known as Watermen and live on islands like Tilghman and Smith, some of which are only accessible by boat. Watermen make their living harvesting seafood and speak with a heavy Elizabethan-like accent. "A lot of this program is about building ties with the Watermen communities," Vlahovich tells me. He hopes his apprentices will stay in the area once the project is complete and work in these communities, where their skills will be needed. Before calling it a day, Vlahovich adds, "Our short-term goal is restoring these boats, but our long-term goal is passing on the skills needed to repair them."

After walking through St. Michaels, we returned to Tireless just in time for another incredible dinner, which includes barbequed brisket that Fetterolf gets all the way from Texas. We settle in to watch the weekly Wednesday night sailboat races, which we can see comfortably from Tireless' aft-deck settee. “They race for beer and bragging rights,” Silva explains.

Being the last night, Fetterolf is finally able to relax, after further increasing our waistlines with Bananas Foster. "In my former life, I did a lot of entertaining," she explains when I ask how she became such an incredible cook. In addition to her culinary expertise, she's also knowledgeable in antiques, which must have come in very handy during Tireless' restoration. She has a shop called Militia Hill Antiques in Galena, not far from the Sassafras Marina.

The following morning I get up early to see the sunrise, but a storm is blowing in, and it looks more like dusk than morning. So I sit on the deck admiring this born-again yacht while on her way back home to the Sassafras and come to the conclusion that maybe my hosts didn't pick Tireless so much as Tireless picked them.

Tireless is available for hourly, daily, or weekly charters. The weekly rate is $10,000.

Allied Yacht Charters Phone: (866) 922-4871. Fax: (305) 672-3591. www.alliedyachtcharters.com.

Next page > Chesapeake Bay Photo Gallery > Page 1, 2, 3, 4

This article originally appeared in the April 2003 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.

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