Ada Mae


Updated 17 May 2022:
Ada Mae is the last of the skipjacks that were built in North Carolina. As of 2018, she was a Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel owned by a nonprofit organization, sailing with an education and tourism mission out of New Bern, North Carolina. However, she sustained hurricane damage in 2018 and is reportedly undergoing repairs in Washington, North Carolina.

Ada Mae
Ada Mae, 20 March 2009

More Photos


[The following background is from Ron Parks' story, "In Search of the Skipjack Ada Mae," used with the author's permission and the LSP's thanks:]

'The Ada Mae was built in 1915 by Ralph Hodges on the family farm in Hyde County, North Carolina. As Hodges, 33, worked on the bateau, his kid sister, 13-year-old Ada Mae, who inspired the skipjack's name, whiled away the days keeping him company....

[Courtney Harris provided this additional information: His grandfather, Lonnie Lee, Ralph's brother helped build the boat, in the process learning a trade from his older brother that helped support himself his entire life, passing it on to his children who carried it on through the years via various boat building and repair, parts distributor and industrial and marine supply businesses.]

The Ada Mae is believed to be the only remaining skipjack built in North Carolina....

About 1945—Hodges employed the skipjack for more than 30 years, and the Ada Mae's home was mostly on the Washington [North Carolina] waterfront. The Ada Mae divided her working hours between fishing and oystering on the Pamlico Sound off North Carolina, and transporting watermelons and lumber from the sound to Baltimore during the summer.

1955—Disappeared. The Ada Mae, according to U.S. Coast Guard enrollment records, was among the few skipjacks working until 1955, when it disappeared from the register. She was abandoned outside of Baltimore in a shallow backwater, as is the custom for retiring obsolete boats.

1965—The Ada Mae was rescued and put into service as the "Chester Peake," the centerpiece of an advertising campaign launched by National Brewing Company of Baltimore. The again skipjack was chosen because it represented one of the symbols of the Chesapeake Bay. She sailed from port to port on the bay, attending festivals and advertising the brewing company.

[See Ray Morrison's history of Skipjack Ada Mae when she was Skipjack Chester Peake for further detail about this period of her life.]

When National Brewing's ad campaign shifted, the company donated the Chester Peake to the Baltimore Sea Scouts. For several years they used the skipjack as an educational and training vessel on which scouts learned about boating, leadership, and self-reliance. When upkeep became too much for the scouts, she was sold to William Phillips of Baltimore. Phillips had worked with Chesapeake Bay pilots for nearly 30 years and was hopeful that retirement would provide him the time to restore the Ada Mae. When it became obvious how daunting a restoration would be, Phillips set his sights on finding new owners who would be able to fulfill his dream. As it happened, the new owners found him.

1994—Found by Grad Student in Baltimore. "David Smith, a graduate student in the maritime history and nautical archaeology program at Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., had heard in 1994 about a North Carolina-built skipjack call the Ada Mae that was moored somewhere in Baltimore" (Daily Press, Va.)

1995—It took more than a year to pull together funding to move the boat. Soon after the Ada Mae's arrival in North Carolina, the Institute for International Maritime Research held a welcome-home party. To the surprise of everyone, including the mayor of Washington, about 200 people led by Ada Mae Cowan, (Namesake of the skipjack), showed up for the festivities.

2003—Acquired by Carolina Coastal Classrooms.

2005—Part of the Floating Classroom.

2015—100th anniversary celebration. From the Halifax Media Service: "The 1915 ship, built to mainly dredge oysters, has been docked in New Bern since she was acquired by Carolina Coastal Classrooms in 2003. She is now used in the CCC's educational programs. She is the only remaining skipjack in North Carolina and the oldest working ship in the state," according to Carolina Coastal Classrooms....

2018—Hurricane Florence strikes.... In 2018 when Florence approached she was moved to Duck Creek Marina [New Bern] and placed on low blocks. The water rose and she floated off and was damaged when she became wedged between two other boats....She was eventually moved to Pacific Seacraft [Washington, NC]. They are talking about placing fiberglass on her to help preserve the hull."

Please help keep this information up to date by submitting news or corrected facts about any of these boats and letting us know of skipjacks not yet included on this site.