H. M. Krentz


Updated 16 September 2023:
H. M. Krentz is a Coast Guard inspected passenger vessel and offers public sails out of St. Michaels, Maryland. She also is a licensed dredging vessel and works commercially during the oyster dredging season.

H.M. Krentz, 22 November 2014

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Skipjack H. M. Krentz is one of a number of skipjacks that were built in the mid-twentieth century after oyster dredging picked up again following World War II. She was built in 1955 by Herman M. Krentz at his shipyard in Harryhogan, Virginia, and named after himself. He took the lines off Fannie L. Daugherty for H. M. Krentz, the only skipjack he ever built. She has what is called a "Virginia bow," a higher bow than on those skipjacks built on the upper Chesapeake Bay, made for the rougher waters around the Potomac River. The original trailboards were carved by Krentz's son. Dewey Webster carved her current trailboards in 2009.

Marine surveyor Fred Hechlinger said she was one of his favorite boats, having a "nice snappy shear to her." He described her as being built with all longleaf southern pine. "That makes such a difference," he said. "Longleaf southern pine is as hard as anything."

The boat's first owner was David Lewis of Wingate, Maryland, and he is listed as owner, homeport Wingate, in the 1962 roster of boats for the races held that year at Solomons. David was a son of Capt. James Matthew Lewis, who was the original owner of Martha Lewis, and a brother of Capt. Norris Lewis, who owned Elsworth. His brother-in-law was Capt. Malcolm "Mac" Wheatley, who owned Kathryn.

In 1968, Captain Clifton Webster bought H. M. Krentz for $12,000 and sailed her out of Wenona. He reportedly owned five skipjacks over the years: Mary Sue, Maggie Lee, Nellie L. Byrd, H. M. Krentz and Caleb W. Jones and was half-owner of City of Crisfield. His daughter believed H. M. Krentz was her father's favorite. He sold Maggie Lee about the same time as he bought H. M. Krentz and bought Caleb W. Jones for his son Dickie.

While Clifton owned the boat, he was not always her captain. In 1969, Kermit "Robert Lee" Travers was captain of H. M. Krentz, one of only a small number of Black skipjack captains who have ever worked the Bay. Kermit also had worked aboard Lady Katie and Ida May. In 2015, he was an award recipient from ALTA, Achievement in Living Traditions and Arts, for outstanding stewards of living traditions in Maryland.

However, Clifton was at the helm of the boat one cold day in January 1970 when H. M. Krentz and eight other skipjacks, including City of Crisfield and Fannie L. Daugherty, were caught in a freeze-up above the Bay Bridge. The skipjacks and five other workboats were all within a half mile of each other when the ice moved in with the tide forcing floes and the fleet in against the shore and down toward the bridge. The Krentz was listing badly after being pushed up on top of the ice before a Coast Guard buoy tender finally was able to break through and haul the boats free one or two at a time.

In March 1977, the author James Michener spent a day aboard H. M. Krentz while he did research for his book Chesapeake. On that windy day, he helped the seven-man crew dredge and later said, "I don't care what they're paying for oysters, it's hard work."

But among Clifton Webster's proudest moments were when he won the Deal Island Skipjack Races. He won at Deal Island three times, in 1972, 1974 and 1976 and is listed as captain of H. M. Krentz on rosters of boats from Chesapeake Appreciation Days in 1970 and 1979.

In the early 1980s, when 86-year-old Clifton retired, his son Ted took over as skipper on H. M. Krentz and owner after Clifton's death in 1987. Ted had also worked on the skipjacks Ralph T. Webster, Maggie Lee and on Ida May as captain, but he said H. M. Krentz was one of the best dredge boats ever to work the Bay. However, the future of dredging was looking bleak with diminishing oyster harvests, and in 1990, he sold the boat to Ed Farley.

Ed is one of the very few skipjack captains who started out as a "come here"—not a Chesapeake Bay-area native. Cruising down to the Bay from New England in 1972, he liked the area enough to stay and take a job at Zahniser's Boatyard in Solomons, where he learned about the Bay's skipjack fleet. He ended up hiring on with Capt. Art Daniels on City of Crisfield, getting lessons from one of the best.

By 1975, he had bought his own skipjack, Stanley Norman, and began dredging out of Tilghman Island. Recognizing the need to diversify the boat's revenue stream, Ed began working with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to take school children out for skipjack environmental education sails on the Bay. When the Foundation bought Stanley Norman from him, Ed bought H. M. Krentz, working her out of Tilghman Island.

In 1996, surveyor Hechlinger said that the boat had been "much rebuilt by Ed Farley using good methods" and was now Coast Guard certified for carrying passengers. She was one of thirteen skipjacks eligible for the skipjack restoration program at Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum in 2001 and was second of the three boats to receive repairs in that first year of the program, with City of Crisfield and Lady Katie. Six more skipjacks were worked on before the program ran out of funding.

Ed has continued to dredge with H. M. Krentz on push days during oyster season, but it's the tourism and educational cruises the rest of the year that keep the boat sailing. He takes day sails and charters out of St. Michaels, always eager to share his wealth of Bay-area history and environmental knowledge, then moves in season to wherever the oysters are.

He also will show up at the races when they fit in to his busy charter schedule. H. M. Krentz took first place at the 2012 Choptank Heritage Skipjack Race in Cambridge and came in second there in 2022.

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