Joy Parks


Updated 26 August 2023:
Joy Parks is on permanent exhibit at the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum in Piney Point, Maryland.

Joy Parks, 6 March 2009

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Joy Parks represents a transition from skipjacks built by William H. "Tom" Young in the early twentieth century to those built by Bronza Parks mid-century. She was the last of the skipjacks built by Young and was commissioned by Bronza, who went on to build his own skipjacks, beginning with Wilma Lee in 1940 and including Barbara Batchelder and the Three Sisters—Rosie Parks, Martha Lewis and Lady Katie.

Joy Parks was built by Young and his sons in 1936 in Parksley, Virginia, on the banks of Guard Shore. Bronza Parks was a well-established boat builder at the time, but had not yet built a skipjack. Tom Young had an excellent reputation as a skipjack builder, having at least eight of them to his name since 1900, including Bernice J, Claud W. Somers and Lena Rose. Despite his already busy boatyard, Young accepted Bronza's commission to build a skipjack for his brother Orville.

While it has been reported that Bronza provided Young with the design for Joy Parks, her similarities to Lena Rose, built twelve years earlier, suggest otherwise. She has the same Virginia-style higher deadrise, designed for the choppier lower-Chesapeake Bay waters. Both were "very lightly built" and fast when not loaded, according to Howard Chapelle, who considered both to be ugly boats. He said, "The Joy Parks was built on the same general model by the builder of the Lena Rose but is even uglier and has the same sailing habits." Drawings of Joy Parks produced in a field survey by Mark Opdyke were used by Chapelle in his Notes on Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks.

In a book about her grandfather's boats, Tom Young's Skipjacks, Mrs. Effie Young Lewis wrote, "At the time [1904], little notice was given to the fact that the design was unique from skipjacks of the day. All of Tom Young's skipjacks originally had fore and aft planking on the stern portion of the bottom, a technique not generally employed by most builders." Joy Parks displays this feature, and since later skipjacks built by Bronza also show this style of planking, it suggests more that Bronza adapted his designs from Young's models than that Bronza designed Joy Parks.

When Young finished his work on the boat, Bronza towed her back to his Wingate, Maryland, boatyard and added the mast and rigging before turning the boat over to his brother.

Orville named the skipjack after his younger daughter and sailed Joy Parks for twenty years. During that time, Orville became renowned for his skill in handling the boat, and Joy Parks earned her own reputation as one of the fastest in the fleet. In 1956, after Bronza built him a new skipjack, Rosie Parks, Orville sold Joy Parks to John Murphy. She changed hands once more three years later when Dan Murphy purchased her from his brother.

Dan worked for almost ten years on what he called "one of the best in the Chesapeake Bay fleet." She appears in a 1962 roster of boats for a race at Solomons and a 1970 roster for Chesapeake Appreciation Days at Sandy Point, both listing Dan Murphy as captain and homeport as Tilghman. When there was no wind, Pete Sweitzer would bring Hilda M. Willing alongside Joy Parks to play poker with Dan.

Severe weather is always a hazard on the water. The best—and sometimes just the luckiest—of the skipjack captains lived to tell many tales of storms, ice and fog. On 3 February 1939, Joy Parks narrowly escaped a sudden squall that hit the fleet on the Bay. Orville saw the barometer falling as low as he had seen it and wisely decided to head back to Cambridge just before the storm hit the boats in the Choptank River.

Almost thirty years later, Orville still had vivid recollections of the day. "A lot of us was drudgin' in the Choptank in a fog. We couldn't see nothin', but all of a sudden we heard somethin' a-roarin'. We thought it was some kind of engine, but it was the wind. It came out of nowhere and it hit us. I had a good crew and we got our sails off before she struck…The wind only lasted ten minutes, that's all it lasted. I'll never forget it—72 miles and hour, an' we never saw it comin'!" He had kept his sails up at first to try to run before the storm, and then in the rush to get the sails down when it hit, the lazy jacks broke, with the main crashing to the deck, saving the mast from breaking. "Those lazy jacks saved my life," said Orville.

Newspapers of the day reported that twenty boats were swamped. All but one of the ten men aboard two of them, skipjacks Agnes and Annie Lee, died that day.

Orville preferred to sail Joy Parks with light ballast along the keel, counteracting the force of the wind against the sails and giving her a slight list—"They sail better on their side," he insisted. When the boat later went completely over onto her side during another sudden gale, Dan Murphy credited that ballast when the skipjack quickly righted herself.

Joy Parks’ dredging days ended in 1968 when Dan sold her to the Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship in Piney Point, Maryland, on the western shore of the Bay. She remained on the water at the school until 1975, when she was finally hauled out and stored in the school's boatshed, where she was refurbished by the school's shipwrights. In 2004, she became an indoor exhibit at the Piney Point Lighthouse Museum and Park, on permanent loan from the Harry Lundeberg School.

However, her adventures and her travels did not end with her dredging career. She twice traveled to Washington, DC, for the Smithsonian Institution's annual Folklife Festival. Her first visit was in 1972, when she sailed up the Potomac River to participate on the water during the event.

She made quite a different entrance in 2004. Joy Parks was hauled on a trailer more than seventy miles over local highways from Piney Point through downtown DC, complete with police escort, to be installed on the National Mall for the duration of the festival. Capt. Dan Murphy and his family were guests for the event, where nearly a million visitors had a unique opportunity to visit a traditional Chesapeake Bay skipjack and watch some vanishing skills that made these vessels come alive. While she was there, Coastal Heritage Alliance provided demonstrations that included the shaping of a 65-foot loblolly pine into a mast for Joy Parks, with Capt. Ed Farley being among those who made and stepped the new mast in only ten days time. It replaced one that had to be cut off when she was stored at the Harry Lundeberg School boatshed in 1975, and now hangs next to her at the Piney Point Museum.

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