Updated 17 June 2024:
Kathryn is a privately owned working dredge boat, sailing out of Deal Island, and one of the oldest in the fleet.

Skipjack Kathryn
Kathryn, 6 September 2015
Photo courtesy of Deal Island Images

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Skipjack Kathryn is one of only three skipjacks, with Hilda M. Willing and Rebecca T. Ruark, to have been designated National Historic Landmarks.

She is one of the oldest surviving skipjacks, having been built in 1901 in Crisfield, Maryland, by James E. "Jimmy" Daugherty, who also built Skipjack Fannie L. Daugherty. She is distinctive for being one of the few skipjacks planked fore and aft with a rounded chine, unlike most of the other skipjacks, which are cross-planked with a hard chine.

She was built for William E. Daugherty, with G. L. Daugherty shown in original records as master and her homeport Crisfield. By 1904, the two were half owners of the boat. Examination of the census records done in 1995 by Pete Lesher and Norman Plummer of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum for a study of Kathryn for the Historic American Engineering Record lends insight into both the name of the boat and her first master. G. L. Daugherty was likely George Larry Daugherty, William E. Daugherty's first cousin.

The name "Catharine" appears in the census records as William E. Daugherty's daughter, one year old in 1900 and the only "Catharine" of any spelling in the family. With census takers of the time recording information offered verbally, they may have entered the more common spelling of the name into the records. This seems to be corroborated when death records are examined. Documents in connection with William's wife Grace's death in 1953 refer to a daughter named "Kathryn," making it probable that the boat was named after William's daughter and Larry's niece. A descendent, Blox Daugherty, has since confirmed this and added that Kathryn became a chemistry professor at the University of Pennsylvania. He also noted that William had been in the hardware business and became the first treasurer of the city of Crisfield.

In 1906, the Daughertys sold the skipjack to B. F. Woodland of Regent, Virginia, owner and master, but apparently the deal fell through and she went back to the Daughertys a few months later. However, they managed to find a new buyer and in 1907, she went to Reedville, Virginia, with O. M. Whaley as owner and master.

Another year, another buyer. In 1908, it was J. A. Dodson of Reedville, who in 1915 changed her homeport to Fairport, Virginia. Daniel Dize—the father of a later Kathryn owner, Russell Dize—was on the boat's crew in 1924 and recalled Dodson using her to tend pound nets and fish traps out of Reedville and haul seed oysters from the Craighill area of Maryland to points down the Chesapeake Bay.

Dodson sold her in 1925 for $1,800 to John E. Spriggs and John C. Marshall of Ewell, Maryland, who brought her back to Crisfield for her homeport.

Wells W. Evans bought Kathryn for $608 in 1938. Per Ralph Eshelman in the study conducted for her National Historic Landmark designation, "Evans claimed that while dredging seed oysters, he loaded up the deck of Kathryn so heavily that when the boom went over to one side she almost capsized at Man-of-War shoal in the upper Chesapeake Bay."

Evans sold her to Irving F. Cannon in 1945 for "$5.00 etc." who changed her homeport to Cambridge. A year and a half later, Malcolm "Mac" Wheatley bought a half interest in her, again for "$5.00 etc." and served as captain. Wheatley became her full owner in 1963 when Cannon sold him his half share.

Orville Parks had taught Mac and his brother Gene Wheatley on Ida May. Mac later used another of Irving Cannon's boats, Elsworth, for several years before buying Kathryn. Orville told Mac that Kathryn had too much sail on her and never would win a race. Respecting the revered captain's advice, Mac cut down Kathryn's sails.

The "$5.00 etc." price may have reflected her condition at the time. In 1954, she went to the Krentz shipyard in Harryhogan, Virginia, for a major rebuild, during which much of her structure above the waterline was replaced, including deck beams, deck and side frames. Some of the Krentz work can be seen in a series of photos in Robert H. Burgess' Chesapeake Sailing Craft. The 1995 Historic American Engineering Record report noted that good materials had been used in that rebuild, especially white oak and long-leaf pine, contributing to the good condition of the boat at the time of the study forty years later. It also noted that original materials still remained in the 1990s in much of the bottom up to the waterline. The Daughertys had used much more white oak in her construction than was typical for skipjacks, likely contributing to her longevity.

Mac was from Wingate, but it appears that while Cannon was half owner, they kept her homeport at Cambridge. She appears in the 1962 roster of boats for a race at Solomons with owners I. F. Cannon and Malcolm Wheatley and port Cambridge. But for the 1970 Chesapeake Appreciate Days roster, Wheatley is listed as captain with homeport as Wingate.

Kathryn dredged in the Choptank River and up the Chesapeake Bay, but Mac recruited crew from Deal Island and Crisfield. Off season, he used her to plant seed oysters in Hooper Strait.

Mac owned and worked her until 1975 when Johnnie R. Parkinson, Jr., bought Kathryn for $18,000 and changed her homeport back to Crisfield, although the 1979 Chesapeake Appreciation Days roster has Parkinson as captain with her homeport as Wenona. Kathryn had her only win at the Deal Island races in 1975, with Zack Taylor as captain. He dredged on Kathryn and others before buying his own boat, Annie Lee. Taylor's eight-year-old grandson had died a few years before the race when he fell off a boat while crabbing with his father. During the race, when Kathryn passed the spot where the boy was lost, Taylor broke down and his brother-in-law had to take the helm.

In December 1976, Parkinson was heading toward the upper Chesapeake when a dry squall hit, with winds clocked at 115 mph. Skipjack F. C. Lewis Jr. capsized, with Capt. Stanford White and his crew rescued by Capt. Jack Parkinson and the crew of Helen Virginia. Kathryn had not yet reached the oyster beds when it hit, and the crew tied themselves to the mast to keep from being swept off the deck.

There is another account of a storm while Johnnie Parkinson was captain, which may or may not have been the same one. In this account, Kathryn was caught in a sudden storm with 80-mph winds, and before the sails could be lowered, the boat went over so far that the port side of the cabin was under water.

In 1981, Herman Russell Dize and William James Roe, Jr., bought her for $40,000, each with a half share of ownership, and her homeport became Tilghman. With others interested in the boat, Dize wanted a skipjack bad enough to offer $10,000 more than the $30,000 Parkinson was considering asking for her. Ten years later, Dize bought out Roe and became sole owner. As noted, Dize's father had worked aboard Kathryn and knew the boat well. He knew that the skipjacks that survived had owners and captains who took care of the boats and told his son that Kathryn had "always had a captain that would care for her."

Pat Vojtech, in her book Chesapeake Bay Skipjacks, described a storm that caught Russell Dize with Kathryn and Robbie Wilson with Elsworth. They had come off the Solomons oyster beds with two days' worth of dredged oysters on board, about 300 bushels, and were heading north under power across the Bay to Tilghman when the nor'easter hit them off James Point with little warning. Unable to make headway with the pushboats against the fifty-knot winds and with the pushboats in danger of being swamped, they raised sails and were finally able to tack into the Little Choptank River, where they anchored overnight, returning to Tilghman Island the next morning.

Dize was known to use extra-long chain bags for his dredges, adding a few more bushels per lick. One crew member said "it either made or broke you….Only the strong survived. We were always top boat every week as our nickname was the 'Vikings'." Dize was described as being a "sun to sun" dredger, with the crew living on board, mainly dredging the Choptank area but also working up and down the Bay. By the late 1990s, she was often found dredging off Deal Island.

It was in 1985, during Dize's ownership, that Kathryn was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places along with 19 other surviving skipjacks built before 1912, and her listing described her as having "the distinction of being the best sailing skipjack in the fleet and is usually considered the favorite among the fleet's captains." At that time, she had come in first or second in her class in every Chesapeake Appreciation Days race she had entered at Sandy Point except one, in which she placed third. There was a race rivalry between her and Wade Murphy's Rebecca T. Ruark, both fast, round-bottom boats, and she participated in many of the Deal Island and Sandy Point races.

Dize made some alterations to Kathryn during his ownership in addition to the normal repairs and parts replacements of an aging wooden boat. Kathryn's original trailboards were replaced in 1981 with exact copies carved by Leroy "Pepper" Langley of Solomons. The originals reside with the Calvert Marine Museum. Langley also carved an eagle figurehead for her, the original scroll or billethead being long lost. In 1982, a doghouse was added to the rear of the cabin. In 1985, hydraulic steering gear replaced the traditional gear, and her oak rudder was replaced with one of stainless steel. In 1989, Kathryn received a new laminated Douglas fir boom, and in 1991, Dize C-flexed (fiberglassed) her sides from below the chine to the rail and removed the copper sheathing along the waterline.

Surveyed again in 1988 by the Maryland Historical Trust in connection with its Skipjack Preservation Project, it was noted that Kathryn "has had excellent maintenance" since her Krentz rebuild thirty years before. She received her National Historic Landmark designation in 1994. At that time, she was still considered to be in particularly good repair compared to the rest of Maryland's oyster dredging fleet.

By the time she reached 100 years old, though, she was showing her age. She became eligible for help through the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum's skipjack restoration program in 2001. Fannie L. Daugherty was the fifth skipjack to have her major repair job completed there, and Kathryn was next in line. But the program ran out of money before Dize could have the bottom and sides done, and she only received a new mast. From her original mast, master carver Joey Jobes of Havre de Grace carved canvasback decoys, which Dize sold to support Kathryn's repairs. But in 2002, health problems forced Dize to stop dredging and she sat idle for years.

Several years later, according to marine surveyor Fred Hechlinger, a museum starting up on Tilghman Island wanted to take on Kathryn. Hechlinger told them she would deteriorate unless they put her inside, as a wooden boat deteriorates more quickly when idle without salt water washing her deck. There already was evidence of rot on her deck, but with C-flex sealing much of her hull, it was difficult to inspect how much damage might be hidden underneath.

Still, Stoney Whitelock had had his eye on Kathryn since he visited Russell Dize at Tilghman Island to try to recruit him to participate in the Deal Island races again. Stoney had sold his business, had time on his hands, a family history of skipjack captains and his own experience on the boats. He saw Kathryn in need of repairs and Dize thinking of selling her. After getting a second opinion on her and Dize lowering his price, Stoney bought her in 2008. He made a few quick repairs then took her home to Deal Island and raced her there that year, just days after buying her.

From 2008 to 2011, Stoney kept her sailing, but he didn't want to dredge her. She was an old boat and worn out. Master shipwright Mike Vlahovich was brought in to take a look at her to see what could be done. "She was deteriorating," said Stoney. "Mike and I kept putting band-aids on her to keep her floating." She spent a couple weeks in 2010 at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum having some work done. But during the 2011 Deal Island race, Kathryn hit a buoy that opened her up on the port side. Stoney said that when he hit that buoy, "I found out there were no nails holding the planks into some of the frames; they were eaten away…. The double hull kept me from seein' the extent of the problem." It was time for a rebuild that was estimated would cost almost $300,000. This for a boat that once changed hands for "$5.00 etc."

Mike V helped arrange for fundraising and financing through his organization Coastal Heritage Alliance. Giving the skipjack new life quickly became a community effort. State and federal grants, corporate and nonprofit contributions and environmental groups all supported the rebuild. Community members who sponsored planks with their donations had their initials carved into a plank fastened to the centerboard trunk. Stoney's granddaughter Hannah and her second-grade classmates drew get-well cards for the boat, and their hand-drawn pictures were printed on t-shirts and sold. Stoney had calendars made using photographs of skipjacks and sold them in support of Kathryn.

As work continued, Stoney learned that Skipjack Helen Virginia, on land in Cambridge, was for sale. He and three others bought her in 2013, stuck enough plywood on her to tow her down to Deal Island and put her up on land with Kathryn, where Stoney worked on both boats at the same time.

The work on Kathryn took more than three years, with Mike V and his apprentice, Mark Weist, overseeing the reconstruction. Local volunteers and craftsmen participated, and even inmates from Eastern Correctional Institution were recruited to help with the work. Stoney had wanted to cross-plank her like the other skipjacks, but heritage grant agreements required that she be rebuilt to her historic fore-and-aft style and shape.

By the time she was finished, about the only thing not replaced was the sheer plank. The C-flex was gone, and she was totally reframed, replanked from the main guard on down, with a new keel and keelson. The reborn Kathryn raced at Deal Island in 2015, and Stoney's son David Whitelock was at the helm when she went back to dredging in November.

By 2018, David owned the boat and was offering off-season educational and sunset pleasure cruises when not dredging, with his wife and three children often serving as crew members.

As of 2023, David still works the 122-year old skipjack as a dredge boat, and Kathryn is once again undergoing repairs to keep her sailing well into her second century of life.

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