Talbot Lady


Talbot Lady had been under restoration since we found her in 2009 next to a barn in Canton, New Jersey. She was built as a pleasure boat and was privately owned. Her owner hoped to get her restored and back on the water, but died in 2018 after a long illness and before his dream of sailing her again could be realized. The owner's wife had been trying to find someone who would like to take on the challenge of restoring Talbot Lady, but we received confirmation that the boat finally collapsed in on itself and was lost in 2021, with the pushboat reportedly soon to follow. A few trim pieces were saved by the family.

Talbot Lady, 20 February 2009

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While Skipjack Talbot Lady was originally dreamed of as a working dredge boat, she spent her comparatively brief active life as a pleasure vessel. She was built at Skipton Creek in Talbot County, Maryland, by Alfred Parker "Bird" Quimby and Alfred H. Wooters.

Construction began about 2 March 1982 on Quimby's farm in Cordova, with the felling of the first trees from the old growth stand on his property. Quimby was a farmer and road engineer. He had built other watercraft years before, but this was his biggest and most ambitious project. He based her design on plans for Skipjack Minnie V.

Quimby cured the prepared timbers on scaffolding under a long shed roof, rotating them occasionally to ensure dry, unchecked wood. Boughs angled off white oak trunks, with their naturally curved grain, served as structural knees.

The boat progressed until Christmas Eve 1983, when Quimby suffered a heart attack, and construction halted for a few months. It resumed in the spring, and Talbot Lady was launched at Wye Mills on 9 October 1984, an event covered by local news media. Her first sail was when she competed at Chesapeake Appreciation Days that year, with Roy Galloway and his son Peter as honorary skipper and tactician. The Galloways had befriended Quimby and documented the construction of the boat for him.

"Every man, once in a lifetime, is entitled to a masterpiece," said Quimby, "and this is mine." He fashioned a figurehead for her after Lady Talbot, also decorating the boat with likenesses of Chessie, the Chesapeake Bay's mythical sea monster, and diamondback terrapins.

In 1986, noticing the White House Christmas tree on television, he wondered if it would make a good boom. Active in Democratic circles and a fan of House Speaker Thomas P. "Tip" O'Neill, he contacted his representative and managed to take possession of the tree when the holidays were over. At Quimby's expense, the tree was loaded onto a flatbed trailer and hauled to Maryland, where he made it into a boom along with some additional mementos, including an ornament for O'Neill.

Quimby owned Talbot Lady until about 1990. She competed in multiple races over the years and sailed throughout the Bay. He asked marine surveyor Fred Hechlinger to sail her for a charter out of Sandy Point during the 1987 Chesapeake Appreciation Days, and Hechlinger said they "had a delightful little sail," adding that "she handled very nicely." He said Quimby's son ran the yawl boat, as there was then rno inboard engine and no onboard controls for the yawl.

Sometime around 1990, an error coming about made by the captain sailing her at the time snapped the mast. After his loving care and construction of the spars, it reportedly broke Quimby's heart and compromised his plans to sell Talbot Lady to a working waterman as a dredge boat. Instead, he sold her to a private individual, who used her as a pleasure boat.

Her history for the next ten years is unclear, but she spent time in Cambridge, Maryland, where she sank a couple of times at what was then Gateway Marina, across the Choptank River. Finally, Melvin Thomas bought her in 2002.

Thomas had earned his captain's license before he bought the boat, and like Quimby before him, he had a dream for Talbot Lady. Thomas planned to rename the boat Rebecca Thomas, restore her, and share the history of skipjacks by taking kids out sailing. He began by trucking her up to his home in Canton, New Jersey, and setting her up in his backyard for restoration.

However, dreams just never seemed to materialize for Talbot Lady. Shortly after Thomas bought her, he learned that he had cancer. Work on her would end up being slow and sporadic.

When we found her in 2009, she was under a tarp, still sporting her Chessie- and terrapin-embellished trailboards and Lady Talbot figurehead. Other than some bottom work, little seemed to have been done. Yet when we spoke with Capt. Thomas in 2013, he said he had been making slow progress on deck planks. He was still hopeful, still had his dream.

A couple years later, he had sold the sails and cut up the mast and boom, but told a prospective buyer he still wasn't ready to give up on her. However, Thomas ran out of time and passed away in 2018.

His wife tried to find someone to take up her late husband's dream, but nothing ever came of her efforts. The boat finally collapsed on itself sometime around 2021, and other than a few salvaged trim pieces—likely the figurehead and trailboards among them—Talbot Lady and all the dreams for her are gone.

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