Unraveling the Mysteries of a SkipjackEditor: The Dec. 2...


December 21, 1990

Unraveling the Mysteries of a Skipjack

Editor: The Dec. 2 piece on the Baltimore Skipjacks, by Phillip Davis, says that "No one really knows how the Skipjacks got their name." There is no mystery.

The name comes from a kind of fish, as the piece suggests, but this has no local significance. In fact, the name is not of local origin. It was a term used by yachtsmen, not work-boat watermen. In the yachting publications of my youth it was the generic name for any V-bottomed sailing craft.

Skipjacks were of two kinds: Northern and Southern, the latter being often called "Chesapeake Bay skipjacks." These were cross-planked on the bottom (actually, herringbone-planked), with a chine (corner) which faded out under water forward (by being faired into a "chunk" forefoot -- a vestige of log construction), whereas the Northern skipjack was fore-and-aft planked on the bottom, with a chine that rose above the waterline and faired into the stem.

The watermen's traditional name for their kind of skipjack was "two-sail bateau," or, when ketch-rigged, "three-sail bateau." Because of similarity in rig, the latter type of skipjack is sometimes called -- erroneously -- a "bugeye." The bugeye was a round-bottomed, sharp-sterned craft with a log-bottom, having evolved from the log canoe.

"Bateau" originally referred to a flat-bottomed craft like the sharpie. Thus, what we nowadays call a Chesapeake skipjack is evolved from a flat-bottomed workboat modified by being built with "dead-rise," making it V-bottomed.

The sloop-rigged two-sail dead-rise bateau (skipjack) became favored as a "drudge boat" because it is relatively simple and cheap, not because it is "the ideal sailing craft for the Chesapeake." If he could afford it, a waterman would choose a bugeye, perhaps with a powerful sloop-rig like some.

Chesapeake Bay skipjack sloops are Bermuda rigged, called "sharp rig" by watermen -- who call gaff rig "square rig."

These watermen imagine that ketch-rigged skipjacks are schooner-rigged, hence call the mainmast the "foremast" and the mizzenmast the "mainmast." And, of course, they "drudge" for "arsters."

The yachtsman converted to the waterman's life accepts and uses all such verbal peculiarities. Consistent with this, he should call a bay skipjack a "bateau." Yachtsmen sometimes butcher the language too. I have heard some call the Bermuda rig of Baycraft "Marconi rig."

W. Case.



Editor: As of January 1991, persons who rely on Maryland's Pharmacy Assistance Program for life-sustaining medicines will be denied access to those medicines for a period of three months. Additionally, Maryland will no longer pay for kidney dialysis or part-time attendant care, and there is no indication of when these two programs will resume.

Cuts in these programs will clients unless they can find some other source of funding. those who need part-time attendants will be forced into institutions unless their relatives take them in.

While the Schaefer administration makes these cuts, it has retained $500,000 in the Historic and Cultural Capital Grant Fund and has $650,000 in below- market-value loans in the Capital Revolving Fund for fiscal year 1991. That adds up to $1,150,000 for historic preservation at a time when the state contends that it cannot afford to preserve the lives of ill and disabled citizens. Given these numbers, I cannot help but conclude that our state's chief executive cares far more about old buildings than he does about people.

%Edward B. Grebenstein, Jr.


Attendant Care

Editor: The November 17 article, entitled ''Maryland Cuts Said to Risk the Health of Hundreds,'' reported that officials appeared to be caught off-guard by allegations that people's lives will be endangered.

Marylanders for Adequate Attendant Care (MAAC) has been calling attention to the serious problems in the state's attendant care program since July 1989. Hours of testimony have been given, private meetings with state officials have been held and letters from people receiving inadequate attendant care have been submitted.

In spite of this evidence and promises to address the problem, however, these already inadequate programs will now be cut further. How is it that after months of exposure to the issues state officials can be caught off-guard?

Rather than conclude that state officials are uninformed or telling politically-motivated lies, I offer another explanation. The state appears to be unable to seriously consider evidence gathered by people with disabilities themselves.

People have already been hospitalized because of poor attendant care. I just hope state officials begin listening before someone dies.

Nathan Butler.



Editor: We now have about 500,000 military personnel in the Saudi Arabian area.

What will be the ultimate disposition of these forces, 100,000 for combat and 400,000 to keep an eye on the Syrians and the Egyptians?

Charles Cotel.


Fueling Troops

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