The Dee of St. Mary’s is strongly symbolic of our state’s ties to the Chesapeake Bay.
Although the boat itself is not historic (it was built in 1979 and oystered until 1990), the Chesapeake Bay Field Lab (CBFL), the nonprofit that owns the vessel and nominated it for the list, provides an important, authentic water experience for 5,000 people per year, many of them schoolchildren. Like farming, aquaculture is disappearing from daily life, and board members cast their vote to add the Dee to the list after deciding that the structure represents the extreme jeopardy of the fleet—as well as of the people who earn their living on the water.
For 20 years, the Dee of St. Mary’s has carried over 100,000 visitors on field trips as part of “the best skipjack program on the bay” by the Maryland State Department of Education (MSDE).
Due to dilapidation, CBFL had to suspend 2011 educational field trips (with the goal of completing the restoration and returning the skipjack to service in 2012). Structural restoration was successfully completed in 2010.
The Dee is one of six authentic skipjacks—and the youngest, most structurally viable bay skipjack left in the last commercial sailing fleet in North America—able to hold U.S. Coast Guard certification to carry passengers. (This certification is in peril if restoration efforts are not completed this year.)
The CBFL needs two forms of assistance, says Viki Volk of CBFL. “The most immediate is the estimated $100,000 needed to complete the restoration. The second is to find a steady funding stream.” The MSDE assessment qualifies the Dee’s program for state funding, but the CBFL has yet to secure a state appropriation, as have the other sailing field trips in the state.
For more information, visit www.thebaylab.org.