Coastal Heritage Alliance welcomes guest blogger Paulina Guerrero. Paulina participated in one of CHA’s Revival Tent Events. These events are free and open to the public. Visit the Events Calendar for dates and times.
On December 15, 2012 I went to one of Coastal Heritage Alliance’s Revival Tent Events at Scotts Cove Marina in Chance, Maryland. This open house event featured the restoration of the historic landmark skipjack Kathryn under the guidance of CHA founding director Mike Vlahovich along with several apprentices and local volunteers. As a local folklorist who had worked with CHA on a couple of folklife festivals, I was interested in learning more about the restoration of Kathryn and the cultural sustainability work that CHA does.
This massive undertaking has consisted of replacing and repairing substantial parts of the Kathryn’s main internal structure, along with repairing more external pieces in precise detail in order to bring the ship back to its former state. While the open house allowed visitors a glimpse in the process, the boat has been under restoration efforts for about a year. Kathryn has much more restoration ahead of her.
The event was open to the public and allowed visitors to see the process of restoring a wooden skipjack, along with being able to chat with the restoration team as they were repairing and fixing the vessel. This gave visitors an invaluable opportunity to not only learn about skipjacks, but also interact with the community members that are a part of this revitalization and conservation effort of the skipjack fleet.
When speaking to the restoration team, it was clear that the work is done out of a love for watermen’s culture, instead of a functional need. Mike Vlahovich knows that these wooden boats are no longer the most practical boat for watermen, but points to the inherent beauty and ingenuity that these wooden vessels possess. He said, “restoring these isn’t practical, so, restoring skipjacks is really more of an art-form.” This sensibility was reflected in the work of the whole restoration team, who have spent many hours making sure that the boat is being repaired impeccably so that it reflects the original design and aesthetic. The team also reflected the highly skilled and intuitive nature for this type of work. One of his apprentices stated, “We don’t really need a straight edge. Everything on the boat is on a curve, so we just eyeball-it.” This remarkable skill is one of the few aspects of craftsmanship that was on display at Scotts Cove Marina. It was exciting to see this restoration team work together to preserve and revitalize these beautiful wooden vessels that are truly pieces of art.
Paulina Guerrero is a PhD student in Folklore at Indiana University and is interested in Maryland Foodways and women’s occupations in the Eastern Shore. She hopes to learn how to sail a skipjack one day.