Skipjack MARTHA LEWIS is a wooden-hulled, V-bottom, two-sail bateau built according to traditional methods employed by boat builders and watermen on the Chesapeake Bay. The vessel was constructed by formula and without architectural plans. She is 49’5” long on deck and has a beam of 16’7”. Length on the waterline is 46’2”. With the centerboard raised, the draft is 3’8”. The boom extends 50’ from its fitting to the mast. The ship has a longhead bow and a straight raking stern.
In keeping with the tradition of an oyster dredge boat, the engine used to operate the boat when not under sail was placed in an accompanying yawl boat. When not in use for power, the yawl boat is suspended from davits athwartships beyond the stern of the skipjack. The wooden hull has hard chines and is planked athwartships in a herringbone pattern below those chines. This design minimizes the need for internal frames. Meant to be used for dredging in shallow waters, the hull is stabilized below the water by a moveable centerboard equal in length to the broadest beam measurement of 16’7”.
Planking on the flush deck runs fore-and-aft. Above deck structures include a summer (forward) cabin just aft of the mast, used to facilitate passage below decks and to provide seating for passengers. A flat hatch cover can replace it when the boat is used for oyster dredging. The oyster dredging equipment is mounted on the deck aft of the summer cabin. This consists of the original winding gear fabricated of steel. The winder engine is enclosed in a wooden box. Side rollers are mounted amidships on the rails to facilitate hauling of the dredges.
The main cabin, lying directly in front of the quarterdeck, is paneled with tongue-and-groove pine installed during the initial construction. The steering mechanism, operated by a metal wheel, lies directly above the rudderpost.
The hull is painted white above the waterline. This is the traditional color for Chesapeake Bay workboats. Below the waterline, red antifouling paint is used. The color red also appears on the lower hulls of most skipjacks. The number 8 is displayed on plaques fastened to the standing rigging on both port and starboard sides. This is a display of the boat’s original oyster license issued by Dorchester County.
She also displays decorative trailboards on both port and starboard . They are mounted on the sides of the longhead bow. These painted and gilded carvings show the name of Martha Lewis set against a blue background. A traditional gilded eagle is also mounted on the underside of the longhead bow. The tradition of carved tailboards on Chesapeake Bay vessels dates to the early 18th century, and seems to be a carry-over from European shipbuilding traditions.