Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester Turns 30

Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester celebration set for July 4

Thirty years ago, the last skipjack built to be a dredge boat in the 20th century, the Nathan of Dorchester, was launched to provide a reminder of the many stories that shaped the character of this area and to educate the public of the oyster’s importance for the health of the Chesapeake Bay. The classic oystering vessel, which was christened on July 4, 1994, will celebrate its 30th anniversary with a rechristening July 4 at Long Wharf in Cambridge, MD.

Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester
Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester serves as a platform for education and toursim. Photo courtesy of Skipjack Nathan of Dorchester

The inspiration for Nathan came in 1991, when the Dorchester Skipjack Committee was formed to build a skipjack as a way to attract tourism to and preserve the maritime heritage of the City of Cambridge, MD, and Dorchester County. The vessel was designed by Harold Ruark, who also designed and built her pushboat. More than 14,000 volunteer hours went into her construction. They used local pine, oak, and cedar. Harold Ruark’s cousin, Bobby Ruark, was the master builder and supervised the volunteers. Although she was built as a dredge boat, Nathan was never used to dredge commercially. Instead, she has served nobley for three decades as a platform for education and tourism.

The Nathan rechristening celebration will begin at 10 a.m. on July 4 and will include guest speakers, music, light refreshments, and the smashing of a champagne bottle. A dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Nathan Town Crier will take place at noon at the World War II Memorial in Long Wharf Park. Following the program there will be opportunities to tour Nathan. Additionally, there will be several schooners docked at Long Wharf during the July 4 holiday.


• 10 a.m. - 30th anniversary program with speakers, music, light refreshments, and a rechristening at Long Wharf.

• 12 p.m. - Reading of the Declaration of Independence by the Nathan's town crier at the WWII Memorial, Long Wharf.

• Schooners and other boats including Jolly Dolphin, Radian, Wyvern, and Chesapeake are expected to be sailing in July 2 and 3 in honor of the Nathan. They will be offering dockside tours on July 4 from 12 to 4 p.m.

Learn more about the Nathan or book a two-hour cruise or custom charter at

More about oystering on the Bay: In his article “The Other Oysters Wars” David Rose chronicles the intriguing history of the Chesapeake Bay oyster “culture war” that was fought on the political battlefield. It was a conflict that set those who made their living on the water against those who believed that private oyster cultivation was necessary to preserve this natural resource and increase profit. Find it here.