Sunday, August 15, 2010

51st annual Skipjack Race on Deal Island and Captain Art Daniels

51st annual Skipjack Race on Deal Island, Captain Art Daniels, The City of Crisfield skipjack

“It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul” ~ William Ernest Henley

Last week I decided to visit Captain Art Daniels, something that I do from time to time - when I can catch him. Daddy Art, as everyone calls him, is 89, and he has more energy than I do. Right now, he is excited about the upcoming 51st annual Skipjack Race and Festival that will be held September 6, on Deal Island.
For 51 years, the race has been held on Labor Day. And for 51 years, Captain Art Daniels has been a part of that race.

Finding Daddy Art is something of an Easter egg hunt. Of course, on Deal Island, if you can't find him, you can just ask someone who ask someone, and eventually someone will say they saw him at so-and-so's place or doing "whatever", and in time you can usually find him. The best time to find him this time of year is working on his skipjack, the City of Crisfield.

For you land-lovers, a skipjack is a boat that was once a common sight on the Chesapeake Bay. It was used for oyster dredging near the end of the 19th century. The City of Crisfield was built in 1949, and was purchased by Captain Daniels sometimes in the fifties (I am not sure of the exact year). She was restored once but is falling into disarray. That did not keep Captain Daniels from racing her to victory in the skipjack races 3 years ago. I was hunkered down on the deck taking photos, and what an honor it was to be there. Had it not been for the storm during last year's race, Captain Daniels may have well won again.  That was a heck of a race because the storm moved the markers, sails were ripped, and the bow of a boat was clipped by another boat.

Let me back up - perhaps saying Captain Daniels boat is in disarray is deceiving, and I'm certain he would not think of his beloved boat as being in disarray.  He works on her all the time, and keeps her going by patching her up with whatever he can find. He still works her during oyster season, and is gearing up for another year on the water as well as for the 51st skipjack race. I hope to be hunkered down on the deck once again.

The City of Crisfield is a sail-powered boat. Some skipjacks get out of the harbor by push-boats; the City of Crisfield is pulled out into the harbor. It is estimated that in the heyday of the oyster boom, there were around 2,000 skipjacks working the bay. Today, only around 35 remain, and less than half are true working boats. Daddy Art's City of Crisfield is a working museum piece, holding onto to a life that is rapidly vanishing. She remains one of around 35 remaining traditional Chesapeake Bay skipjacks and a member of the last commercial sailing fleet in the United States.

 Daddy Art has to be the most famous living skipjack captain, at least in my opinion. When I visited him, he told me he was the oldest living man on Deal Island. Maybe his secret of  a long-life can be attributed to his love of the bay and the City of Crisfield. He also has the most wonderful loving and supportive family I have ever met, and that counts for a lot.

I found the City of Crisfield on this day along with Daddy Art's first-mate tending the crab shanty. I found Daddy Art later in the day and chatted with him at some length. It was a hot day so I told Daddy Art I would be back in a few days to get him pictured alongside the skipjack.

When I returned, I found Daddy Art had taken his boat out of the water in order to start work on it for the race. I did catch him cleaning a few blow-fish he had caught - his supper - he told me.

Daddy Art wraps up his three blow-fish for dinner.

And then it was "off to market" with his crabs. I headed to Scotts Cove Marina where I hoped to meet up with Daddy Art later. But Daddy Art is on "Daddy Art" time, so I figured I would take some photos of the City of Crisfield and come back another day to capture Daddy Art with her.

Scotts Cove Marina in Chance...The City of Crisfield sits next to the Ida May, another working skipjack built in 1906.

From my files:

From the deck of the City of Crisfield during the skipjack races.

And this is a photo I took of Daddy Art when he knew I was coming. A lot of photographers head to Deal Island hoping to photograph this famous skipjack captain.  Daddy Art is a hard working waterman. If you do find him do not expect him to stop what he is doing for a snapshot. He has had more photos and videos taken of him than you can shake a stick at, so cameras do not impress him. You have to work around him. I feel blessed to have known this man and be allowed to photograph him. He knows me as his "Georgia Peach." I hope To be photographing him and his skipjack for many years to come.

Good luck Daddy Art and the City of Crisfield!

Click here for more info on the skipjack races.


Rick Boyer said...

Daddy Art is my HERO !! I am going to try to make it to the skipjack races this labor day on Deal Island, cant wait to meet Art.

Patty said...

Thanks. Daddy Art is my hero too! I hope to have his energy and love for life when I get his age.