Ship Model, Skipjack Gertrude Wands

The skipjack is the last in a long line of sailing craft designed for work in the Chesapeake Bay oyster industry. First built in the late 1800s, this sloop-rigged, single masted vessel was easy to maneuver even in light winds, and its V-shaped hull allowed oystermen to work in shallow waters. This model represents the Gertrude Wands, a skipjack built by John Branford on the Eastern Shore of Maryland in 1899. It is named after a little girl who lived in the community of Inverness.
Like bugeyes, skipjacks were built for oyster dredging under sail. But unlike the round-bottomed bugeye, the skipjack had a V-shaped hull, which was easier to build and did not require the huge logs of the traditional bugeye. Skipjacks were also smaller than bugeyes, ranging in size from 25 to 50 feet.
By the early 20th century, skipjacks had replaced bugeyes and were the main dredging craft on the bay. An 1865 Maryland law restricting dredging to sail-powered vessels ensured the continued use of sailing craft for oystering. Only in 1967 was the law amended to allow the use of a gasoline-powered push boat on Mondays and Tuesdays of each week. A push boat is shown on davits at the stern (back) of this model.
Maryland’s skipjacks are the last commercial fishing boats operating under sail in North America. In 1985, the skipjack was named Maryland’s official state boat. With the steep decline of the oyster population in the Chesapeake Bay, most skipjacks have become floating classrooms for public education programs about the bay. Several have been donated to museums for preservation. Still, many people who live in the Chesapeake region harbor a sense of longing and nostalgia for the days when the large white sails of skipjacks filled the horizon.
Object Name
skipjack, rigged model
date made
date Gertrude Wands was built
built Gertrude Wands
Branford, John
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
textile (part: sail & rigging material)
overall: 41 in x 11 in x 48 in; 104.14 cm x 27.94 cm x 121.92 cm
Associated Place
United States: Maryland
United States: Chesapeake Bay
ID Number
accession number
catalog number
Natural Resources
On the Water exhibit
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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