In Search of The Skipjack Ada Mae

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Just before heading to North Carolina back in May, I was looking at an old listing I had for the remaining skipjacks, out there floating around somewhere. At the top of the list, in alphabetical order, was the Ada Mae. This particular skipjack has a notation that it called home New Bern, N.C. We would pass through New Bern heading to Indian Beach for vacation.

Being that New Bern is about 30 square miles in size, I figured we should do some research to try and find her exact location before heading there. We had absolutely no luck with that! Of course, you can always count on Google for some crazy information. Like this Ada Mae:

She was the 1940s Snake Dancer from Ringling Brothers Circus. Sorry, wrong Ada Mae.

The Ada Mae we are looking for is a 54-foot skipjack, a specialized vessel designed for dredging oysters in the Chesapeake Bay. The Ada Mae was built in 1915 by Ralph Hodges on the family farm in Hyde County, North Carolina. As Hodges, 33, worked on the bateau, his kid sister, 13-year-old Ada Mae, who inspired the skipjack’s name, whiled away the days keeping him company.

Here is some other background info I was able to find: Skipjacks, or two-sail bateaus, were dredge boats that supported the state’s oyster industry. The Ada Mae is believed to be the only remaining skipjack built in North Carolina. It was found in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1994, by an East Carolina University graduate student who was working on a research project in Maryland. The Ada Mae was moored at Washington, North Carolina, where restoration work was being completed. It was to be used there as a classroom to teach students about the oyster industry in the state.

Well, is it in New Bern or Washington? More research. Everyone we talked to started their answer to my question “Where is the Ada Mae?” with, “The last I heard…” So maybe we need to change her name to “The Last I Heard”!

And here is the best time line I could put together.

1915 – Built

About 1945 – Hodges employed the skipjack for more than 30 years, and the Ada Mae’s home was mostly on the Washington waterfront. The Ada Mae divided her working hours between fishing and oystering on the Pamlico Sound off North Carolina, and transporting watermelons and lumber from the sound to Baltimore during the summer.

1955 – Disappeared. The Ada Mae, according to U.S. Coast Guard enrollment records, was among the few skipjacks working until 1955, when it disappeared from the register. She was abandoned outside of Baltimore in a shallow backwater, as is the custom for retiring obsolete boats.

1965 – The Ada Mae was rescued and put into service as the “Chester Peake,” the centerpiece of an advertising campaign launched by National Brewing Company of Baltimore. The aging skipjack was chosen because it represented one of the symbols of the Chesapeake Bay. She sailed from port to port on the bay, attending festivals and regattas and advertising the brewing company.

1965 Advertisement
1965

Just recently I acquired the below John Moll print at a local auction.

When National Brewing’s ad campaign shifted, the company donated the Chester Peake to the Baltimore Sea Scouts. For several years they used the skipjack as an educational and training vessel on which scouts learned about boating, leadership, and self-reliance. When upkeep became too much for the scouts, she was sold to William Phillips of Baltimore. Phillips had worked with Chesapeake Bay pilots for nearly 30 years and was hopeful that retirement would provide him the time to restore the Ada Mae. When it became obvious how daunting a restoration would be, Phillips set his sights on finding new owners who would be able to fulfill his dream. As it happened, the new owners found him.

1994 – Found by Grad Student in Baltimore. “David Smith, a graduate student in the maritime history and nautical archaeology program at Eastern Carolina University in Greenville, N.C., had heard in 1994 about a North Carolina-built skipjack called the Ada Mae that was moored somewhere in Baltimore” (Daily Press, Va.)

1995 – It took more than a year to pull together funding to move the boat. Soon after the Ada Mae’s arrival in North Carolina, the Institute for International Maritime Research held a welcome-home party. To the surprise of everyone, including the mayor of Washington, about 200 people led by Ada Mae Cowan, (Namesake of the skipjack), showed up for the festivities.

2003 – Acquired by Carolina Coastal Classrooms.

2005 – Part of the Floating Classroom. https://digital.ncdcr.gov/digital/collection/p16062coll18/id/83933

Noted that a 1900 Silver Dollar was kept under the mast for good luck. Also noted: I recently talked to someone who has this Silver Dollar.

2013 – Below photo of the Ada Mae docked near the Persimmons Restaurant in New Bern, N.C. Photo courtesy Watson Brown’s Backroad Photography (Great photos on his site).

2015 – 100th anniversary celebration. From the Halifax Media Service: “The 1915 ship, built to mainly dredge oysters, has been docked in New Bern since she was acquired by Carolina Coastal Classrooms in 2003. She is now used in the CCC’s educational programs. She is the only remaining skipjack in North Carolina and the oldest working ship in the state,” according to Carolina Coastal Classrooms. About 1,000 were built. The festivities will be at 5 p.m. Saturday at 109 Pollock St. The Ada Mae will be docked on the Neuse River behind the Galley Store.

2018 – Hurricane Florence strikes.

2021 – Found her!!

So, back to the story of our search. As I said, I looked at the Last Skipjacks Project website and sent off an email to a woman named Cyndy and she really didn’t have much info on the Ada Mae. Another Google search came up with Watson Brown’s photo. Thru Facebook I contacted him and he said his photo was from 2013 at New Bern. Kathy and I decided we would stop there on our way to Indian Beach. No luck. We did manage to get in touch with the owner of Persimmons Restaurant and he said it was moved just prior to Florence, just didn’t know where.

While on vacation I spent a lot of time doing some research, which included getting in touch with the Maritime Museum in Beaufort. They told me the boat was offered to them but they lacked the funds to restore it. “The last he heard”, it was in Washington, NC. The other “Last I Heards”, were at Fountain Powerboats, on the Pamlico River across from Washington. (Looking at Google Earth, it looked like a ship graveyard) It wasn’t there. McCotters Marina – no. Belhaven area – no. The Coast Guard, who had listed the Ada Mae as having been inspected in 2013 – never got back to me. And a whole lot more. Including Duck Creek Marina, who later gave me all the info I needed!

Four months later, I called Duck Creek Marina and talked to Cathy who said I should call the man who previously ran CCC and he would know where she is. Called and talked to him for a while. He said the Ada Mae is currently at Pacific Sea Craft in Washington, NC. She is alive and well and being restored. Come spring 2022 she may be moved to Beaufort, near Indian Beach, North Carolina. (I was seriously chastised for my mispronunciation of Beaufort! I pronounced it as ‘Buu-fort’ and not ‘Bow-fort’! Apparently there is one in North Carolina and one in South Carolina, each with there own pronunciation!)

Jimmy Sellers FB post, photo from 2018, before Hurricane Florence

I was given additional background on what happened to her: In 2018 when Florence approached she was moved to Duck Creek Marina and placed on low blocks. The water rose and she floated off and was damaged when she became wedged between two other boats. (I was originally told back in May she was lifted off the blocks and crashed to the ground). She was eventually moved to Pacific Sea Craft. They are talking about placing fiberglass on her to help preserve the hull. Various opinions about that.

I talked to Pacific Sea Craft a couple times in the past week to verify that she is there – yes she is. As of this writing I am waiting for them to send me some photos of the damage and the restoration work they are doing. They also said we are free to come down and look at her. Kathy will be heading to North Carolina in mid September and said she will stop by and photograph her.

Thank you Kathy for this and for your patience and willingness to travel around and talk to various people about the Ada Mae!!

Please note: I have removed some of the names of the people I have spoken to because, as of now, they still have not gotten back to me, giving permission to use their names. Some info was taken from various websites, that refer back to other websites, like Our State Magazine, N.C. and the Daily Press, Va.. Also Carolina Coastal Classroom which as far as I can tell, has closed down.

Trap Pond Kayak

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First kayak adventure of the season at Delaware’s Trap Pond State Park in Delaware. It usually costs us $8 to park at the boat launch. This year we decided to go ahead and get a yearly, out-of-state permit (for seniors) since we like hiking, biking and kayaking there. The permit covers all state parks in Delaware except Fort Delaware State Park and Pea Patch Island.

Water was calm. And since it was a very nice day weather wise, there were a few people on the water. We paddled a little over 3 miles.

As usual there were a lot of turtles sunning themselves.

Into the cypress swamp. Arrows pointing the way to Terrapin Branch. On Google maps this is called Thompson Branch.

Flowers already in bloom on the lily pads.

Looking at me looking at him.

Google Lens app says this is a Yellow Crowned Night Heron? Not sure.

Some ducks, some snakes and a heron.

A wonderful day to be out kayaking. Thanks God!

Pusey Trail and Cemeteries

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A week or so ago we found a brochure called “Just Walk”. It was put out by the Worcester County Health Dept. You could sign up and receive gifts for the miles you walked on 15 different trails. Most of which we had already hiked. There were a couple we hadn’t so we decided to go ahead and do it. The first one we picked was the Pusey Branch Trail on Old Furnace Rd near Old Beech Rd.

There is a cemetery at the front of this trail, so we thought we would check it out.

Lost part of his tail and has a hole in his side.

We then see this headstone. I knew by the writing and style that it is a military grave. When I got home, I decided to do a little research on S.C. Stevens. Private Stanley C. Stevens enlisted into the Union Army (Civil War) on August 30, 1864 at 28 years old. He was in Battery E of the 6th Pennsylvania Heavy Artillery. He was enlisted for 1 year and mustered out June 13, 1865. I could not find his birth or death dates.

We finish looking around and head to the trail.

The trail needs some maintenance but it is well marked.

We came to a secondary trail and headed that way.

The White Trail took us to a swamp, bright green life in an otherwise old, dying forest.

A few boardwalks and busted up benches along the way.

We found another path off of the designated path and tried to take that one but there was too much water.

Informational signs along the way. This one asks what is in a cord of wood?

I don’t think so! A mound of rotted wood.

Our path. A short hike and I couldn’t wait to get back and fill out the Health Department form to start earning free gifts!! Ha!! Get to the bottom of the form and it informs me that we have to be Worcester residents to register!!

As I mentioned above, I did some research on Pvt. Stevens. Because this hike was on the Pusey Branch and there were Pusey headstones in the cemetery, I just assumed the name of the cemetery was Pusey? (Researchers NEVER assume!). I went to the Find a Grave website and saw that the Pusey Cemetery is a couple miles west on Meadow Bridge Rd. The above cemetery is called the Nazareth Cemetery, from a church and not a private one.

So, a week later we head to find the Pusey Cemetery. As we head down the road Kathy sees some headstones in the woods. This one is a private cemetery called Bounds-McAllen Cemetery.

A small cemetery and not the one we are looking for. A photo on the Find a Grave site shows it with a fence. We head further up the road and we see a gate on a trail and we think this must be the place. Walking back about 700′ we found it. Seemed odd that there was a marker on the outside of the fence.

We found another Veteran’s grave. There is more available research on him, on Google, than that on Stevens. As can be seen, he was in the Confederate Army, the cavalry. Here is a link for info. http://www.mikehitch.com/me/5062.htm Thanks Mike for the info.

And here we have a tree growing on top a dead stump.

A photo from 2013 of the cemetery, Some sites show it just as the Pusey Cemetery. On other sites I saw it called the Pusey-Maddox Cemetery.

After visiting here, we hiked some. Another story, another time.

It would be nice to know the story of the two service men. They are buried a couple miles from each other, in cemeteries with family members of the same name. Did they know each other. One item I read about Azariah was that he enlisted in the union, was captured by the rebels and joined them?? So many questions, so little time…

Chandler Tract (White Trail) 4 3 21

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This was a 3.6 mile or a 4.1 mile hike, depending on which map you use, in the Pocomoke State Forest. There is also a Green Trail (4.4 mi) and a Blue Trail (5.2 mi) in the same area. We chose the White Trail because it heads towards a creek – Corkers Creek. The entrance is across Rte. 113, from Shad Landing. Nice empty parking lot.

Maybe they will put up a trail map here one day.

Only saw a couple cyclist on the trail. Otherwise a nice quiet hike. The Green and White trails intersect for a short distance. We know what the dots mean, unsure of the numbers though. I wrote the park service to ask them. Waiting to hear back.

A few muddy spots starting off, but mostly dry. It is the Eastern Shore and there will be mud!

Buckshot warning about straying away from the trail…

But where would you go? Lots of thickets on one side and a swamp on the other. But I do know what they mean. Up on the Gunpowder Trails they don’t want you straying off – it can and will cause erosion.

Up ahead where Kathy is, take a sharp right.

Which didn’t seem right. We ended up at a ditch. On the other side in the distance I saw a trail marker…so let’s go.

Up the other side and a few 100 yards ahead we came to marker 77. End of the ‘Official’ trail.

Corkers Creek passes down below and across the way we see another mound. (Wondering if at one time a bridge crossed here?) One of our maps says Colburn Trail is over there.

We look to the right and head down to a nice area.

Kathy’s photo of some of the Cypress Knees.

Back up the mound and then down the left side.

Read that this was designated as a canoe creek. Don’t think so. Maybe at one time.

We walk a ways and come across the most Cypress Knees we have ever seen.

Kathy heads over for a better look…

Instead of heading back the way we came, we cut through the woods, but still have to navigate the ditch. I thought Kathy was going to want us to cross the log.

Some really nice close-ups that Kathy took.

Below is the map that AllTrails has. Path looks pretty straight and narrow – in and out.

Here is what it looks like enlarged, at the creek. We were all over the place!

Another wonderful adventure! We will probably do the Green Path by bike, next trip.

Oyster Fritters, Antiques, a Hike (and a bad sign)

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This was a two day adventure. On the 20th we went to the Chincoteague VFD for a fund raiser – oyster fritter sandwich, a bottle of water and a bag of chips. Although this was my first fritter and I enjoyed it, I must say, I like a fried oyster sandwich best. We picked up our lunch and headed to the Chincoteague Veterans Memorial Park.

It was a nice place to sit and look at the water. Part of Assateague, Va. is right across the water.

Man, are you kidding me? I can see why there is no swimming, but no kayaking?

We left Chincoteague after lunch (We did stop at the bookstore and I picked up a couple local, Eastern Shore history books). Decided to check out a couple antique shops heading up Route 13. Stopping first at Chesapeake Antiques. Last time we were here they had a lot of stuff. Not so much now. It actually looks like they are going out of business. Pickers Paradise next door is closed. Headed up the road a little further and stopped here – Worcester House Antiques. Wow…
Junk store, expensive.

We did stop at a very nice shop in Princess Anne – Somerset Choice Station Antiques. It is part of the Somerset Historical Society. http://www.somersetcountyhistoricalsociety.org/shop.html

So, the next day, the 21st, we decided to take a short hike. Went here once again. Always nice to be along the Nassawango Creek, among the cypress.

Found this in the swamp and Kathy wanted it, soooo. We will fix the baby carriage up and place it in the garden.

Looking for frogs. We heard them but did not see them.

Possible UFO sighting.

We did find that elusive Unicorn we have been looking for.

A favorite spot to sit and daydream about kayaking.

A little confusing. After this point the trails were not marked so we stayed next to the creek.

Not sure how this ended up here. Kathy suggested that it was brought up from the creek and the person just walked away. There is a house about a half-mile from here, but they have a ramp? We hiked to about the house and then headed through the woods to the road – Creek Road.

Saw this from the water while kayaking. Like I stated above, the closest house is about a half-mile away.

Nice two days of adventures. Thanks God for these days.

(Un)Haunted Road Trip

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During winter lock-down, I have been able to catch up on a lot of reading. I have always enjoyed local history books. Read quite a few of Baltimore’s History while living up there, so now I read a lot of Eastern Shore History. Right now I am reading The Rivers of the Eastern Shore while also reading The Lord’s Oysters. I mention places to Kathy that are in the books and she says, well, let’s go check them out. For this outing I referred to Haunted Eastern Shore.

First stop on the list was the White Marsh Cemetery, also known as the Hole in the Wall Cemetery. I guess a doorway could also be called a hole?

This cemetery is quite visible from Rte. 50 heading west from Trappe. Right hand side. Here is the historical marker.

A couple notable haunted stories about this place are that the wife, Hanna, of the Reverend Maynadier of this church took ill and died. People knew she wanted to be buried with her favorite (expensive) ring and she was. The night after her burial two grave robbers dug her up and tried to pull the ring off her finger with no luck. The one robber pulled out his pocket knife and as he was trying to cut her finger off, she awoke from a coma and screamed – scaring them off. She made it home where she recovered. Supposedly you can see her roaming around the cemetery. We did not. It may have been too windy. She is buried with her husband.

Another story is that of Robert Morris whose fate is described in the last paragraph of his burial stone/marker: A salute from the cannon of a ship, the wad fracturing his arm, was the means by which he departed July 12, 1750. Someone on the ship was to fire the cannon at the Captains signal – finger to nose. But a fly landed on his nose and when he shooed it off with his finger…well, you get the picture!

Next stop on our trip was Koon’s Easton Toyota about 3 miles north on Rte. 50. The Peach Blossom Creek Covered Bridge is another one of those places you see heading to and fro on Rte. 50. We tried once before to seek out a route to this bridge but ended up on private property and stopped.

I decided to go into the dealership and ask permission to park in their lot and try to find a way through the marsh/woods. They said we could park there but didn’t think it was possible to get thru the marsh. One of the guys suggested walking up to the St. Michaels bypass and look for a path. That was a little too far to go so we headed behind the store and was stopped by the marsh, headed north to an opening and headed through the woods to a clearing and to the bridge.

Spirits but no ghost.

Finally to the bridge. Looking back at Koon’s and no, we would not have made it through the marsh.

We didn’t see this going in, but this is where we came out next to Rte. 50.

Next stop on our trip was to the Tunis Mills Hanging Tree on Miles River Rd. This is near an area called “The Rest”. Wonder how long this sign will stay up?

This is what the tree is supposed to look like. Lots of people were hung here. Not sure whom, but a lot. You are supposed to sit in your car under the tree, motor off and listen for the faint screams of those hung! I couldn’t wait!!

Well, this is what the tree looks like now! And over on the side of the road is the hanging limb.

Leave there, disappointed I must add, and head back over the Miles River draw bridge. Pull off the road onto a dirt road.

And of course I had to climb under the bridge.

Kathy took this photo of an old church just over the bridge.

Unionville Historical marker – self explanatory.

Decided then to head to Tilghman Island and St. Michaels. Checked out the Lowes Wharf. Tide is out.

Looks like they are installing a new bulkhead or something.

Follow the road through St. Michaels to where you cannot go any further. I was hoping we could but the road is closed at the entrance to Black Walnut Point.

There is a naval lab here also.

The shoreline at the parking lot.

A public dock up the road.

With swans trying to do some synchronized swimming.

By this time of the day it was getting rather windy and chilly. Only a couple more stops (We gave up on the ghost hunting). This is an interesting sign. I thought Deal Island was home for the skipjacks.

Interesting info… https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rebecca_T._Ruark

Roadside attraction.

And another. Anyone know what this is? We do and it was surprising.

Most telephone poles had Valentine hearts throughout TI.

Finally heading home and a quick stop at the TI Drawbridge. Constructed in 1934, it is Maryland’s only overhead counterweight bascule span and one of only fifteen moveable bridges throughout the state road network. This type of bridge a heel trunion rolling lift bridge with a counterweight suspended above the roadway was constructed at the Knapps Narrows site because of its ease and speed of operation. The bridge opened approximately 12,000 times a year, more often than most East Coast bridges.

Another wonderful road trip with so much seen and appreciated!! Always an adventure with Kathy. No ghost but lots of sights.

Pete and Repeat

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An old joke but still cracks me up – If Pete and Repeat were sitting on a fence and Pete flew away, who was left? Repeat. Ok, If Pete and Repeat were… and on and on it goes until someone tells you to stop it! What does that have to do with a nature hike post? Nothing, other than the fact we have repeated this trip to Assateague Island in Virginia a hundred times. And we never get tired of it. And we always seem to find a new adventure awaiting us – whether we are biking or hiking.

This particular trip was just to get out of the house before the rains came, have lunch and to look at the ocean from the parking lot. But the lot was closed so we decided to see what was going on.

Me wondering where all the sea shells are?

The beach is under a constant state of erosion and the Rangers/contractors are under a constant state of trying to fix it. I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that the Atlantic Ocean and Tom’s Cove will soon be connected. That at the rate of erosion, maybe by 2025 this stretch of the beach will be gone. So much for doomsday projections…Kathy and I headed over to the cove. Kathy was wondering how are we going to get over to that strip of land. The tide was the lowest we have ever seen it. Off in the distance is where we usually hike – The Bi-valve Trail.

Mostly hard sand but there were some pockets of mud.

Quite a few varieties of shells. Mostly empty oysters and mollusks. Some clams here and there.

Kathy’s photo of some bivalves.

And a very lonely, cold, star fish.

Time to head back and we thought this path would take us towards the beach. It didn’t.

It took us somewhere alien! I have an app on my phone called Google Lens, which if you take a photo with it, it will tell you what it is you photographed. The app didn’t know what to make of this.

We finally make it back to the parking lot. Amazing how it changes every time we visit. Bulldoze the sand up in a pile and the ocean just washes over it.

After walking around for a couple hours we then headed to the Crusty Crab at Greenbackville for a couple oyster sandwiches and their delicious coleslaw. Sat at the beach and ate. The tide was also low here…

Another great, repeat adventure with some new twists! Thanks GOD!

The Murden

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Headed down to Ocean City, Md. the other day. It was cold and windy but a nice day to be out. We parked at the Inlet Parking Lot after checking to see if Thrasher’s Fries was open. They were not. Off in the distance we saw some sort of ship way down near Assateague.

The ship started to head back towards the Inlet Channel – some rough seas

Suddenly he headed towards the beach adjacent to the fishing pier.

Did a u-turn and we thought he was going to hit the beach.

He straightened himself (or herself) out and then headed into the channel.

Where the seagulls and I could get a good look.

The cars lined up for lunch and the gulls waiting for some Thrashers. Disappointed.

Back in the car with a view one way…

Then the other.

Here is a stock photo of the ship and some info.

The split hull dredger Murden is currently very busy working in and around Ocean City Inlet as part of the Assateague Island Restoration project, conducted in partnership with the Assateague Island National Seashore, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Baltimore District said in its latest announcement. This project involves dredging sand from in and around the Ocean City Inlet navigation channel and beneficially placing it south of the inlet just offshore of Assateague Island. The work is being done to mitigate the impacts on sediment transport and erosion caused by the the inlet and associated jetties. According to USACE, this work generally takes place twice a year. The Murden arrived at Ocean City Inlet at the end of May (2019) and is expected to continue working in the area until mid-June. The USACE’s shallow draft dredger is based out of the the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ Wilmington District in North Carolina.

Blades Road Trail

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Part of the Pocomoke River State Park. Short hike, about 4.1 miles. We did this trail last month and revisited for other views, other areas we did not walk last time. Nice skim of ice on some of the water in the marsh.

Lots of reflections

Some interesting colors left behind from the local unicorns maybe?

Judy in disguise…or Kathy with a new pair of glasses!

Pump parts

Playing in the pipe or looking for unicorns.

Tree stand for unicorn hunters

Duck decoys

The trail and the sights

A lot of these photographs were taken by Kathy. My camera has been giving me some trouble here lately. Especially with the batteries keeping a charge or even charging at all.

All in all it was a great day for a hike. Thanks Kathy and thank you God!

Only With Vigilance

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Published this over 10 years ago. Took it out of print because I was tired of people telling me my memories were incorrect. Most of the beginning of the book was from writings I did while in the penitentiary at 20 years old. I think my memories were clearer at 20 then the memories of people in their fifties and sixties reading this 10 years ago

The other parts were written, taken directly from my journals and letters and other peoples journals and letters. Those who read it and commented to me about it, picked out some things they thought may be or were hurtful to them and others. I got rid of most of those writings. I also added 10 more years of living into the book and republished it.