Tilghman Island children show off the new Historic Skipjacks license plate. Photo courtesy of the Tilghman Area Youth Association

Historic Skipjack MD License Plates Support Tilghman Island Youth Org.

If you, like many Chesapeake Bay enthusiasts, treasure the historic skipjacks that used to harvest deckloads of oysters, there’s a Maryland license plate for you.

As a new fundraiser, the Tilghman Area Youth Association (TAYA) is launching a Maryland license plate commemorating the state’s most iconic boat, the skipjack. The plates will read “Historic Skipjacks” and feature imagery of the sailboat itself, designed by a Baltimore-based graphic company. 

Inspiration came from a similar fundraiser at Bryan Brothers Foundation, another Eastern Shore nonprofit focused on youth services. This organization sponsors the recognizable “Maryland Eastern Shore” plates bearing a blue crab drawing. 

Like the blue crab, the skipjack was chosen because of its significance in the Chesapeake region. Used to dredge for oysters on the floor of the bay, it is the last type of working boat under sail in the United States and is recognized as the state boat of Maryland. At present, there are 35 skipjacks in the Chesapeake Bay, with a majority being used for educational purposes. 

Tilghman is an area rich with history, home to one of the region’s oldest skipjacks, the Rebecca Ruark. In part, the license plate design is an homage to both the local history and the still-extant working maritime community.  

“[The skipjack] is of local interest—we have half a dozen working skipjacks today in Tilghman,  so there’s deep roots, it has broad appeal in the community,” TAYA President Krista Paquin said. “But it also goes beyond Tilghman and appeals to all of the Chesapeake.” 

Paquin explained the decision to feature the skipjack was reached with heavy input from the Eastern Shore region. 

“We polled around our community extensively when we came up with the idea to use the skipjack,” Paquin said. “You know the Eastern Shore concept of the ‘come-heres’ and ‘from heres’ –we wanted something everyone could love.” 

Choosing such a ubiquitous Chesapeake icon not only unites the watershed community, but also extends the reach of both TAYA’s fundraising efforts and mission. 

The idea has already been well-received: the Skipjack Heritage Museum in Chance, Maryland will carry the plate, as will the Dorchester County Skipjack Committee in Cambridge.  

Each plate will cost $50, half of which goes directly to funding programming at TAYA. Originating as a small aftercare group to give local youths a safe space outside of school hours,  the organization has expanded to include career placement programs and scholarships for  graduating high school seniors. 

The plates can be purchased by current Maryland plateholders at the TAYA website: tilghmanyouth.org. Ten plates will also be auctioned off at the organization’s benefit auction on Sept. 30, to be held at Langdon Farm in Sherwood, Md.

-Alaina Perdon