A heavily damaged Rebecca T. Ruark prepares to be hoisted to drydock by crane on May 12. Photo: Mark Ward

MD’s Oldest Skipjack Sold, Rebuilds after Crash

After a suspected drunk pickup truck drove into a historic Bay skipjack tied up to its dock, the skipjack’s owner has sold the boat and repairs are underway.

Skipjack captain Wade (Wady) Murphy Jr., 81, of Tilghman Island, Maryland, has turned ownership of the skipjack Rebecca T. Ruark—a National Historic Landmark—over to his son.

Wade Murphy III reported last week that Wady decided to sell the boat to him and that the boat is currently up on the hard at Horseman Enterprise LLC in Madison, Maryland, being repaired after the freak accident happened in December. The boat was hauled on May 12  with the aid of 170-ton crane.

On Dec. 27, 2022, the alleged drunk driver of a 1997 Chevrolet pickup truck ran through a shoreline piling at Dogwood Harbor on Tilghman Island where the boat was moored and landed onto the starboard portion of the stern.

The accident destroyed the house and wheel box, broke two spokes on the ancient steering wheel and damaged the stern and decks. While up on the hard, Murphy III said he plans to have the sides and bottom repaired and fiberglassed.

Captain Wady Murphy Jr. has turned the Rebecca T. Ruark over to his son. This photo was taken of Wady in 1988 at the helm of the Rebecca. Photo: Larry Chowning

The Rebecca T. Ruark is the oldest surviving Maryland skipjack on the bay. She was built as a sloop in 1886 at Taylors Island.

“Dad is 81 years old and he just didn’t feel like he could properly care and work the boat anymore,” says Wade III.

Wady is a legend on Chesapeake Bay. He and the Rebecca have won more skipjack races than any captain and boat alive. His success as an oysterman and his will to maintain and keep the Rebecca T. Ruark afloat and working has greatly enriched the Bay’s maritime heritage.

While dredging oysters on a power day in 1988 on the Rebecca, Wady told this reporter, “I bought the Rebecca from Emerson Todd. He was in his eighties when he finally retired and sold her to me. I tell ya, I love this old boat. She’s seen many a wave break over her bow.”

As of yet no insurance funds from the accident have arrived. “I’m not expecting much help on this from the insurance company,” says Wade III. “The driver had the lowest amount of collision insurance ($25,000) that the state of Maryland allows and I’ve been told that Talbot County has to be paid for the pole that was broken off and the wrecker company that removed the car from the boat also has to be paid,” said Wade III.

A account “Save the National historic Rebecca T. Ruark,” organized by Lori Secrist has been setup to raise funds to help with cost. So far, about $2,300 has been raised. The goal is $50,000.

-Larry Chowning