Maryland Traditions Folklife Area

photo courtesy of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum

Smith Island-style skiff

St. Michaels, Maryland

photo courtesy of the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art, Salisbury University

A Smith Island-style skiff is a small fishing boat, primarily used for crabbing, that is modeled after skiffs imported from Europe. These small, light boats have a pointed bow, flat stern, and flat bottom, which makes them well suited to the relatively calm waters of the Chesapeake. Originally designed to be powered by rowing, they have since been adapted for outboard motors. At the annual Skipjack Races & Festival on Deal Island, there is also a Smith Island skiff docking race, celebrating the role that these skiffs have played in the traditional maritime culture of the region.


The Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum, under the direction of Michael Gorman, will build a Smith Island-style skiff from start to finish during the 78th National Folk Festival in Salisbury. Gorman is a shipwright and the manager of the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s boatyard. Gorman grew up in Oswego, New York, where he got his first taste of boating on Lake Ontario. After moving to Arundel, Maine, he discovered his passion for boats and boatbuilding, which eventually led him to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay and the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. He has owned, worked on, and sailed varied boats over the years.


Michael Gorman will be joined by a team of shipwrights from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Together they will bring their significant skills to bear on the construction of a craft that is of great importance to the maritime traditions and occupational culture of the Chesapeake Bay.

Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum website: