Maryland Traditions Folklife Area
Deal Island, Maryland
photo credit: Edwin Remsberg Photographs
Captain Stoney Whitelock is a lifelong resident of the Eastern Shore and a fourth-generation skipjack captain. Whitelock has been a prominent member of the skipjack community in Maryland for his entire life, first working on these distinctive Chesapeake workboats to harvest oysters from the bay and now leading efforts to preserve the remaining vessels that are so unique to the region. Whitelock is also eager to teach anyone who will listen about the centrality of skipjacks to life on the Eastern Shore, especially the Chesapeake Bay. He is heavily involved with Deal Island’s annual Skipjack Races & Festival as well as other heritage events in the region, such as the Delmarvalous Festival at the Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art.
The skipjack is a Chesapeake original, emerging in the late 19th century. Based on the bugeye, a sailboat that preceded it in the oyster industry, the skipjack is adapted specifically for the shallow bay and the oyster fishery. It has a wide beam, tall mast, triangular sails, and a keel that can be lowered or raised depending on the depth of the water being navigated. The skipjack was created for the Chesapeake Bay oyster industry; the Maryland skipjack fleet is the last fleet of working boats under sail in the United States. In 1985, it was designated as the official state boat of Maryland.
Captain Stoney Whitelock brings both humor and humility to his heritage work. His work as both interpreter and preserver of the traditions of the region is a defining part of his life.