Pole delivered to Havre de Grace for shaping into Skipjack Martha Lewis' mast

Rudy Encinias with McLean Contracting Company helps guide the new mast for the Martha Lewis to the parking lot next to Hutchins Park in Havre de Grace.
Rudy Encinias with McLean Contracting Company helps guide the new mast for the Martha Lewis to the parking lot next to Hutchins Park in Havre de Grace. (Brian Krista | Aegis staff)

It took a five-state search, a 2 1/2 hour transport and one 66-foot long loblolly pine to move forward with a historically faithful mast for the 59-year-old skipjack Martha Lewis.

The future mast arrived via flatbed trailer from Snow Hill in Worcester County to a parking lot next to Havre de Grace's Frank J. Hutchins Park on a sunny Thursday afternoon, when it was unloaded in front of eager members of the Chesapeake Heritage Conservancy.


The conservancy has been raising money to fix rot and put a new mast on the oyster dredging boat. The boat is in Baltimore for some of the repairs but will return to Havre de Grace where the mast will be shaped and installed.

Striving to be historically accurate, the Havre de Grace-based conservancy searched across five states for a tree that would be tall, thick and straight enough "to shape into a mast in the traditional method of Chesapeake Bay shipwrighting," according to an earlier statement.


"Since we are a historical vessel, we try to replace the wood with what they would have used," executive director Cynthia Beane said of the shipwrights.

Kenneth Pusey, president of Paul W. Jones Lumber Company Inc., in Snow Hill, was ultimately able to help out the conservancy. His company donated a tree that came from a farm in Accomack County, Va., cultivated from a managed yellow-pine forest that is dedicated for large-scale timber production.

The specialized transport was performed by McLean Contracting, whose driver made good time Thursday and said the trip didn't require any special traffic or driving provisions.

What arrived in Havre de Grace looks like a long utility pole.


Plenty of work still has to be done before the skipjack can return to its educational mission on the waters of the Chesapeake Bay.

The conservancy must find a shipwright, or two, to shape the base to about 12 inches wide and the top to six inches, board member Helene Klair explained.

The mast also will need preservative put on before it can be fitted onto the boat.

"There are some shipwrights out there that are interested in doing this kind of thing," Klair said. "They don't get the opportunity too often to work on a wooden boat."

The work is expected to take about two weeks, Beane said.

Until then, the pole, as the conservancy people were calling it Thursday, will stay in the parking lot "and be worked here for the public to view," Klair said.

The public will also be invited to the installation of the mast, Beane said.

The Martha Lewis will eventually be brought up from Baltimore for the "mast stepping."

"We did it this way so the community will be a part of the stepping festivities which will be planned," Beane said, explaining why the pole was brought to Havre de Grace instead of Baltimore.

"Without the local community support, the Martha Lewis very well may have never sailed again, so we wanted to make sure they got to be a part of the celebration when everything is complete," she said.

Conservancy members were optimistic as the large pole was lowered onto some supporting beams in the parking lot. President Robert Gell posed with the trunk as vice president Mitch Mitchell snapped a picture.

"This is a whole new life for the Martha Lewis," Gell said, noting skipjacks simply were not meant to last. "There is a lot of maintenance that needs to be done."

Mitchell added it is "constant maintenance."

With any luck, though, the boat will be up and running in a few months. It has already been invited to be in Baltimore's Sailabration in the fall.

"Hopefully the mast will be in great shape and get the two back together again," Klair said. "We are definitely hoping to have it in the water this summer."

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