Skipjack Ann McGarvey about to get a new life

Harold “Stoney” Whitelock of Dames Quarter, left, works with Bob Fitzgerald on restoring the Anna McGarvey at Scott’s Cove Marina in Chance. (Brice Stump Photo.)

There’s soon going to be another skipjack sailing the Chesapeake Bay.

Harold “Stoney” Whitelock, 71, of Dames Quarter, is busy restoring the Anna McGarvey. Helping him is Bob Fitzgerald, almost 80, his former high school math teacher.

Whitelock brought the Anna McGarvey to Scott’s Cove Marina in Chance in early January. The skipjack, built in Baltimore in 1981, had been dry-docked at the Richardson Maritime Museum Boatworks site in Cambridge since 2015.

Whitelock bought the skipjack from Cambridge waterman Joe Laber in November 2018. He had acquired the 43-foot-long skipjack from the Chesapeake Heritage and Visitor Center, on Kent Island, in 2015, where it had been used as a land exhibit.

Laber planned to restore it and use it to dredge oysters.

The Anna McGarvey was dredged for several years soon after construction but was eventually donated to the state which used it in its oyster propagation program until 1988.

The skipjack had the distinction of being used by former Gov. Harry Hughes in 1985 to announce, to the press, that the iconic Chesapeake Bay skipjack had been designated Maryland’s official boat.

When restored, Whitelock is hoping to use the boat to take out sailing parties. Because it won’t be used for dredging, there won’t be the usual dredge winders and engine, allowing more space for folks to easily move about the deck.

Restoring it now has become a two-man project. Fitzgerald, former educator and one-time Assistant Superintendent of Somerset County schools, now a shipwright volunteer, has no background in skipjack construction.

He’s learning on the job. Whitelock said it’s Fitzgerald’s background in math that makes him important to the project.

“You got all these compound angles and stuff, nothin’s the same on her. Mr. Fitzgerald’s real good at figurin’ out the right cuts. He’s got a master’s degree in math,” Whitelock said.

“This is the first project with wood I’ve worked on that I didn’t a square and a level, ’cause you don’t need ’em working on a skipjack, ’cause nothin’ applies,” Fitzgerald said.

‘He’s in training but he’s comin’ along good,” Whitelock said.

So the two work when weather permits.

With seemingly non-stop rain for months, the area around the boat is puddled with water and mud. It’s windy, it’s cold, and it’s sloppy going, but it’s full steam ahead for the “old head.”

So far they have just about replaced the entire bottom of the skipjack, and have the sides and deck to contend with. If they can maintain the pace, Whitelock said he’s hopeful to get the boat in the water in time for the Labor Day Skipjack race in September.

When he bought the skipjack, there was no mast. Whitelock has found one, though it’s too big for the Anna McGarvey, and he plans to recycle and rework it to fit.

The owner plans to rename his latest skipjack. “I’m gonna call her Han-Em-Harv,” Whitelock said, in honor of his three grandchildren, sisters Hannah and Emily, and their brother Harvey.

He has restored four skipjacks over the years; the Kathryn, Minnie V, Helen Virginia and now the Anna McGarvey. He also repaired the Hilda Willing, but, he said, “She didn’t need too much work.”

Whitelock owns the 45-foot Minnie V which he purchased from the Living Classrooms Foundation in Baltimore in 2016. The Minnie V is now dredging out of Chance with Capt. Dickie Webster at the wheel.

He spent four years restoring the Kathryn, also on the Scott’s Cove Marina site, and finished in 2016. His son, David, now owns and dredges the skipjack.

“I think now, I have had enough skipjack restoration projects. This is it for me. Bobby thinks he might be interested in doin’ over the City of Crisfield, (which has been dry docked since 2017). I’d help him all I could, of course. We have a small group that’s interested, volunteers lined up. We’d have to form a 501-C3 and get state money,” he said.

“I need some volunteers to give me ‘bull’ work if I took on the City of Crisfield,” Fitzgerald said. “I think I can handle the brain work but I need help with the bull work to get it done.”

“I’m only half a bull,” Whitelock added with laughter.

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