I was interested in seeing Spat II—named for an oyster larvae that’s attached to a surface—because pushboats are rarely ever built anymore.
The Last Skipjacks Project, an effort to keep track of the dwindling numbers of the historic oyster-harvesting sailboats, notes that because wind is notoriously fickle, skipjacks have long used pushboats to help them out.
According to the website, pushboats were so efficient in helping skipjacks harvest oysters that Maryland put limits on their use to keep oyster beds from being depleted. Initially, no oyster dredging under power was allowed, though when the oyster harvest diminished in the 1960s, dredging was allowed two days a week.
They were made to be raised out of the water so the oyster police could tell when dredging under power was happening, and when it wasn’t.
“Today, the website states, “it is a rare sight to see a skipjack dredging under sail.”
Dees and Kauneckas said they wanted to have Spat II be as historically accurate as possible, while still making it functional and easy to maintain.
So instead of the planked hull of the original, the boat shop crew crafted the new one from plywood, using fiberglass to cover the seams before painting it white.
Over the six months or so it took to build, a new 42-horsepower engine was installed, a new engine box fitted and a specially constructed fuel tank made at a nearby metal shop.