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Skipjack: The Story of America's Last Sailing Oystermen Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 10, 2009
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From Publishers Weekly
In late March 1978, biologist and science writer White (Chesapeake Bay) joined the crew of the sailing ship Rebecca T. Ruark, a "skipjack" that was "among the last sailboats still employed in commercial fishing in North America." Renting a cottage in Tilghman, a village then untouched by development and tourism, White spent the next year chronicling the lives and community of the oystermen. In order to preserve the oyster population, an 1865 Maryland law limited the dredging of oysters to sail-powered ships; for over 140 years, this "enforced obsolescence" approach worked; now, however, the oyster population of the Bay (once "king of the American oyster") is plummeting for reasons not entirely clear, though pollution, disease and more efficient fishing methods have all contributed. Naturally, what's at stake is not just an important sea creature but a way of human life; White mines information and testimony on every aspect of community life, from family recipes to skipjack races to oyster wars, in a moving account. Examining the circumstances and difficult decisions of men like the skipper of the Rebecca, a third-generation oysterman, White provides on-the-ground insight into the possibilities and problems of simultaneously sustaining a community and an ecosystem.
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“Christopher White’s Skipjack, which chronicles the Chesapeake life history and impending death of our nation’s last fishery under sail, is a colorful, comprehensive, and valuable piece of Americana” – Peter Matthiessen
"The world has almost run out of fish, as modern technology strips our oceans bare. Christopher White's Skipjack is a compelling story about how the wisdom of the past can help us protect the future of our fisheries. If you savor seafood, White's chronicle of the gritty life aboard America's last sailboat fishing fleet is a tale you need to hear." —Trevor Corson, The Secret Life of Lobsters and The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi
“Men who take their livings from the sea have their own language to reinforce kinship and keep strangers at bay. Only rarely is an outsider accepted into their inner circle, and then only when he knows how to listen and is willing to work. Even more rarely does such an adopted son capture the cadenced ebb and flow of watermen’s speech. Herman Melville did it for New England whalers: Christopher White has now done it for the oystermen of Maryland’s Eastern Shore. Just as Melville documented something greater than a whale hunt, White’s account helps us understand how much all our lives will be diminished when the last oyster drudger sailed in from the Chesapeake… Skipjack is a masterpiece.” – George Reiger, author of Wanderer on My Native Shore
“Well written, and carefully researched … . Chris White’s brilliant use of the waterman’s vernacular and his intimate knowledge of multiple generations of watermen combine to make this an excellent treatise on a culture that is clearly disappearing.” —Gilbert M. Grosvenor, former editor and Chairman of National Geographic Society