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Spring 2000

A Helping Hand for the Rebecca T. Ruark - An article about Charles Jobes written by Jennifer Jones printed in the Spring 2000 issue of "The Canvasback"
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A Helping hand for the Rebecca T. Ruark

by Jennifer Jones


Printed in the Spring 2000 issue of "The Canvasback" , Havre de Grace Decoy Museum's Magazine!

There is a remarkable spirit of community that unites those who have built their lives around the Chesapeake Bay. Springing from a respect for a collective heritage and an understanding of the uncertainty of a livlihood dependent on nature, this sense of  kinship ensures that when one  waterman encounters a challenge, others will be there to lend a helping hand. Such is the case with the recent partnership between decoy carver Charles Jobes of Havre de Grace and skipjack captain Wade H. Murhy, Jr. of Tilghman Island.

A third-generation skipjack waterman, Captain Murphy had sailed the Rebecca T. Ruark for fifteen years when it sunk in a storm last November (1999). Built in 1886 on Maryland's Taylor's Island as the last of the round bottomed oyster boats, the Rebecca T. Ruark was the oldest working skipjack on the Chesapeake Bay and the winner of numerous sailing competitions. Captain Murphy chartered the vessel for family excursions, special occasions and overnight trips, all of which featured authentic oyster-dredging demonstrations. Sailing the skipjack and sharing his heritage with the public was Captain Murphy's life.

But on the afternoon of November 2, all of that was lost when the Rebecca T. Ruark foundered in the Choptank River after 40 mph winds and 55 mph gusts ripped her and broke her boom. The Captain and his crew were rescued, but the skipjack could not be. The following morning t 2:00 a.m., a distraught Captain Murphy returned to the river and searched for the vessel, which he finally located when he spotted the tip of its mast jutting out of the water. Several early attempts to raise the ship failed. Ultimately, the State of Maryland recognized the historical significance of the skipjack and provided funding for Martin G. Imbach, Inc. to raise the vessel. Perhaps the future of the Rebecca T. Ruark could be salvaged, but Captain Wade Murphy would have to find some way to cover the costs of restoration, which were estimated at $50,000 to $60,000.

Charlie Jobes proudly displays the tip of the Rebecca's mast , which he will keep, and one of the canvasbacks carved from the mast.

It was to that end that Captain Murphy approached carver Charles Jobes with a proposal at the Easton Waterfowl Festival, where Jobes was exhibiting his decoys. Trained in the art of decoy making by his father, Captain Harry Jobes, Charles has been carving since he was seven years old and has become on of Havre de Grace's most respected artists. In fact, the entire Jobes family is devoted to the art and to the Chesapeake Bay. Although Jobes was only casually acquainted with Captain Murphy, he is, like Murphy, a waterman who helps support his family by fishing and crabbing. When Captain Murphy asked him to make decoys from the mast of the Rebecca T. Ruark and donate the proceeds to the restoration of the skipjack, Jobes responded enthusiastically.

Charles Jobes at work on one of the final canvasbacks carved from the mast of the Rebecca T. Ruark.

In all, Charles Jobes carved eighty-four canvasback drakes from the mast's wood. The task proved a bit of a challenge due to the fact that the mast was made of Oregon pine, a heavy wood with a hard grain that makes carving more difficult than the white pine that Charles favors. Still, it took only two weeks for Jobes to carve and paint all eighty-four birds. Each decoy was signed by both Charles Jobes and Captain Wade Murphy, numbered, and accompanied by a certificate of authenticity. Jobes himself asked only $55 per decoy in compensation. His real motivation in carving the decoys was his desire to help preserve a piece of the heritage that is so central to his life and that of his family.

The wider community also lent their support to the project. Before Jobes had even finished making the decoys, the first twenty birds sold for a price of $500. The remaining canvasbacks, priced at $1000 each, proved equally popular, selling out within an incredible four to five days in late February. Not only were buyers eager to own one of these limited-edition keepsakes, they were anxious to support Captain Murphy's restoration effort. Now, with the money raised from the sale of the decoys, work toward the restoration of the Rebecca T. Ruark can proceed. Sadly, the skipjack will not be ready  for this year's oyster season, but, barring complications, the Rebecca will be sailing the Bay by next spring. As is so often the case when those who love and depend upon the Chesapeake Bay come together, there is hope for the future.

*Editors Note*
I do not have the permission of the publisher to have this article here, I am writing re-printing it here giving the credit to the author and the publication from which I copied it from. Thanks

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