5 Day / 5 Photo Blog Challenge — The Maggie S. Myers

  the Maggie s. myers

Historic Delaware Bay Oyster Schooner

Unloading at Dock: The Maggie S. Myers with he r sails furled and her dredges.

Unloading at Dock: The Maggie S. Myers with her sails furled and her dredges.

The Maggie S. Myers is believed to be the oldest, continuously-working oyster schooner under sail in the United States. The historic Delaware Bay oyster schooner has never been out of commission. Her captain, Thumper, and crew work her nearly daily on the bay dredging for conch, blue crabs and oysters. She is living history.

The Maggie S. Myers is owned by my Bowers Beach, Del., friends, Frank “Thumper” Eicherly IV and his wife Jean Friend. They bought the Maggie in 1998 when she was about to be scuttled. The moment they saw her, Jean said, “It was love at first sight.” Since then Thumper and Jean have devotedly invested tens of thousands of dollars into her restoration.

The Maggie was built as a two-masted Delaware Bay oyster-dredge schooner in Bridgeton, N.J., and commissioned in 1893. She is 50 feet long and 18 feet wide. The 24.62 ton schooner can carry her weight in oysters. Her masts were removed when she was motorized in the 1940s. She is listed on the National Historic Register.

Maggie Coming Through the Cut

The Maggie with her day’s catch coming through the cut from the bay to dock on the Murderkill River. Thumper sews her sails.. (Robert Price photo)

When the Maggie was built, below deck she had four berths and a woodstove for cooking. She and her crew would stay out dredging the bay all week, then sail to Philadelphia with oysters piled up to wheelhouse windows, unload their catch and be home to spend the weekend with their families.

“She’s low to the water and dredges by hand,” Thumper rhapsodizes. “She turns on a song, like a snow goose flying around in the air.” I can tell you his claim is true; I piloted her briefly up the serpentine Cohansey River in New Jersey at sunrise that morning in 2004 on the way to the boatyard to restore her mast.

The last I heard, recently, the Maggie was at the boatyard having her second mast restored.

Here is a link to an in-depth story I wrote about the Maggie, published under my Carol Child byline in the Delmarva Quarterly,The Low Whistle of the Wind.” This story provides a link to the boatyard where you can see stunning photos of the Maggie’s restoration.



8 Responses to 5 Day / 5 Photo Blog Challenge — The Maggie S. Myers

  1. Pat Garcia says:

    Your pictures and the stories that stem from them are very interesting. I have learned something new. I had no idea that Delaware had the oldest schrooner. I thought the oldest was in Louisiana.
    Thank you so much.

    • sammozart says:

      Specifically, Patricia, the Maggie is “the oldest continuously working Delaware Bay oyster schooner under sail in the United States.” It’s important to be specific about that. I researched her history, captain lineage, and history of oystering on the bay all the way back to the day she was built and commissioned. Utterly fascinating. She’s never been out of commission, rare in itself. Clearly there exist other types of schooners that are older.

      I was working in a hair salon one cold, blustery, sunny January day in 2004 when a guy came into the shop and said he wanted his ponytail colored green. “I can’t wait to hear what the guys on the boat say tomorrow,” he said. It was too windy to be out on the bay that day. I asked what kind of a boat; he told me about the Maggie. I asked my newspaper editor if I could write a story on that. He agreed. The story expanded to three parts, and including horseshoe crab conservation, which the editors called “the fish package.” I met Jean and Thumper and through them a circle of really special friends, good friends to this day, including Michael Oates (http://302stories.com), who has made several video documentaries on the Maggie, Delaware Bay oystering and horseshoe crab conservation..

      Stories and stories and stories come from this one green ponytail in the hair salon incident.



  2. Hilary says:

    Hi Samantha – what a great story … sad about the disease – I hope they can help clear it up. Wonderful to see the Dredger and read the story .. and then to have been able to have a sail … fascinating – and it made me look where Delaware was … I hadn’t realised it was so small … still live and learn .. a drop of the ocean!

    Cheers Hilary

    • sammozart says:

      Hi Hilary — Yes, sad about the disease; oysters once common fare are now a delicacy, and it affects the incomes of the watermen, their catch regulated to limited numbers. Biologists think the diseases are caused mainly by runoff — mostly from fertilizer on the surrounding farms, but from other contaminants, as well.

      Yes, Delaware is our second smallest state — comprised of only three counties. It’s good in that you have easy access to government officials; you’re known more often by a name than a number. But, at the same time you have to be careful what you say, because everybody knows everybody. Despite their small numbers, Delawareans get around. No matter where I’ve traveled or lived, I’ve run into Delawareans, to the extent that I wondered if anybody was left in the state. 🙂


  3. Susan Scott says:

    Lovely post Samantha thank you! I remember reading a more detailed one on Maggie May a few years back and your wonderful Friend(s) – and your taking her on a pilot ride! Is she still operational – i.e. dredging for oysters? One day, we’ll have oysters and champagne whether there or in Plett!

    • sammozart says:

      Oysters and champagne in Plett sounds delightful, Susan. I’ll hoist my sails to that. 🙂

      Thumper and his crew take the Maggie out on the bay dredging nearly daily. That is his means of income. He and Jean live off the land, by choice. And, sadly, oyster dredging on the bay is very limited due to depreciation in numbers from disease. Authorities are constantly seeding the bays — both bays — the Delaware and the Chesapeake — to grow more oysters.

  4. Gwynn Rogers says:

    Maggie is a classical and beautiful schooner. The pictures are stunning and the history is intriguing. You are lucky to have such a wealth of history surrounding you. Lovely post!

    • sammozart says:

      Thank you, Gwynn. You have history surrounding you, too. I mean, after all, the Maggie is not a Viking ship.