Q. How do I book a sail? When are your public sails?
A. For information about our public sail schedule and making reservations, see our Public Sails page. For information about chartering the Nathan, visit our Charters page.
Q. Where is the boat? How do I find it?
A. See our "Find Us" page for a map to our dock. Once you get there, just look for the big "N" on the tip of our bowsprit.
Q. I called for a reservation, but only got an answering machine. Can I talk to a real person?
A. Because we don't have a physical office or paid staff, the volunteers we have handling reservations all work out of their own homes, so all calls come in to our voice mail. Our scheduled volunteer for the day checks the voice mail and email on a regular basis (much more frequently during our sailing season!) and returns all calls promptly or passes the message along to the appropriate individual. Your patience is greatly appreciated and helps us to keep our adminstrative costs low and the Nathan sailing.
Q. Can I pay for reservations by credit card?
A. Yes, if you make reservations online for one of our public sails. You may use Paypal or any major credit card. We only accept cash or checks for any payments made at the dock.
Q. What should I wear?
A. That depends on the weather. Remember that it is almost always cooler out on the water and there can be a wind-chill effect. Even on hot days, you may want to bring a light sweater for evening sails. There is little shade on the boat, so be sure to bring a hat on sunny days. Be especially mindful that children have appropriate attire and sun protection.
Q. What kind of shoes?
A. Sneakers or other soft-sole shoes are fine. High heels are strongly discouraged for safety reasons. Dark leather soles are also frowned upon by crew who may have just spent a week painting the white deck. If you wear open-toed shoes or sandals, be careful of the many metal fittings on deck that can cut unprotected toes.
Q. Can my kids wear their own life jackets?
A. The Coast Guard requires that the life jackets used on the boat bear the name of the vessel, so children 12 and under must wear the life vests that we provide. We have sizes to fit even the littlest sailor.
Q. What happens if it rains?
A. We get wet. The Nathan is an open boat, without protection from the elements. The small cabin area is not available for passengers, so if there is a threat of rain, be sure to dress appropriately. Umbrellas are discouraged because of the close quarters, and the captain will require that they be stowed when they impede the helmsman's view.
Q. Would the trip be canceled if it rains?
A. It depends on the conditions and whether it is a public sail or a charter. The captain can cancel any trip if the weather causes safety concerns. If it is just too miserable for passenger comfort, a public sail may be canceled. If safety is not an issue, rain will generally not cause us to cancel a charter. If a sail is canceled, we try to give passengers as much notice as possible, which is why it is important that you provide a cell phone number when making public sail reservations or chartering the boat.
Q. Can I bring my dog (cat, ferret, bicycle, wheelchair, kayak, fishing rod, shotgun, boombox, cooler, infant, 90-year-old grandmother) on board?
A. Yes, to wheelchairs, coolers, infants and grandmothers (or grandfathers). You can bring music on board charters, but it must be battery-powered. No to everything else, except service animals.
Q. I get seasick easily...
A. That rarely is a problem where we usually sail. Plus, skipjacks were designed to be very stable dredging platforms. The Nathan doesn't heel over like round-hulled sailing vessels, so you don't have to worry about hanging over the side, whether to balance out the boat or lose your lunch!
Q. Is the Nathan a replica?
A. No! The Nathan of Dorchester is a real skipjack, originally built to dredge for oysters, just like the rest of the skipjack fleet.
Q. Who is Nathan?
A. The Nathan was named after the Nathan Foundation, the local charitable organization that provided most of the funding for the construction of the vessel. The Foundation was established in 1960 as a legacy of the Milford and Estelle Nathan family, who had built a significant furniture business in Cambridge and throughout the Delmarva Peninsula.
Q. Who owns the boat?
A. The Nathan is owned, operated and maintained by the Dorchester Skipjack Committee, a nonprofit organization.
Q. What makes a skipjack a skipjack? How many were there? How many are left?
A. See our web page "About Skipjacks" for answers to these and other questions about these unique vessels.
Q. What's the dinghy on the back of the boat for?
A. That's no dinghy, that's a pushboat! Also called a yawl boat. It's simply an outboard motor, a big engine with enough wood around it to make it float. Traditionally, skipjacks were not permitted to dredge for oysters under power–they had to dredge under sail. The watermen would use the pushboat to power the skipjack out to the oyster beds faster, then haul the pushboat up into the davits (so the Oyster Police could see they weren't dredging under power) and work under sail. When done for the day, they dropped the pushboat down and used it for a quicker return to the markets.
Q. How big is the sail? What kind of engine do you have? How tall is the mast?
A. See our web page About the Nathan for many of the details about the boat.
Q. Do you serve dinner on board?
A. While the traditional skipjacks carried a cook on board to keep the crew well fed, we do not. You are welcome to bring food and beverages and many of those chartering the boat have their events catered.
Q. Are alcoholic beverages allowed?
A. You are welcome to bring beer and wine on charters, but we ask that you use plastic rather than glassware. No alcoholic beverages are permitted on the public sails out of consideration for the other passengers.
Q. Will we dredge for oysters?
A. We demonstrate dredging on our two-hour public sails and charters in Cambridge. At this time, the distance to the available oyster beds does not give us time to dredge on the one-hour sails. We don't dredge on any of the special-event free sails.
Q. Can we eat the oysters you dredge up?
A. The oysters are edible, even in months without an "R" in them, but our Department of Natural Resources license requires us to "catch and release" them, so don't bring your hot sauce unless you bring your own oysters!
Q. Are there pearls in the oysters?
A. While all oysters are capable of producing pearls, you rarely find them in the Chesapeake Bay's oysters, and the few found are usually quite tiny.
Q. Which way is the Bay?
A. Ahead of us going out, behind us coming back. We can't go up-river because the Choptank River Bridge is too low.
Q. How far is the Bay? How far do you sail?
A. The Chesapeake Bay is 15 miles down the Choptank River from Cambridge. As this is too far for us to go on a two-hour sail, we just go out into the Choptank and sail a couple miles down the river and back. The distance depends upon sailing conditions.
Q. How fast can the Nathan go?
A. Not fast enough to get us to the Bay and back on a two-hour sail. With passengers on board, in a good wind, we can get up to about 8 knots.
Q. How much fuel does she use?
A. Not a drop under sail.