An excerpt from Under Sail, The Dredgeboats of Delaware Bay by Donald H. Rolfs.
Undoubtedly, the most legendary schooner that ever sailed the bay was the J.&E. Riggin. This dredgeboat was 76 feet [accurate length is 89 feet], 4 inches long with a 22 foot, 3 inch beam. The J.&E. was polish rigged and carried 4,000 square feet of canvas. Captain Ed Riggin involuntarily glows from stem to stern as he relates the exploits of the grand old boat. “My gosh,” he said, “it was almost as if sea was a live creature a – risin’ up out o’ the sea, runnin’ before the wind, a-goin’ wing and wing. I would have to climb up on top of the wheel box to see where I was goin’. You know, she was never beat in a race. Many of the ‘old gents’ thought they could take her but nobody ever did. Sunday afternoons they used to wait for us at the mouth of the river to give her a try, but there weren’t nobody could ever take her.
Captain Frank Hinson concurred with Captain Riggin’s estimation of the J.&E. “I believe it was the way she was rigged up,” said Captain Frank. “She was hung just right. We were comin’ down the bay one day and I had the Richord Lore, an old time boat, pushin’ down with the yawlboat . . . there wasn’t a bit of wind, not a bit, to plant . . . looked up and here come the J.&E. Riggin down the bay. She was comin’ on so fast we thought she was pushin’ down with her yawlboat. She went by us and didn’t even have her yawlboat down! She had a line from her main boom to the rigging on one side and a line from her fore boom too the riggin on the other side . . . had her wung out . . . and that thing was a-goin’ down the bay just the same as us. Yep, she was hung just exactly right . . . take a little breeze of wind and you would just have to reef her down to nothing to hold her dredges on the bottom.”
The J.&E. Riggin is still a beautiful schooner and although she’s still fast, she doesn’t carry oysters anymore, she carries passengers. She was built as an oystering schooner in 1927 in Dorchester, New Jersey on the Maurice River. Charles Riggin, a fisherman, had her built and named her after his two sons Jacob and Edward. She gained a fine reputation in the Delaware Bay as an able sailor, winning the only Oyster Schooner Race ever held in 1929. She was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1991.
1927 – Built at Stowaman’s Shipyard in Dorchester, New Jersey for Capt. Charles Riggin, named after his two sons, Jacob and Edward.
1929 – Wins the only Oyster Dredger Race.
1960 – Changes hands from the Riggin family to Capt Walter Wardley who converted her to ground fishing vessel out of NY.
1977 – Capt. Dave & Sue Allen of Rockland, Maine buy the worn schooner and convert her for passenger sail.
1991 – The National Park Service designates the J&E Riggin as a National Historic Landmark.
1997 – Capts Jon Finger & Anne Mahle become the new stewards of the J. & E.
2007 – Wins the state of Maine’s Environmental Leader Award –one of the first 50 businesses and the first Maine windjammer (and still is even 8 years later).
” The Riggin is a beautiful vessel with an amazing history. I feel like I’ve been transported back a hundred years when we’re underway.”
~ Daniel E., Maryland