Learning to sail on a duckboat at the tender age of five, Mark Donohue spent his summers sailing in Bay Head and Mantoloking down the coast from his hometown of Short Hills, New Jersey. He continued to sail and race many different boats long before he knew how to build them – including Bluejays, Lightnings, M-scows, Lasers and Catboats. By the time he turned 13, Donohue was working at Johnson Brothers Boatworks in Point Pleasant, NJ, admiring the hand tools the old timers used to plank boats with and more.
It wasn’t until he landed a boatyard job during a semester off from the University of Vermont a few years later that Mark understood how much he loved working on boats. “There’s just something about being around boat shops and boat yards,” explains Donohue. “Sixteen years later, I haven’t left yet.”
Along that journey from 2002 to 2004, Donohue served as a shipwright and rigger apprentice at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. During that time, he worked on a variety of boats, including several privately-owned skipjacks and the Museum’s 1909 log-bottom crab dredger, Old Point. He came to love the traditional boats of the Bay and the people that worked its waters.
Restoration work on the 1925 Trumpy Sequoia and a 1951 Owens Cruiser for the Museum’s At Play on the Bay exhibit rounded out his Museum apprenticeship. “Learning from a master shipwright and a master rigger was a great experience,” reflects Donohue. “I gained skills that enabled me to grow as a person and as a boatbuilder. It was a great and influential part of my life which continues to this day.”
Since that time, Donohue’s work has taken him to several museums and restoration projects throughout the mid-Atlantic region. Working as a shipwright, rigger or caretaker, Donohue has worked at places like the Virginia Maritime Heritage Foundation, Sea Island Boatworks and the Independence Seaport Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Now living in Virginia Beach, Virginia, Mark is currently working through the Coastal Heritage Alliance as a rigger and shipwright on the skipjack Caleb W. Jones, which is currently berthed at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum.