Who was Hilda M. Willing anyway?

Earlier this week, I wrote about my story profiling Barry Sweitzer, captain of the Chesapeake Bay skipjack Hilda M. Willing.

There was one detail I left out of the story that I probably should have left in: The story behind the name of the boat.

After the story in the paper and the blog, several people have asked me who Hilda M. Willing was. So here’s the answer.

Capt. Barry and his dad, Capt. Pete Sweitzer, never knew 100 percent for sure how the boat got named. But they had heard that it may have been named for a child.

Naming boats after daughters and wives is common among Chesapeake Bay watermen. (And I bet among commercial fishermen elsewhere, too.)

Several years ago, Capt. Barry was featured in another publication and soon after, he received a letter from an elderly woman in a Frederick nursing home.

The woman said Hilda M. Willing had been her sister who had died and the boat was named in her honor.

Capt. Barry told me he had no way to verify the letter-writer’s story, but it seemed genuine to him. Who would invent something like that anyway? Also, the woman’s age matched up that she could have been a younger sister to the deceased Hilda.

I think that’s a sweet story. Some may find it creepy to name a boat after a dead person, but I think it’s quite the honor. Who wouldn’t want to have a gorgeous wooden sailboat named for them?

Chesapeake Bay skipjack Hilda M. Willing, photo by multimedia journalist and environment reporter Pamela Wood.
What's in a name?
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