The M/V JB Eskridge started life as the tug, M/V Lehigh. She was built in 1950 (hull #330) at Jakobson Shipyard in Oyster Bay, New York, for the Lehigh Valley Railroad. Her first "hailing port" of record was Wilmington, Delaware. Carrying a crew of 6, the single screw diesel-electric tug was powered by a 6-cylinder Cleveland-GM engine rated at 1,750 horsepower. With a capacity of 25,800 gallons, fuel consumption was rated at 35 gallons per hour in the harbor and 80 gallons per hour under coastal operation. She continued in service until 2000-2001, changing owners over the years. The vessel is 106 feet in length, with a beam of 27 feet, 4 inches.
Concerning her new name. .. James B. Eskridge was a member of Virginia's two-man artificial reef team for almost twenty years. Jim oversaw the Artificial Reef Program's field operations that ranged from fabrication of actual reef structures to loading barges and at-sea deployments. He also rigged and maintained the Program's system of buoys. When it was time to place a buoy or sink a boat, Jim was on the scene.
The world lost Jim Eskridge in 2001, after a protracted illness. The Reef Program received word of his passing while placing a buoy, a job that he had performed many times over the years. Renaming the "Lehigh" after him seemed only natural. He spent many hours on similar vessels on both Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean waters. Jim will always be remembered as a respected colleague and trusted friend.
The M/V JB Eskridge was sunk October 19th, 2002, on Tower Reef, which is located immediately southwest of the Chesapeake Light Tower. The vessel is in 60-62 feet of water with a clearance of 38 feet.