Workboats: The Builders
Chesapeake Bay Gateways Network

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The buildersCountless log canoes, deadrises and other workboats were "backyard" boats built without drawn plans. Only a knowledgeable mariner could attempt this "rack-of-eye" method for determining how a hull should be shaped.

A workboat's features reflected personal preferences and budgets for elements such as workspace and the location of the tiller. The boat's expected operating conditions figured in too. A waterman working the upper Bay would likely favor an extremely shallow draft that would allow a vessel to venture farther up shallow tributaries, while a boat destined to work the choppy lower Bay needed heavy-duty planking. Stern design gave clues to a deadrise's geographic origin. An angled "tuck" stern almost certainly meant a Maryland boat, while a deadrise with a rounded stern hailed from the Virginia hamlet of Deltaville. A diamond- or V-shaped one came from Poquoson to the south.

Today a few master boatwrights still carry on the Chesapeake's rack-of-eye tradition.

Raising a skipjack mast

View a slideshow of builders raising the mast of the skipjack Joy Parks at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC.


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