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Home > About the Chesapeake > Exploring the Bay > Captain John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages > Captain John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages: The Shallop
Captain John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages: The Shallop

The English shallop was an open, shallow-draft craft about 7 feet wide and 30 feet long and had probably been transported from English in two pieces that could be assembled in Virginia. The shallop could be rowed or sailed and carried up to 15 people. Smith selected a crew that included a doctor, a carpenter, a tailor to mend sails, ordinary seamen, and higher-status “gentlemen” to serve as Smith's bodyguards and entourage during visits with Native groups.

Scholars do not know for sure whether the shallop's hull had a round or flat bottom. The bow and stern were relatively high, judging from the sketch on John Smith's map. Its sail may have been a square lugsail that could be hauled quickly up the single mast, and a canvas tarpaulin provided crude shelter from the elements. Such a craft would not have been particularly easy to maneuver, but it would allow the voyagers to venture close to shore and far up into rivers, and it could give sick or exhausted crew a respite if they needed one.

A replica of Smith’s shallop, constructed by Sultana Projects, Inc., of Chestertown, Maryland, using 17th-century tools and methods, will retrace the historic route of Captain John Smith’s historic 1608 Chesapeake expedition. A crew of 12 modern explorers will travel some 1500 miles in the open boat, powered only by oar and sail. To follow the route of the reenactment voyage May 12 through September 8, 2007, and to learn more about Smith’s historic expeditions, visit www.johnsmith400.org.


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