Friday, August 10, 2012

Carolina's Shad Boat, ca 1870

Benjamin Franklin Sawyer designed what came to be a popular fishing craft in the1870s, and used wherever shad (of the herring  family) was sought in the Carolinas. 

 Sawyer built this split-log dugout kunner in Hyde County, North Carolina, in the 1870s. It worked in the Alligator River and on Albemarle Sound for well over a century, most of the time under the ownership of the Sawyer family. Luther G. Sawyer and his son, Steve, donated the boat to the North Carolina Maritime Museum in 1992.

It is currently on exhibit in the Boat Shed in Beaufort. 


The Shad Boat was developed on Roanoke Island and is known for its unique crafting and maneuver- ability. The name is derived from that of the fish it was used to catch - the shad. Traditional small sailing craft were generally ill-suited to the waterways and weather conditions along the coast. The shallow draft of the Shad Boat plus its speed and easy handling made the boat ideal for the upper sounds where the water was shallow and the weather changed rapidly. 

The boats were built using native trees such as cypress, juniper, and white cedar, and varied in length between twenty-two and thirty-three feet. Construction was so expensive that the production of the Shad Boat ended in the 1930s, although they were widely used into the 1950s. The boats were so well constructed that some, nearly 100 years old, are still seen around Manteo and Hatteras.

The General Assembly of 1987 adopted the shad boat as the official State Historical Boat. (Session Laws, 1987, c. 366).
[The North Carolina Department of the Secretary of State] 
Other boat designs can be seen at  the NORTH CAROLINA REGISTER OF HISTORIC VESSELS

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