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The Skipjack and Log Canoes

Oysters were becoming depleted in the Chesapeake Bay as far back as 1820, when Maryland passed a law restricting oyster dredging to sail-powered boats. The graceful skipjack was designed to meet the requirement. Traditional flat-bottomed crabbing skiffs were modified with a V-shaped hull, enlarged, and given a sail. They were inexpensive and easy to build, so that house carpenters and even watermen could make them.

Log canoes, a boat made with a bottom from hand-hewn logs fastened together, were originally used by oyster tongers. Just as cowboys develop competitions from their everyday work, so did Chesapeake Bay watermen develop contests to compare their skills. The log canoe evolved to become a racing craft, modified with springboards and wide spreads of canvas the boater could climb out on to keep the boat from capsizing in the wind. Visitors to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum are sometimes treated to log canoe races.

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