Sunday, October 19, 2014

Pilot Boat

In the colonial period and beyond, ships risked running aground attempting to cross the bar at Ocracoke Inlet. Pilots, seafarers familiar with local conditions, were established at Ocracoke in the early 1700s (the earliest name for the nascent village was Pilot Town). The pilots' task was to guide ships across the bar, and bring them safely into Pamlico Sound.

The pilot boat was typically double-ended, 20 – 25 feet long, and high in the bow and stern. The hull was constructed of lapstrake planks (overlapping planks of cedar, cypress, or other native wood). The lightweight pilot boat could be outfitted with a mast and sail, or it might be rowed by 4 to 6 men.  

Whaleboat at Mystic Seaport
Photo by Stan Shebs

Rowed pilot boats were used later in the eighteenth century and into the early twentieth century by shore-based whaling operations along the Outer Banks.  It is a fascinating story. Look for an article about North Carolina whaling in a future Newsletter. 

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is about the Unionist North Carolina State Government established at Hatteras in 1861. You can read all about it here:  

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