Saturday, December 6, 2008

Row Ho Ho

Tonight is the Christmas Parade of Boats. I'm going to be with fellow rowers on the pilot gigs, rowing past the "adoring fans" as we stroke our way around the Harbor. Our oars will be decorated with lights and there will be lights along the gunnels. We generally tow a dinghy with a Christmas tree and Santa Claus. And in the past, we've carried a sign that says "Ro Ho Ho". The crowd usually loves us because we are powered by our arms working together and maybe the simplicity of these wooden crafts is appealing. It is to me.

The original purpose of the pilot gig was as a general work boat, and the craft was used for taking pilots out to incoming vessels that were heading to port. Races were often held to see who would be the first gig to get their pilot on board a vessel, get the job, and hence the payment.

Today, there are numerous racing clubs that have pilot gigs. These 34 foot wooden boats are rowed by team of six generally with a coxswain. We don't race here but go for long rows in the Harbor, sometimes with five to eight rowers. Each person has a single large oar.

The other use of these boats in the local area was as fishing vessels that were rowed or sailed by African Americans. The boats were part of the Mosquito Fleet. The crew would row or sail the boat out to the nearshore fishing areas to bring back blackfish for sale in the streets or at the city market. The use of these vessels for fishing is no more. But we crew these boats at festivals around the state so that people have a reminder of the way that it used to be.

This morning, we're going to meet up at the Maritime Center, get the boat decorated, make a few repairs to the thule pins and get everything ready for tonight's festivities. After the parade of boats, I'm going to an oyster roast. First of the season--can't wait to suck down those succulent molluscs.

Have a peaceful Saturday doing what you enjoy.


  1. I hope the weather cooperates with the festival. Sounds like fun.

  2. Rowing is great exercise & takes skill. How cool you participate in those events.

  3. Sounds like a pretty good day. I remember being in the Swedish archipelago at night sailing out to an Island and seeing all the little lights on boats bobbing about. I also wanted to tahnk you for nominating me with the Honesty Award. I feel very priveleged. Thank you Syd have a good safe night.

  4. Festival of lights on water just sounds great.

  5. The only thing I remember about sailing well was when my Grandad worked for the British Waterworks which was one the main form of transport of goods in the uk!
    You remind me of Jack Sparrow Syd!

  6. Sounds wonderful, wish I could see it! Have a great time and know that up here in the SE we willbe wishing for some of the sun and less of the snow!

    Thank you for the kind comment too...G~*

  7. You sure make it sound like the FUN it is. We have the same in Naples--but I don't got a boat!

  8. This sounds like so much fun.

    Have some extra fun for me.

  9. Would love to see that. I'll pass on the any shrimp??

  10. My former co-worker's husband runs the steamship at Mystic. She complained that it didn't pay well but he told her it was a dream job. I'm sure you can relate.

    Love the pic...did you take it? It's worth stealing.

  11. Oh Syd, that sounds like so much fun. I wish I could be there. You make me want to move south! Immediately! :)



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