Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decking out the boats

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. It sounds like it will be a beautiful sight with all of those boats!

    Have a great time.

  2. I can't tell you how much I enjoy reading about your local traditions and the history. Knowing where we came from shapes us and our communities.

  3. I like these little "mini history lessons" you share in such a wonderful way. You really paint a picture that makes me want to go eat oysters..only smoked! Have a wonderful weekend..RoHoHo


  4. history is so interesting... enjoy your holiday boating, don't throw out your back lol

  5. oh yeah jealous of the oysters...and boat parades are cool...we used to go to them when we lived in fl...

  6. Love your writing-wisdom and your artist's eye.


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