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Wooden Sailing Skiff's Journey to the Boat Show
NCCHA's new old boat comes to the show
April 11, 2018

wo rack-of-the-eye style boats built by Heber Guthrie will be on display the Oriental In-Water Boat Show. The NC Coastal Heritage Association (NCCHA) is exhibiting the Frances Mae, a recently built Core Sound workboat, and a 20ft sail skiff. The skiff wasn’t built down near Harkers Island… but in Washington DC.

A group of builders from Harkers Island built the skiff during the 2004 Smithsonian Folklife Festival. The festival is “an international exposition of living cultural heritage” and the ’04 festival focused on the lives of Mid-Atlantic maritime communities. Heber, as he does every year at the Oriental In-Water Boat Show, demonstrated the Core Sound tradition of boat building without a planned design.

Heber Guthrie just recently refurbished the rudder of the sail skiff built by 3 Core Sounders for the 2004 edition of the Smithonsonian’s National Folklife Festival on the Washington Mall.

Mr. Guthrie, along with Karen Willis Amspacher and Jimmy Amspacher, built the skiff during one week of the two week festival. Smithsonian volunteers worked as building assistants for the Downeast natives, helping them construct a vessel based on a turn of the century design.

Before powerboats, sail skiffs were popular for fishing and moving goods along the coast. A shallow draft allows them to easily navigate coastal inlets.

The project required a lot of materials, and the community provided. Materials came from the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum, Heritage Boat Works, and Hancock Marine to name a few.

Pressure treated pine, left over from the construction of the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum and Heritage Center, was used for the frame and juniper for the planking. The mast and sprit is Douglas fir.

“A boat trailer dealer from Marshallberg loaned us a boat trailer to haul the lumber up to Washington,” said Guthrie. “Then, of course, at the end of the week, we brought a skiff back on that trailer.”

The almost complete skiff at the 2004 Smithonsonian National Folklife Festival.

Sails were purchased from Omar Sails, then located in Beaufort. The late Sonny Williamson and Rodney Kemp delivered them to Washington in time for the Potomac launching on the last day of the event.

“I guess one of the stories about that experience was how long it took us to build her. People from Long Island, NY brought a 22’ cat boat, its side planking already done. That week, they were going to plank her bottom and be done.”

Time for painting.

“We show up with just a pile of lumber, and four saw horses. By Wednesday we were planking the bottom, and they had only made two boards for the cat boat. Thursday, a couple of their boys saw we were going to be good on our word of sailing on Sunday morning. They jumped ship and helped us to get our skiff done,” Heber said. “I followed their progress on the internet, and it was about 18 months later when they launched her.”

The skiff in 2018.

When completed, the Downeast trio launched the vessel against the backdrop of what was National Airport, now Reagan Airport.

After the launch, it was on to the Potomac to take in the sights of the nation’s capital from the river.
After the sail on the Potomac, the skiff docked at a nearby marina that was also hosting a historic yacht dating back to the early 20th century; the presidential yacht Sequoia.

NCCHA plans to use this vessel to demonstrate how similar skiffs were used as commercial fishing boats. The boat will be on display as part of the Wooden Boat Exhibition at this weekend’s Oriental Boat Show.

NCCHA is also offering boat rides on the Frances Mae at the boat show.

Posted Wednesday April 11, 2018 by Ben Casey

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