G. W. Creef and the Shad Boat

George Washington Creef at work on a shad boat at the Creef Boatworks at Wanchese, circa 1890s. Image from the N.C. Maritime Museums.On June 15, 1987, the shad boat was designated as North Carolina’s official state historical boat.

The legislation was introduced by Senator Marc Basnight of Dare County – the state’s easternmost county –which in addition to bordering the ocean, is flanked by a number of sounds where shad boats were employed by local fishermen.

The design originated with boat builder George Washington Creef, Sr. who crafted the vessel in his boat building shed on Roanoke Island in the years following the Civil War. The shad boat was used to retrieve fish from pound nets and was particularly suited for navigating the shallow sounds and weathering unpredictable wind shifts.

Shad boats were built from native white cedar, which grows in abundance on the Dare County mainland and is prized for its light weight and ability to resist rot. The small watercraft featured a rounded hull and were powered by three sails–a main sail, a jib and a topsail.

The advent of the gasoline engine and rising price of materials caused shad boats to fall out of vogue by the 1930s.

Visit: The North Carolina Maritime Museum in Beaufort has a collection of shad boats, including an original built by George Washington Creef, Sr.

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