Mark Wallace's Black Skiff

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Wherry...

There are a number of ‘wherry’ types. For example, the ‘trading wherry' is double-ended, typically clinker planked, black hull with a white bow to aid visibility at night. They are gaff rigged, the sail historically black from being treated with a mixture of tar and fish oil to protect it from the elements. Sizes varied, but many of these vessels would carry about 25 tons of goods. Wherries were able to sail off the coast of England, off load cargoes from ships and then transport it inland through the broads and rivers.

Albion, One of 8 Surviving "Trading Wherries" (Photos: Wikimedia Commons)

Another type of wherry (more in keeping with the theme of this blog) was used as water taxis operated by watermen in Elizabethan times. These wherries were rowed by two men with long oars or by a single waterman using sculls. In 1555, Parliament specified that a wherry should be "22½ feet long and 4½ wide…”.

Thames River "Taxi" Wherries

In North America, particularly in the Penobscot Bay area (State of Maine), wherries became the preferred boat for the longshore Atlantic salmon fishery. They are generally long and narrow, with a straight stem, a wineglass stern and usually carvel planked.

John Gardner writes that the single characteristic that distinguishes a wherry is its flat bottom that allows the boat to ground out in an upright position and serves as a shoe for dragging the boat up and down the beach. The boat usually has two seats, one for the rower, and one in the stern sheets for the passenger, although longer ones can have a third seat forward. (Wikipedia: Wherry)

Both the wherry and the Thames Skiff (which evolved from the Wherry) are the lineage of many modern versions of “wherries”…

Modern Examples

Annapolis Wherry
  • Length: 17'9" (5.4m) 
  • Beam: 38" (0.97)
  • Hull weight: 65 pounds (29kg)

Annapolis Wherry from Chesapeake Light Craft

Cosine Wherry

  • Length: 14’ (4.3m)
  • Beam: 52” (1.3m)
  • Hull weight: 125 lbs. (57kg)

Cosine Wherry from White Salmon Boats

Duck Trap Wherry

  • Length: 16' (4.9m) 
  • Beam: 4'-2" (1.3m)
  • Hull weight: 145 pounds (65.8kg) or 100 pounds (45.4kg) for glued lap version

Duck Trap Wherry from Duck Trap Woodworking

Ruth (SOF) Wherry

  • Length: 18' (5.5m)
  • Beam: 33" (84cm)
  • Hull weight: 45 pounds (21kg)

Ruth Wherry from Dave Gentry

Oxford Wherry

  • Length: 15' 9" (4.9m)
  • Beam: 38: (0.97m)
  • Hull weight: 53 pounds (27kg)

Oxford Wherry from Colin Angus

Wineglass Wherry
  • Length: 14' (4.3m)
  • Beam: 48: (1.2m)
  • Hull weight: 90 pounds (41kg)

Wineglass Wherry from Pygmy Boats

Wherries make beautiful, sea-worthy and easy rowing boats. Let me know of other examples.

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