Shad Boat - SPIRIT OF ROANOKE

Photo circa 1900
Sometime about the mid-1870’s, Roanoke Island boat builder George Washington Creef began building a new style boat. Creef, who had earlier built log boats, combined those techniques with conventional planking methods and produced a craft that sailed very well, was able to carry heavy loads, and could navigate in shallow water.

Creef shaped his boat hull from the root ball of Atlantic white cedar, also known as Juniper, trees that grew along the shoreline of the pocosin wetland region of southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina.

Creef taught his new technique to other local boat builders and the style spread throughout northeaster North Carolina – becoming the ‘pickup truck’ of eastern North Carolina. It became known as a shad boat - named for the fish it was used to catch. Early shad boats were sail-powered with a round-bottomed hull and single mast rigged with a sprit sail. Later, in the early 1900s, the hull shape was altered into a hard chine "v" bottom to support an engine block. In 1988 the North Carolina General Assembly added the shad boat to its list of State Symbols.

The Spirit of Roanoke Island, an example of the traditional shad workboat, was constructed in the Creef Boathouse by the North Carolina Maritime Museum on Roanoke Island at Manteo. The vessel, owned by The Friends of the North Carolina Maritime Museum, sails out of Manteo as part of the Museum’s Outer Banks Community Sailing Program, and travels the coast as a living embodiment of North Carolina’s maritime heritage.