The Periauger

The Periauger - a long-lost Colonial boat - was constructed in Beaufort at the North Carolina Maritime Museum by The Periauger Project. The project was a unique partnership of the Perquimans County Restoration Association (the parent organization of the historic 1730 Newbold-White House in Hertford, NC), the North Carolina Maritime Museum, Perquimans County and East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies. The project was made possible by a successful private fundraising campaign and through a grant from the NC Department of Transportation’s Enhancement Program. 

Periauger is a generic term for a two-masted boat made of a dugout and split cypress log and propelled by both oars and sails. Historical references indicate that for many Colonial settlers, the periauger was the vessel of choice, especially on the sounds and rivers of North Carolina. They were shallow draft, stable, cargo-carry craft, ideally suited to the shallow sounds, rivers and creeks of Eastern North Carolina—the waterway “pick-up” trucks of those days. Periaugers were originally designed to carry many barrels and/or sacks of corn, wheat & rice, bricks, rum, etc., or to be fitted out for military duty. Benedict Arnold reported having one in his Revolutionary War fleet. 

No physical evidence of this typical Colonial vessels existed. But, after years of research and study, documentary evidence enabled plans to be drawn up for the unique 21st century reconstruction of a “typical” periauger. Supervising the design was Michael Alford, former curator of maritime research at the North Carolina Maritime Museum and author of Traditional Workboats of North Carolina. 

Periauger in Progress at a Wooden Boat Show in Beaufort
Alford designed the Periauger, using historical records and his understanding of materials and construction techniques of the day. He designed a vessel, approximately 30 feet long with two masts reaching the height of nearly 25 feet—with rowing stations for at least 6 oars (sweeps)—basically a hollowed-out Cypress tree log, split in half with a plank keel added between the two halves.

In November 2003, hull construction began in Beaufort at the North Carolina Maritime Museum's Watercraft Center,with boat builder Craig Wright overseeing the construction. At that time Wright had been responsible for building 23 boats and canoes. Sweeps and masts were previously made by a team of volunteers in Hertford, NC.
Some of the Periauger Team: (left to right): Brent Creelman of the Friends of the NC Maritime Museum; Monty Spindler, Perquimans County Restoration Association Board of Directors; Michael Alford, designer of Periauger: and Ted Huffman and Don Johnson, Periauger Project committee members.

After the interior fitting out were complete, rowing trials began for this unique vessel. There are eight rowing stations, each equipped with a 12-foot long sweep. It took a little practice to handle them, and a little more practice to handle all eight in unison. 

In the summer of 2004, propelled by its two sails, the Periauger sailed from Beaufort to its home port of Hertford in what was called The Periauger Odyssey - a three week voyage. The Town of Hertford will be the Periauger’s interim homeport until it is relocated to the historic 1730 Newbold-White House where it will be a key component to the site’s maritime heritage program. It is anticipated that the Periauger will be an important tool for regional tourism development, visiting port towns in the region and providing a dynamic living maritime history experience. 

The replica Periauger is the only known boat of its kind in the world.

Newbold-White House

The above information was compiled from
Discover Perquimans and The Periauger Project