Washington crossing boat replica built in Maine yard

September 24, 2007 at 6:16 pm Leave a comment

YORK, Maine – When re-enactors stage George Washington’s 1776 crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Day this year, they’ll make trip in a 40-foot replica longboat being constructed in a shop in this southern Maine town.
Boatbuilder Paul Rollins said the 8-foot-wide vessel, which will carry 100 re-enactors in the Pennsylvania-to-New Jersey crossing, is being made from Douglas fir, white oak and cedar. It’s based on the design of Durham boats, which date to the mid-1700s and were used to haul cargo.

Gen. Washington specifically requested a Durham boat when he led what’s considered a turning point for the Americans in the Revolutionary War. The successful surprise attack on British and Hessians garrisoned in Trenton raised the morale of colonial troops.

The reenactment is in its 55th year and draws about 10,000 spectators each year, said Hilary Krueger, site administrator at Washington’s Crossing State Park in New Jersey.

Rollins first became involved in the reenactments in the 1990s, when the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission selected him to build two Durham boats. The Mainer turned out the vessels in 1996 and 1997, with the designs based on paintings, etchings and historic research, said Krueger.

The park gave Rollins a reproduction of a painting of the celebrated scene by Emmanuel Leutze, and it now hangs in the boatbuilder’s shop.

The two boats replaced older models built in the 1970s, which were no longer fit for sailing and had historical inaccuracies, she said.

The two Durham boats were Rollins’ first historic recreation, and he followed up with a much larger project in 2004, leading a team that built a replica of an 88-foot-long canal schooner for the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont.

In preparation for the work, archaeologists examined a pair of shipwrecks at the bottom of Burlington Harbor. Rollins and others working on the project learned to scuba dive so they could get a good look at the boats.

“If you’re into wooden boats these days, (historic replicas) are a fair part of the business,” Rollins said.

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Information from: Portland Press Herald, http://www.pressherald.com

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