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What Is a Log Canoe?

Dan Cavallari
Dan Cavallari

A log canoe is a type of sailing vessel that became prevalent in the United States, particularly in the Chesapeake Bay. The hull was designed based on a dugout, which was essentially a hollowed out tree trunk. The hull of the log canoe was not a dugout exactly, but the design came about as a result of this style. The canoe's hull was instead constructed with several logs hollowed out and joined together to form the hull. Additional trunks could be used to build the height of the hull. The bow and stern of the hull formed points.

Early versions of the log canoe were used as work boats in the Chesapeake Bay, but they are now more commonly known as racing vessels. The old log canoe workboats were replaced by bugeyes and then skipjacks, which were more efficient for use as oyster boats. The log canoes were used before certain methods of oystering had been developed or were considered legal, so when these new methods became prevalent, the log canoe did not have the sail power to accommodate the new techniques. The bugeye was a variation of the log canoe meant to take the best attributes of the canoe and pair them with better power and handling.

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Woman posing

Most log canoes featured two masts, though the designs varied from boat to boat in many cases. The sails themselves varied in style and design as the craft became more used, though most canoes featured three sails similar to the style of a ketch. The canoes almost always featured a bowsprit to which the jibs could be secured for accurate steering. The steering and stability of this craft was somewhat unusual in the way the rigging was secured, as well as the methods through which heeling was controlled.

The log canoe featured hiking boards, which were boards that extended outward from the hull. These were used to keep the boat from heeling over, especially at high speeds; crew members would essentially crawl out onto the hiking boards while the boat was heeling to counterbalance the craft. Several crew members might have to sit on the hiking board at once to steady the vessel. This made the log canoe a good vessel for racing, though for practical purposes when oystering, this could be a nuisance that slowed down the efficiency of the oystering process. These canoes were especially susceptible to heeling over because of the large sails.

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