Building Traditional Boats

in Crystal River, Florida



Length 6ft Width 2ft

Our current project is the building of a full size replica of the USS WARTAPPO. She was used by the East Gulf Coast Blockading Squadron along Crystal River shore during the Civil War. Its history is documented in the correspondence of the squadron.

A Florida sailing scow was captured by ships of the squadron -- the contraband and the scow were taken as prizes of war. The scow, as it was originally built, was probably used to transport goods (cotton, lumber, turpentine, etc.) from up the local rivers down to waiting (deep draft) ships.

The Union forces added a jib sail with a bowsprit and also lee boards to add better sailing ability to the scow. A platform to mount a howitzer was also added. Named the WARTAPPO after a Florida river, the scow was used for close to shore and inshore work. While it may have been able to stand extended voyages far from land, it was excellent for moving troops along the coast. These raiding parties operated against the salt-works and trans-shipping points along the coast.

The Crystal River Boat Builders have, since 2008, been reviving lost boatbuilding, ship rigging, and woodworking skills. We have been practicing the arts needed to take a hull design from a table of offsets (measurements of an actual boat) expanding those numbers to full size drawings (lofting) and then to the actual framing and building of a hull. We have completed - using only hand tools - three small craft. The first was a 14 foot Chesapeake Sharpie - the fishing boat most often found on this part of the coast. Next we built a "flat-iron" skiff, a small rowing boat, which would have been the common boat used by folks living on the shore of the gulf or nearby lakes. Then we built a 16 foot pram. Prams were the "pickup truck" of the waterfront community. They carried a lot of different loads and performed many tasks - such as nets and traps and boxes and baskets for fishermen and crabbers. They were a very stable platform for the tong wielding oystermen.

The members of the CRBB, and we now have about three dozen onboard, have finished the building of a replica of the WARTAPPO. The main interest for many of our members is in the gaining and use of boatbuilding skills, but we all recognize that in doing so we are making history come alive. Each of our previous efforts brought us knowledge and skill, and each hull also brought us "up close and personal" to the history of the region.

Our first objective in the WARTAPPO project: build a model to let the public know what we have in mind (and secondarily to let them know we need help). We built a 1/6 scale model of the WARTAPPO, and using it to explain what we are going to do. We use the model in our fundraising and outreach programs. We share our efforts with the Citrus County Historical Society, and we will bbuit the model right in the Courthouse Museum in downtown Inverness, Florida.

Building the WARTAPPO model was not a short-time task, it took over two months. Building the model took us about two months. During that time - just as with the all the boat building we have been doing - we met with the public, interpreting the building process, and touching on the historical aspects of the craft and the region. Everything on the model was built exactly as it will be on the full size scow; the hull, the deck, the masts and rigging, and even the sails. The workshop set up in the museum had period tools and many member-built items such as a workbench, a shaving horse, jointing bench, sail sewing bench, sawhorses and toolboxes. Each day the workers brought their own tools, maintaining them and sharpening them as necessary. We also brough the sounds of saws and hammers, the distinctive smell of linseed oil and turpentine and freshly cut cedar, shavings on the floor….and the opportunity for visitors to have a hands-on experience. At the museum model building shop, we worked about four days per week, and spent at least six hours in the shop.

Return to CRBB Homepage.