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The General Assembly of 1987 adopted the shad boat as the official State Historical Boat. (Session Laws, 1987, c. 366).
They were first developed around Roanoke Island after the Civil War, when a shortage of suitable trees for periaugers and an increase in fishing required strong, shallow-draft workboats. This boat type has several names, all linking a locality with the vessel's use, including "Dare County shad boat," "spritsail shad boat," "Albemarle Sound boat," "Croatan fishing boat," and "Pamlico Sound boat." The design was limited geographically to the area from Elizabeth City to Ocracoke Island and neighboring sounds. (North Carolina's shad boats should not be confused with late-nineteenth-century V-bottom shad boats made in Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.)
The Shad Boat is known for its unique crafting and maneuverability. The name is derived from that of the fish it was used to catch - the shad.
Shad boats were first built in the 1870s by
George Washington Creef, who combined traditional split-log techniques with conventional plank-on-frame construction. The original Creef design was
extremely successful and in high demand by coastal fishermen. Creef taught many others to build this vessel, which soon became one of the better and
more handsome North Carolina workboats.
Traditional small sailing craft were generally ill-suited to the waterways and weather conditions along the coast. The shallow draft of the Shad Boat plus its speed and easy handling made the boat ideal for the upper sounds where the water was shallow and the weather changed rapidly. The boats were built using native trees such as cypress, juniper, and white cedar, and varied in length between twenty-two and thirty-three feet. Construction was so expensive that the production of the Shad Boat ended in the 1930s, although they were widely used into the 1950s. The boats were so well constructed that some, nearly 100 years old, are still seen around Manteo and Hatteras.
The law designating the Shad Boat as the official North Carolina state historical boat is found in the North Carolina General Statutes, Chapter 145 Section 145-11.
Chapter 145: State Symbols and Other Official Adoptions.
§ 145-11. State historical boat.
The Shad Boat is adopted as the official State historical boat of the State of North Carolina. (1987, c. 366.)