Virginia, Maryland, Delaware … Ducker

As the summer winds down, the days have been quite pleasant here in Virginia of late. So why go to Maryland? Because there in St. Michaels you can find a Delaware Ducker. A fairly rare bird, there are actually several at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. One you may even rent by the hour for $30. On Fridays you may get and extra hour for the same ticket. So, we went for a 2 hour cruise.

But to back up, long before I became a canoe stern addict, I had seen Thomas Eakins’ painting, “Starting Out After Rail”. I half thought the boat was fictitious. However, Eakins had made her look so right that I dreamed maybe such a boat existed.

Starting Out After Rail

Also, on previous visits to CBMM over the years, I’d often pause to stare at a simple moss colored skiff tucked under a shed. Seemingly cast off almost, I half thought they were on their way out or one step from a bonfire.

elegant deck beam

Only recently did the pieces of the puzzle begin to fit when I had saw photos of a boat built by Dan Sutherland at the Museum. Investigation revealed these craft to be versions of the Delaware Ducker.

Dan’s boat
My edition of Howard Chapelle’s American Small Sailing Craft describes this 16′ boat as “a lightly built double-ended skiff” used by “market-gunners of the lower Delaware”. The models varied little and were “exactly alike at both ends and were slack-bilged”. A two men boat, this canoe features
Forest and Stream: April 21, 1887

Much more history and detail are written by Ben Fuller in WoodenBoat Issue 48 and in their Small Boats issue 2010. The better documented models are the Greenbriar and York. The latter has a tad more stability in a slight turn to the bilge. I sailed the former. On with the show. After sorting out the rig’s tangled lines, we shoved off in light breeze. The boat was quick to move.

Selena II. A large Crosby design catboat.
the museum’s Hooper Straight Light and Skipjack
In the light breezes we were sailing around Selena II. Her current captain is the original boat owner’s grand daughter.

Sitting in the aft portion of the cockpit I was surprised at how balanced the boat was. Both sail and board are way forward. The steering was quite easy on all points. After 1.5 hrs we returned to the pier, left the rig, and went rowing. Again, the boat moved almost effortlessly. She is the best boat I’ve rowed really.

the 1888 Lawley designed 30′ cutter “Elf”

Back at the pier I took detail photos of the skiff.

floors and sheet block


in the bow
Lazy day



rudder and tiller

Wanting to beat the traffic home, I was quickly on the road, but not before checking out “Greenbriar”. Hanging in the shop rafters, I got a few pics of her up close.


The 3.5 hr trip home was well worth the visit. Wouldn’t this be a great winter project?

It was a great day. Ducker on the left.