The John Smith Shallop "Explorer"

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Explorer Society

In 1607 Captain John Smith and the first settlers assembled the shallop “Explorer” from its storage in the bilge of “Susan her exclusive products.Constance”.  While exploring the James River they encountered many obstacles along the way.


The following spring in 1608 Captain Smith and 14 men set out on an epic voyage, to explore and map Chesapeake Bay.  For 140 days Smith and his men endured Indian attacks, heat, disease, thirst and starvation, traveling 1700 miles throughout the Bay.


In 2007 the Deltaville Maritime Museum produced an exact reproduction of Smith’s boat, using the guesstimations of the Calvert Museum, in Solomons Island, MD.


To insure the longevity of “Explorer”, our professional builder, Stephan Auer added double planking to the bottom with 3M 5200 caulking between layers. This, combined with a nearly invisible bilge pump for rainwater, made “Explorer” dry through repeated launchings and long periods on the trailer.


After the initial square rig, even with leeboards (the forerunner of the centerboard) proved to be strictly a downwind rig, we switched to a spritsail rig(fore and aft). This allows us to “tack” into the wind and minimize rowing, an arduous task at best.


The oars are another part of the puzzle. Initially the 14 foot oars were quite unbalanced, making rowing extremely difficult.  We added lead to the handles, made the gripping areas more user friendly, and attached leather to the rail area.  We also custom cut the length of each oar to suit. These changes have made rowing a little less arduous.


After appearing in the play “The Stingray Story”,  our new “Explorer” appeared in several celebrations commemorating the 400 anniversary of the Jamestown settlement:   First Landing, Jamestown Anniversary, Fort Henricus, and Shockoe Bottom, Richmond, among others.


A swivel cannon was added to “Spice Up” these events.  A favorite trick of the settlers was to come upon a native village, fire the guns, and in the ensuing panic come ashore, fill the water casks, and eat the Naturals’ dinner!  This technique might be useful with our waterfront “swells” who line the shores today.


To continue the legacy of Captain John Smith and the Chesapeake Water Trail, we expect to develop the Piankatank River section of the historic water trail.  In addition to early history this river, the prettiest in VA., was important in the Civil War (war of northern aggression) where the gunboats of the Union were bedeviled by Confederate boarding cutters, whaleboats on wheels. The first recorded trailerboats!


To join the “Explorer Society” come to our Wed. night meetings at the DMM, or if that’s not convenient just give to the “Explorer Society “ c/o the DMM.  We’ll send you our newsletter, schedule of events, as well as qualifying for shirts, flags, renderings and other exceptional items!