Day two of our latest Maine adventure
We headed south again to continue our exporation of Portsmouth NH and happened upon a boat trip on a “gundalow”. Our gundalow “Piscataqua” was christened in December 2011 simply to provide this type of adventure for travelers such as ourselves. The word “Piscataqua” comes from the Native-American Abenaki – “Peske” means “branch” and “tegwe” is a river with a strong current.
Our boat was 69′ 9″ in length. 70′ and over requires additional licencing! When asked once we were afloat on the Piscataqua River if anyone wanted to steer the vessel, yours truly volunteered. After a very brief explanation from the captain, I was deemed qualified to man the helm. No other vessels or wildlife were hurt or damaged during this period. Actually, the captain told me what to “aim” at and that was that. What fun.
“A gundalow is a shallow drafted type of cargo barge, once common in the Gulf of Maine’s rivers and estuaries. The Piscataqua gundalow began as a simple undecked barge, first appearing in the mid 1600s, poled or rowed with long sweeps (oars). From the 1700s into the 1900s gundalows evolved into fully decked flat-bottomed cargo carriers with a cabin and lateen sail that could be lowered to “shoot” under bridges. The sail acted as an ‘auxiliary engine’ since gundalows depended on the tides to take them upriver on the rising tide and downriver on the falling tide.
“Gundalows were the equivalent of today’s tractor-trailer rigs, sometimes measuring over 70 feet long and 19 feet wide. They could navigate shallow rivers, carrying freight of up to 50 tons between ocean-going schooners and the growing towns of the Piscataqua region. Raw cotton, spices and other goods from around the world were transported from the schooners to area businesses and factories. Farm produce, oysters and fish, lumber, manufactured goods, locally made bricks, native-hewn granite, cordwood and coal were all carried on gundalows.” From the Gundalow website.