How to Build a Quahogger: A Narragansett Bay Type

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  • Pub No.: 7066

by Michael P. Smith

An extremely useful and practical shoal draft working utility.

Recently we hired a contractor to repair the concrete piers on one of our bridges here in Narragansett Bay. Among the items of equipment he used were three outboard skiffs each powered with a 40 hp engine. Boxy in appearance, high-sided, with little or no flare, a straight vertical stem, vertical transom, flat bottom with little or no longitudinal rocker, as wide at the transom as they were amidships, they did not leave an impression of a goodlooking boat. Details at the gunwales were different but other than this they were nearly alike. (See drawings.) “Quahoggers” is what the contractor called them. My respect for these boats began almost immediately. We used them to haul material and ferry men back and forth between the beach and job site. They proved to be extremely fast and were excellent weight carriers. On calm days they could get up on a plane even when loaded. On rough days we carried seven men each trip with safety. I became interested in these boats and searched for plans with the idea of building one, but apparently plans for a “Quahogger” have never been published. I then started on a private research venture to learn more about these boats and to draw up a set of plans. I visited the waterfronts in Bristol, Warren, East Greenwich, Tiverton, and Newport. In each of these places I found “Quahoggers” being used as work boats, fishing boats, tongers, lobster boats and as small family yachts. I talked to owners and knowledgeable persons about them. No one knew anything about plans. One inquiry earned the reply that “Joe S. in Bristol will build you one, $250 unpainted.” A visit to Joe’s back yard showed that he had no plans but that he did have a building jig, and that he would build me a boat. Where did he get the jig? “Oh, my father made it years ago.” The “Quahogger” is the beginning of a type. Except for the ordinary flat-bottomed skiff, it has no forebearers and did not evolve from any earlier models. It is, I believe, the forerunner of another local type which is a very good looking skiff and that is the “Dutch Harbor Skiff.” From what I can gather, Quahoggers were first built in the Narragansett Bay area after the advent of the outboard engine, the weight of the engine aft dictating the
need for the very wide transom. these boats were first built by men in the shellfish trade. The boat satisfied their requirements for a simple, practical, seaworthy, heavy load carrying and economical skiff. Basically, present-day Quahoggers are the same as those first built. The Quahog skiff is a local type that doesn’t get much publicity. They are so common here on the Bay that a potential buyer would look and then pass them off as being too ordinary and too simple. Surprising as it may seem, however, they are fast, stable, economical and practical. One man who knows says, “they are the best platform available for pulling’ pots and tongin’, and they are fast; they’ve won every work boat race ever held in Newport.” Another expert says, “ . . . one of the nicest boats in the Bay for the purpose for which they are built.” They are that they can be driven right up on the beach for loading and unloading. Our workmen boarded and left over the bow onto a sandy beach without getting their feet wet, and the boats have enough power to back clear of the beach with a full load. Most of the work boats have only two seats, one in the bow and one in the stern. The rest of the boat is wide open for plenty of working space and accommodation for such gear as pots, pot haulers, rakes, tongs and baskets. The interior of all boats varied with their use, all being quite functional. Building a “Quahogger” is quite simple—you just set up the forms and wrap the planks around them.

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