Skiff ready for trial launch

When I began writing this, the (CRBB) ( had recently returned to their boat shed at the Crystal River Preserve State Park in Citrus County, Florida. For the past six weeks they had been absent from the park and have taken their exhibit on the road. They have been building a model at the County Courthouse Museum in Inverness, Florida ( This isn’t your typical boat model. It is a 1/6 scale (approximately 6’x 2’) replica of a sailing scow. The scow being built by the boat builders is part of a demonstration project. The project accomplished two major goals. First, it gave visitors first-hand knowledge of historic woodworking tools by allowing them to participant in some of the “hands-on” boat building activities. Second, the model, once completed will be used as a traveling education exhibit.

The boat builders themselves are volunteers that have formed a non-profit group dedicated to the preservation of maritime heritage on the Florida Gulf Coast. Many of them are retired and now live on the Nature Coast. They draw membership from all walks of life; however, they all share a long-time interest in sailing and the sea. The organization includes some people that are experienced while others are inexperienced at using traditional woodworking tools. Their goal is to “build a collection of watercraft representative of the central gulf coast’s unique and multi-cultural history that can be shared with both boat enthusiasts and the general public.” The Central Regional Center of the Florida Public Archaeology Network (FPAN) has been involved with the CRBB because of the similarities in purpose and interests in education and outreach. Since their formation, the members of the CRBB have been quite busy completing four boats including the Annie, a “flatty”, a “skiff”, and a “punt” that were among the types that were used by local watermen in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The model represents the fifth vessel that CRBB has worked on.

The scale model of the sailing scow is but a trial for the full sized example that they hope to build. Most people hear the word scow and many think of the garbage scows or barges. The sailing scow is a different kettle of fish. A sailing scow is a large flat-bottomed, broad, shallow draft boat which was relatively easy and inexpensive to build. One of the most important design characteristics of the scow was its light weight and shallow draft. Such characteristics made the scow an ideal boat to travel throughout the shallow rivers of the Big Bend and Nature Coast. The scow was primarily used in the transport of bulk commodities in shallow and near shore environments. Anybody interested in participating or observing the construction of the boats while can come out to the boat basin on Wednesday and Saturdays from 9 AM to Noon at the Crystal River Preserve State Park. ( The most recent efforts have revolved around building boats from recycled materials that will race in the Reuse-A-Palooza at Lowry Park, on Saturday March 26th from 9:30 to 1:00 PM. Stay tuned to next week when Steve and I will walk you through the background of their next major boat building project.

You can follow the activities of the Central Regional Center of the Florida Public Archaeology Network at on facebook!/FPANcentral and on twitter