I drew it up, most of the time on a piece of plywood, so it wouldn't get wrinkled up, and I'd use the measurements from that. I always liked to build boats, and I like to change the style of them and try to get something to look pretty good.
— Kenneth Nieman, age 72 (1984)
Boatbuilding has been an important, albeit "backyard," industry in Shady Side for the last century and has often provided a better living than fishing. Local families have passed down boatbuilding know-how, skills, and tools from one generation to the next. The Nieman brothers built rowboats, workboats, and cruisers. Captain Charles Edward Leatherbury was known for his log canoes and deadrise bateaux. Other Shady Side boatbuilders included Harold Holland, Charlie Smith, George Proctor, Perry and Leonard Rogers, and Wil Lee.
Designed and Built in Shady Side
Inspired by his automobile, Captain Perry Rogers of Shady Side came up with the idea for a new kind of workboat — a deadrise with a tuck stern and a motor. He designed and built the first of what later became known as the "West River Boat" in 1904 — the Princess. Much larger than the average workboat, the Princess was 40 feet long, cost $300, and was known as "the ship." Stable rather than fast, the deadrise provided a perfect platform
for tonging oysters in the shallow waters of the West River. Captain Rogers' design for the Princess represents just one of many unique local styles of power workboats that emerged in the 1920s among Chesapeake Bay boatbuilders. Captain Rogers continued to construct West River deadrises throughout his life. In 1933 he built the Edna Florence.
How Does a Deadrise Work?
A deadrise has a V-shaped bottom and a sharp angle where the bottom meets the side. Captain Rogers built his deadrises with a "tuck stern." Instead of being plurab (vertical), the stern angled outward from the waterline and was not deep. Perry Rogers' nephew Clarence explained the virtues of his uncle's design: "When tonging, you stand stern to the sea. A deadrise boat with a tuck stern was better than a square stern, because the water would go under the stern without pushing it off the sea and without causing you to lose position on the oysters."
How Does a Boat Get Its Shape?
Many things determine the size and shape of a boat:
· Available materials (yellow pine and white oak in the Mid-Atlantic)
· Local skills and techniques
(log canoe and deadrise construction on the Chesapeake)
· Conditions of the sea where it will be used
· Purpose for which it is built.
Chesapeake builders like Perry Rogers found
that longer boats of 35 to 45 feet were more stable when anchored in the Bay's notoriously short, choppy caves. A boat also has to be large enough to bring hom a full day's catch and get the waterman home safely, but not so large that it becomes too expensive to built or maintain.
How to Build a Boat
The first thing you got to do is lay the heel off. Then you get that cut to the shape you want and your stem and stern, and you get that up. Then you got to cut frame, and each one is a different shape. And you got to outline them on the drawing just how much curve goes in each frame, and you saw them out. And you cut your china and your center. And then you go from there...
— Kenneth [unreadable], age 72 (1984)
That's My Living — Following the Water