Photo credit: A.E. Witty , 07/1984

Property Name: ISLAND BIRD (log canoe)
Date Listed: 9/18/1985
Inventory No.: T-502
Location: Yacht Club Road, St. Michaels, Talbot County

Description: ISLAND BIRD is a 27'-4" sailing log canoe with a racing rig, a sharp stem with a longhead bow, and a sharp, raking stern. Log-built, she is one of the smallest boats in the active racing fleet, with a beam of only 5'-6 1/2". The canoe was built in 1882 in Tilghman, Maryland by William Sidney Covington, one of the most noted of the early racing canoe builders. The boat is privately owned by his descendants and has been racing every season since 1949. She has a white hull and a distinctive white kite with an osprey on it. The canoe has typical Tilghman-style log construction, with carvel-fitted rising planks and a smooth sheer with no sheer rails. There are half frames and sawn hanging knees supporting her washboards, which form a half-deck and carry short cleat rails midships. The sharp stem has a modified longhead. A short entry leads to a long run with a long, sharp, raking stern on which the rudder is hung outboard on pintles. A short bumpkin with a solid wooden backrest overhangs the stern. The canoe has a centerboard placed well forward and carries springboards for racing. There are solid stern sheets aft of the mainmast step and thwart. The rig consists of two unstayed masts--a 36' foremast and a 25' mainmast--a mainsail, foresail, and jib. These are set into square chocks in thwarts. The bowsprit, curved down towards the water, is set up with standing rigging--a bobstay and two shrouds as well as wooden braces on the longhead--which counteract the force of the large jib. The main sails have clubs and sprits and the jib has a club on its foot. ISLAND BIRD carries among her light racing sails a distinctive kite with an osprey. The canoe is half-decked with a squared-off foredeck and wide washboards painted light green, lined with a white coaming. When not set up the masts are carried on trestles in the cockpit, as is other racing gear. The hull is glassed over and painted white, with the name ISLAND BIRD in black letters on the hull. Her longhead is painted white and is undecorated, but carries the ends of wooden braces leading aft to the hull.

Significance: This vessel is significant as being one of the last 22 surviving traditional Chesapeake Bay racing log canoes that carry on a tradition of racing on the Eastern Shore of Maryland that has existed since the 1840s. In addition, it is a surviving representative of the oldest indigenous type of boat on the Bay--the working log canoe--which was developed in the 17th century by early European settlers from the aboriginal dugout canoe. ISLAND BIRD is especially significant as being the oldest surviving member of the racing log canoe fleet, having been built by William Sidney Covington of Tilghman, Maryland in 1882. At 27'-4" long she is also one of the smallest in the fleet and is built of only three logs instead of the more usual five. Covington was a noted builder of log canoes in the 1880s and 1890s, being the builder of the famed "Island" group--the ISLAND BIRD, ISLAND BRIDE, ISLAND BELLE, ISLAND BEAUTY, and ISLAND BLOSSOM, only two of which still survive today. One of the two major annual log canoe races is named in his honor and is for boats built before 1917.




close