The squared off shape and simple lines of a scow make it a popular choice for simple home-built boats made from plywood. Phil Bolger and Jim Michalak, for example, have designed a number of small sailing scows, and the PD Racer is a growing class of home-built sailing scow. Generally these designs are created to minimize waste when using standard 4-foot by 8-foot sheets of plywood.
The scow hull is also the basis for the Shantyboat or, on the Chesapeake, the Ark, a cabin houseboat once common on American rivers. The ark was used as portable housing by Chesapeake watermen, who followed, for example, shad runs seasonally.
See also the Thames sailing barge and the Norfolk wherry, two British equivalents to the scow schooner. The Thames sailing barges, while used for similar tasks, used significantly different hull shapes and rigging.
Sailing scows were popular in the American South for economic reasons, because the pine planks found there were difficult to bend, and because inlets along the Gulf Coast and Florida were often very shallow.
The "Lake Erie" was 60 feet 6 inches in length, seventeen feet 3 inches in breadth and had a draught of three feet 4 inches. It was fitted with lee boards (a type of keel which slotted onto the sides of the vessel), but these were found to be highly impracticable in rough weather on the New Zealand coast, so much so that later scows were designed and constructed with the much safer "centre board" which could be raised and lowered as and when required. This one small craft spawned a fleet of sailing scows that were to become forever associated with the gum trade and the flax and kauri industries of northern New Zealand.
Scows came in all manner of shape and sizes and all manner of sailing rigs, but the "true" sailing scow displayed no fine lines or fancy rigging. They were designed for hard work and heavy haulage and they did their job remarkably well. They took cattle north from the stockyards of Auckland and returned with a cargo of kauri logs, sacks of kauri gum, shingle, firewood, flax or sand. With their flat bottoms they could be sailed or poled much further up the many tributaries and rivers where the bushmen and bullock teams had the freshly sawn kauri logs amassed, thereby saving a great deal of time and energy on the part of the bushmen. The flat-bottomed scows were also capable of coming right up on to the beach and anchoring; when the tide changed they would be left high and dry, then over the side went duckboards, wheelbarrows and banjo shovels. The crew would then fill the vessel with a cargo of sand, racing against the turn of the tide, and when the tide did turn, back onboard would go the wheelbarrows and equipment and the ship would float off and put to sea. Of course, occasionally an inexperienced skipper would overload the scow; then as the water level against the outside of the hull rose (diminishing the amount of safe "free board"), rapid shovelling by the crew could be observed to reduce the contents in the hold to a safe level.
Logs when hauled were always carried above deck, the space between decks being left empty to give added buoyancy. The logs were taken to Auckland and unloaded into floating "booms" to await breaking down in the sawmills of the Kauri Timber Company and other such mills that operated right on the edge of Auckland Harbour. The golden age of scows and schooners lasted from the 1890's to the end of the First World War when schooners were superseded by steamers and scows were gradually replaced with tugs.
The Subritzky family of Northland operated the scows "Jane Gifford" and the "Owhiti" as the last fleet of working scows, operating between the Port of Auckland and the Island communities of the Hauraki Gulf. The "Jane Gifford" was gifted to the Waiuku Historical Society by Captain Bert Subritzky and his wife Moana in 1985, where it was re-masted and re-rigged to its original splendor, while the "Owhiti" which had starred in the 1983 movie "The Savage Islands" starring Tommy Lee Jones and amongst others Kiwi icon and singer Prince Tui Teka as King Ponapa. The vessel was sold to Captain Dave Scarrum in the late 1980's and fully restored to its 1924 sea worthiness, where for a time was part of the New Zealand National Maritime Museum at Hobson Wharf About 1995, the "Owhiti" was sailed up to the Far North on a cruise during which time the vessel "sat on her anchor," where it still remains in a deteriorating condition.
The main differences from American scows were sharper bows and favoring the ketch rig instead of the schooner rig, although a great many schooner and topsail schooner rigged vessels were built. Some 130 scows were built in the north of New Zealand between 1873 and 1925, they ranged from 45 to 130 ft (14 - 40 m). New Zealand trading scows travelled all around New Zealand as well as to Australia and to the west coast of America although the majority were based in the Hauraki Gulf of New Zealand.
Elsie was the last scow sloop operated on the Chesapeake Bay. Although sailing scows were once numerous around the Bay, they are very poorly documented.
The Ted Ashby is a ketch rigged scow built in 1993 and based at the New Zealand National Maritime Museum in Auckland, it regularly sails the Auckland harbour as a tourist attraction. It was named after an old-time New Zealand seafarer and scowman "Ted Ashby" who had the forsite to document much of the history of these coastal work horses in his book "Phantom Fleet - The Scows and Scowmen of Auckland" which was published by A. H. & A. W. Reed, Wellington in 1976.
The is a Ketch rigged deck scow built in 1908 by Davey Darroch, Big Omaha, New Zealand. The vessel was re-launched at Waiuku on the 28 November 1992, with Captain Basil Subritzky, the son of the late Captain Bert Subritzky and his family as guests of honour. The "Jane Gifford" then commenced sailings and tours on the Manukau Harbour between Waiuku and the . She is the only original New Zealand scow still afloat to carry sail.
The Echo was built in 1905 of Kauri in New Zealand. She is 104 feet (32 m) long, with two masts and topsail rigged. Twin diesel engines were installed in 1920. In 1942-44 she was used by US forces in the Pacific, see USS Echo (IX-95). Her story was the basis for the 1960 film with Jack Lemon, The Wackiest Ship in the Army and the 1965 TV series. She was nearly broken up in 1990, but is now preserved at Picton, New Zealand
Howard I. Chapelle documented a number of scows in his book American Small Sailing Craft.
Contrary to the connotations of the old definition of "scow" (large and slow), the inland lake scows are extremely fast--the wide, flat bottom hull allows them to plane easily. As a consequence of this, the A scow is the highest rated centerboard boat according to the US Portsmouth yardstick numbers.
History of New Zealand Scows: 'Neath Swaying Spars' by P.A. Eaddy. Pub. Whitcombe & Tombs. New Zealand 1939.
TUGGIN' AT HISTORY A LEGENDARY SKIPPER AND A CURIOUS TUG ESCORT A FINE LADY TO THE GREAT CHESAPEAKE BAY SCHOONER RACE.(DAILY BREAK)
Oct 13, 1999; Byline: PAUL CLANCY, STAFF WRITER BEFORE DAWN at a deepwater terminal in Wilmington, Del., low clouds chase a cold front across a...