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What is the Whitehall rowboat?

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Quick Answer

The Whitehall rowboat is a style of wooden boat that has a keel and a wineglass shape originally manufactured at the foot of Whitehall Street in New York, New York during the 1800s. The boat's design is an adaptation of earlier European boats and was originally used in America as a harbor boat to haul sailors and cargo while providing services to ships anchored in New York Harbor. Its keel makes it easy to row straight by a single oarsman.

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The boat's hull design strongly resembles the water taxis of London's Thames river, incorporating a sailboat gig for stability and steering. Whitehall rowboats typically range in size from 14 to 22 feet with the smaller models easily handled by a single oarsman. Larger designs required two oarsmen to operate. The 25-foot Whitehall Gig required four oarsmen and a Coxswain for a total crew of five.

Whitehall style boats became very popular for recreational boating in the early 1900s. The style has been copied by many boat builders and is still readily available in many designs, as of 2015. Many newer models incorporate modern materials such as fiberglass in the hull construction. However, Whitehall enthusiasts can purchase plans and build their own boats using all wood construction just like the original models.

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