Classic Whitehall Rowboat


The whitehalls are a classic example of the type of boat I specialize in. They have clean lines, handle well, and, from inception, are designed to be work boats. From hauling drunken sailors back to ship, to carrying loads of necessary supplies to its boat before she set sail, the whitehalls have proved to be sturdy little boats and a pleasure to use for both rowing and sailing.

Whitehalls as such appear to have emerged in the 1820s, in the many busy harbors of the northeastern seaboard. They served as fast, weatherly transportation for people and small amounts of goods to, from, and among the large ships at anchor, as well as along shore to neighboring communities. They ranged in size from 12’ to slightly greater than 20’, but all maintained a very similar form. Many did and do carry a small rig and they make able sailors, especially with the addition of a centerboard.

Primarily, however, whitehalls are excellent wooden row boats. They row with exceptional ease, track well, and true to their intended service can be loaded deep without becoming piggish. They were extremely popular and their use widespread, leading to quite a bit of competitive racing and refinement of the type. They evolved a combination of function, speed, and grace that ensured they would remain a classic fixture of the waterfront long after their original purpose had given way to “progress”.

The Whitehall continues to be a great row boat choice for those who like to move about the water, especially recommended for those who like to go out for a nice long row. It’s a wonderful feeling, the boat surging forward as you fall into your stroke, slicing across the morning’s calm. It’s nice to feel comfortable later, when the chop is up, to be in a boat that doesn’t notice it much. Should you tire of rowing, a small sprit rig goes up easily and quickly – even single-handed – and pushes the boat along admirably.

I presently offer two versions of this classic:

  • a 16’2” Boston Whitehall, lofted from lines in Howard Chappelle’s American Small Sailing Craft, and
  • a 12’6” version based off the New York Whitehall recorded in the same book.