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Subject: Ferry crossing the river
Date: Sun, 12 Mar 2000 04:14:40 -0500
The boat looks like a ferry, not technically a flatboat. The ferry may be flat on deck and even flat on the bottom, but those facts do not put it in the class of boats traditionally reserved for the flat-bottomed boats used by both the settlers and by the merchants of 200 years ago.
The settlers built boats same as we hire a truck to move our furniture. At the end of the voyage down the Ohio River (usually), the boat might be used for shelter until the first house is built. Then the lumber from the boat is re-used.
Merchants built flatboats with a bigger cabin for protection of their cargo, usually barrels of whiskey bound for New Orleans.
These flatboats were attempted to be controlled by means of sweeps either on the sides or on the ends. After several attempts to do so on our voyage aboard the flatboat "Spirit of Kanawha" in 1988, I concluded that control may be more efficient by dragging a kedge or a rock, and moving its line along the gunwales.
A ferry could be controlled in a like fashion, resulting in great loss of distance. Consequently, the ferry crew must use the more tiring method of poling. A very few ferries were powered by a team of horses on board.
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