Perquimans County 
Restoration Association, Inc.

About Periauger Project

The Periauger Project mission, in part, is to spread interest in and education about early 18th century maritime life in North Carolina. This web site, and its companion CD, are products of the Perquimans County Restoration Association and its many volunteers.  Though the material is owned by the PCRA, it is offered free of charge to educational professionals and students.  It may be copied and distributed provided it is not altered and no charge is made.

Periauger’s home is the Newbold-White House off of Harvey Point Road in Hertford.  During the summer months, however, it is often docked at the town dock in Hertford. Signs at both locations tell where the vessel is located.  Sometimes, Periauger takes field trips to nautical or historical events of interest.

Periauger’s Life and Times

 by Mike Alford

Today, motorboats travel at predictable speeds that are much, much higher than a Periauger could sail. Planning a trip in a sailboat meant allowing time for bad weather,. You could probably count on making only 20 miles in a day. If things went well, with a strong breeze the current in your favor, you might travel 50 to 55 miles in a day. If they didn’t go so well, you might even spend the whole day with the boat shoved up on a beach. In our world today we are very used to going places quickly, and we plan our whole days around knowing that it only takes 10 minutes to get to the gas station, 20 minutes to get to the grocery store, and 30 minutes to get to work, etc. Just sailing the Periauger from Hertford to Elizabeth City might take less than a day one time and 2 days another. Or it might take a short day to get there but then 2 days to get back. Sailboats didn’t run on time-tables. That’s why they quickly disappeared as work boats when steamboats and gas engines became available. Our modern world likes to work on a schedule. It just didn’t work that way in the old days.

One of the things that made Periaugers very successful and popular was their low cost to build and to operate. The great thing about a log boat in the 1700s was that there were a lot of big logs, most of them for the taking. If the plantation didn’t have a suitable tree growing on it there were vast swamps up the rivers where a tree of the size needed could be found and cut.  There were people who had the skills to hollow and shape the logs into fine boats. They would travel around exchanging their skills for room and board and cost of materials for the boat. Most of the boat was shaped and put together right where the tree was cut down. You couldn’t move logs that big. Once the boat was pretty well roughed out it could be floated to the plantation or another site to be finished and fitted out for sailing. It cost a lot less that way than it did to go to a shipyard many, many miles away and have a shipbuilder build a boat the conventional way, with frames and planks.

Periaugers were rowed or sailed, depending on the weather and where their owners needed to go. They weren’t as handy and efficient as modern sailboats, and didn’t have engines, so it took planning and careful observance of weather signs like cloud formations and wind direction. If the signs weren’t good they wouldn’t go, but would wait for fair weather. If their trip took them over night, they camped on shore. They had to take everything they needed. Perhaps on long trips they could re-supply with fresh meat by hunting along the way.

Our farmers take their crops by truck. Mail is delivered to their P.O. boxes. Freight and express packages are delivered to their door.  We drive our cars to go shopping, just down the road. In 1700 farms and settlements were scattered along the shore of the sounds and rivers. Roads were just trails and made travel difficult and often impossible. Things were connected by water. It was necessary to go by boat and you had to have a boat capable of doing what you needed to do.

In terms of length and beam (width)  - 30 feet x 71/2 feet - there are many private sailboats, today, in the same size range as The Periauger. Modern boats that are 30 feet long are usually wider, around 10 feet in beam. The Periauger is very narrow for its length because it was built from logs, which limits the size that they can be built. There are also many small fishing vessels today that are the same length as the Periauger, but they are wider in proportion to their length. These trawlers and net boats, do not go offshore but fish in the sounds just as the Periaugers did.

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