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America's shrimping industry began at the turn of the century in Fernandina, where the highly effective "otter trawl" nets were first drawn by powered boats. While the Greek-style trawler never completely replaced the V-hull shrimper, the type persisted for decades due to the success of the Diesel Engine Sales Company (DESCO), founded in St. Ethnicity, Region, Occupation and Family: The Social Contexts for Louisiana Folklife, Nicholas R. This essay originally appeared in Folklife in Louisiana: A Guide to the State published by the Office of Cultural Development in 1985. Folk boats are those wooden craft made by hand in forms that have been handed down over time and learned by each generation of builders through imitation, oral instruction and practice. Indians provided the model for what is now called the pirogue-a boat associated today with Cajun culture. New folk houses are rarely constructed today, but they are still lived in and thus provide a visible connection to the heritage of the past.
In the article that follows, Malcolm Comeaux updates the landmark work of William Knipmeyer (1956) which was reprinted in 1976 as "Folk Boats of Eastern French Louisiana." Comeaux draws upon his in-depth work with Atchafalaya Basin boats and culture and expands to include coastal and deep-water craft as well as boats up river in north Louisiana and beyond. Folk boats of Louisiana are an excellent vehicle for the study and understanding of material culture.
Boat types used today are the result of the interplay of culture, environment, and technology. Only a small percentage of the people in Louisiana are today dependent on boats for work or transportation. Boat building and use traditions have never been as diversified or strong in Anglo Louisiana as opposed to French Louisiana.
Boat traditions in south Louisiana, the area of French influence, have always been strong and varied. People in this country are so accustomed to travel by water that the generic term 'voiture' (standard French for "carriage") is always applied to a boat. This diversity of shape of these boats comes from the diversity in their usage and in the places where they must go. He further stated (Robin 1966: 101) that there were even luxury craft requiring l5 to 20 slaves to row them, and that they were owned by wealthy plantation owners who wanted to flaunt their wealth. Boats remained important in the lives of many French-speakers until about the 1930s, when an expanding efficient highway system made travel by boats along bayous inefficient. Although boat traditions are stronger in south Louisiana, there are relatively few differences between the boat types used in inland waters in the two areas. The term pirogue2 (pronounced many ways, but usually "pero," or "perog") is used throughout Louisiana to refer to a small one- or two-man craft that is flat-bottomed, narrow, and pointed on the ends.
The dugout was the only true boat used by Indians in Louisiana prior to the arrival of Europeans. The French had steel tools, particularly the ax, adz and auger (or gimlet), and with these tools a pirogue could be quickly and carefully constructed, and made quite light. With their tools and their superior knowledge of watercraft, the French built vastly improved versions of the Indian pirogue. Once logs became scarce, pirogues were built of cypress planks, and since cypress planks have become scarce, they have been built of marine plywood. The skiff (esquiff) is of an ancient design, and examples of this boat type are found in many parts of the world. Traditional skiffs are now very rarely seen in north Louisiana, and only a few survive in south central Louisiana. Lafitte skiffs are indeed skiffs in the general form of the boat, though much larger than other skiff varieties. The flatboat is today the major boat used by folk fishermen in inland waters in Louisiana, and this boat type is found along all river courses.


Changes in the design of the flatboat began when small internal combustion engines became available soon after 190013 (Comeaux 1972: 42), for the flatboat, when modified, was ideally suited for use with inboard engines. Whereas the French word bateau means the same as "boat" in English, in south-central Louisiana it always refers to this type of craft. Many boats of the bateau type survive in the upper Mississippi River system, where they are usually called "launches." In this region it has been common since the 1920s to use automobile engines in this craft, and sometimes even marine engines.
Barges, from which flatboats evolved, still survive in Louisiana and are still built by folk fishermen.
The typical houseboat is as wide as the hull supporting it, about 10 feet, and only rarely is there a catwalk extending beyond the hull along the side. Boats used in coastal and offshore situations are different from boats used in inland waters. The flat-bottomed boats commonly used along the coast are numerous, but the craft can be grouped into several categories.
Luggers are closely associated with oystermen who came to this country from the Dalmatian Coast (Padgett 1960: 243), and who possibly introduced the craft, or at the least modified and popularized it. The potential for Louisiana offshore shrimping was discovered in 1937, and in 1938 Florida fishermen introduced a seaworthy fishing boat, as well as many new mechanical techniques (Anderson, et al. Another type of boat was a strange craft used in transporting live fish from a swamp area such as the Black River in north Louisiana (Gregory 1966: 9). The folk boats of Louisiana provide a good example of how culture, environment, and technology interplay to cause changes in boats and to determine how and where boats are used. No culture in Louisiana is in complete isolation, and new ideas are always being introduced.17 These new ideas are accepted or rejected, and the determining factor seems to be whether the new idea or concept is a success or failure when adapted locally.
A woman fishes from a wooden bateaux outfitted with a rowing joug (for stand up use) on the inland bayou near Pierre Part, Assumption Parish.
There are many kinds of boats in Louisiana, and each has been designed to fill a particular role. It can further be noted that the addition of certain engines in some cases transformed the basic range and use of a boat. By the 1920s, the center of this booming industry, lead by a few immigrant families including the Salvadors, Polis and Versaggis, had shifted to St.
The Mollie and Me II, pictured above, was built by Greek boat-builder Harry Xynides during the mid-1960s (photograph courtesy of the Xynides family).
This essay is provided online courtesy of the editor since the publication is out of print. Comeaux is a native of Lafayette and has also written about Acadian accordions and the Spanish Moss industry.
A person reared in a particular culture will have preconceived ideas of how to build and use boats, and this background will help determine what boats are used, and what changes are made in any boat style. Many of the earliest ones were very large, up to 50 feet with a beam to match (Surrey l916: 57) and were used to haul cargo and passengers long distances. The flatboat takes the pirogue and crawfish traps to a swamp and the pirogue will be used in the swamp to crawfish.
If a fisherman could not afford to buy a skiff but needed a boat larger and more stable than a pirogue, he would build a flatboat. Note how this craft has a gable roof, and a small catwalk extends beyond the side of the hull; neither feature is traditional on houseboats. They are about 35 feet long, one room wide, and three feet deep, with the front room a living room, the second a bedroom, and the rear room a kitchen. Culture goes a long way in influencing how people perceive and use boats; as, for example, how boats are rowed facing backwards in north Louisiana, while in south Louisiana it is common to stand and row facing forward. Some have been abandoned, particularly since advancing technology has made some types obsolete, such as the chaland, the canotte, the true skiff, and the bateau. Another way you can help to support the Forum is to purchase custom designed gifts from the Forum's Ships' Store, or shop for items in the Forum's Amazon Store. Augustine and the entire Northeast Florida region was supplying shrimp by the ton via iced rail-car to the New York market. Many other builders prospered on the banks of the San Sebastian River, the boat-building epicenter of St.


He now resides in the very dry state of Arizona where he is a Professor of Geography at Arizona State University.
This clip presents two of their traditions decimas, a traditional improvised ten line sung poetry, and boat building. The can at the front of the pirogue will carry the bait and will hold the crawfish when they are initially emptied from the traps. There is a small porch on the bow, and the roof is low and arched (some today have a low gable). We also have a New Feature - Search the Forum's Amazon Associate without leaving the Forum's Site. Also at this time, a new style of shrimp boat appeared on these waters, built by Greek boat builders from the sponge fisheries of Tarpon Springs. Augustine Trawlers, Inc., along with several smaller yards owned by the Sarris, Nix and Xynides families. This interesting culture sings of their immigration from the Canary Islands in their remarkable decimas. Most houseboats in Louisiana today are abandoned or are pulled onto shore and occupied there. The new, Greek shrimp boats displayed a dramatic sheer line ending with a high bow with a sharp entrance and a deck-house located forward to facilitate the hauling of nets from the stern. Although north Louisiana is not known as an area for boat making, Anglo-American up-river ancestors often floated their way down stream on rafts and barges that provide sources for the flatboat. In the video there are several people who speak about the tradition of the decimas and the construction of an Isleno boat.
2: 188) mentioned that Indian dugouts in Louisiana were blunt ended, and this was generally true of Indian pirogues in the South (Fig. They are usually about five feet long, have a T-shaped handle, and a blunt or slightly rounded blade. Unlike previous shrimp boats with their V-shaped hull, the Greek style shrimper was rounded in cross-section. Augustine and one of the last remaining examples of this once vibrant industry in the United States.
Augustine Trawlers to the family owned yards of the Sarris, Xynides, and Nix families, this small river was once home to a forest of shrimp boat masts. The last factor influencing boat styles is technology, and it offers the greatest opportunities for rapid change. Commission of Fish and Fisheries, Report of the Commissioner for the Year Ending June 30, 1896, Appendix II. This hull shape resulted in a deep and slow roll at sea, the source of complaints from some seasick shrimpers used to a hard-chined vessel. The earliest shrimpers were small, mostly under 30' in length, though they grew in size over the decades to typically 40' by the 1930s, 50 to 60' in the 1940s and 70' in the1950s.
The Mollie and Me II, pictured above, was built by Greek boat-builderHarry Xynides in either the late 1950s or early 1960s (photograph courtesy ofthe Xynides family). Augustine persist, plowing the waves of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico, and Caribbean every day to bring home the catch. They were thus more seaworthy than the local luggers, and they became quite popular for close offshore work (Becnel 1962: 24).
The use of ice allowed the efficient movement of all fish from the swamp at any season, and so the tow-cars declined rapidly, the last one used in Louisiana about 1918 (Comeaux 1972: 35). Developing technology, therefore, had a tremendous influence on boat types, as well as their evolution and use. Vietnamese fishermen have recently come to the Louisiana coast, and they brought with them their concepts of how a boat should be built.



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