REELFOOT BOAT   2 comments

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Due to the abundance of submerged trees and stumps in Reelfoot Lake, necessity is the mother of invention. Early on the Calhoun Reelfoot Boat became a reality.  The craft is a rather nifty local product in the area surrounding this lake in western Tennessee.   Over the years the construction of these boats passed along from generation to generation until recently.

Although there is talk of resurrecting the business of building these interesting craft, no particular plans seem to have emerged. The boats have become collectors’ items as they vanish from the lake.  The best preserved one I have found is at Blue Bank Resort on the shore of the lake in Hornbeak, TN next to the state park..  There is one in the museum on the refuge but it is in rather shabby shape.

Invented in the 1800’s to cope with the huge amount of submerged timber and relatively shallow nature of the lake, the boat is particularly adapted to such conditions. It is 17-feet in length and canoe shaped.  The original boats were only 12-feet in length.

The bottom of the flat bottom craft is of 7/8th inch lumber. Over the years they were made of a variety of locally grown lumber the cypress is preferred.  The side boards are only 3/8th inches thick.  They have to be steamed and then bent to form the curve required when nailed to the frame.

The Reelfoot boat also has a unique oarlock system. In 1880 an Illinois duck call maker and avid duck hunter designed and patented it.  The Calhoun family purchased the patent for the oar locks 1959.  They system permits the anglers to sit facing and row in the direction in which they row.  In conventional systems the rower faces away from the direction he is heading.

The addition of handmade boat sets and oars for the oar lock system completes the finished product.

Propelled by a single cylinder engine, it is steered by a unique rudder mounted that tilts up when coming into contact with an object beneath the water.

The propeller protection by a sheet of plate steel keeps it from sheering off the prop in contact with solid objects so often found in these waters.

 

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2 responses to “REELFOOT BOAT

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  1. I’ve always wanted to go down there and fish!

  2. It is really quite an experience. I always stay with the folks at Blue Bank Resort in Hornbeak, TN. It is right on the east side of the lake next to the state park. Good food and nice people. Good for family vacation too. Lot to see in the area. Lot of craft stuff in the area as well.

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