Pressed with the need for water transportation from island to island in the Bahamas and Caribbean before the advent of inboard and outboard engines a number of methods were devised. Rowing of course is the most common and well known. Today, the skill of rowing has evolved from a necessity to a highly visible sport. Another means of moving a boat through the water is the art of sculling. Recently, Coastal Angler Magazine—Bahamas co-publisher Gary Guertin spoke with Capt. Christopher Wallace. Capt. Wallace is originally from Ragged Island and now resides on Grand Bahama Island. He has been a boatman all his life. Here are a few highlights.
“In an archipelago nation, transportation is all about the boat,” Capt. Wallace said. “Before there were engines the art of sculling was a common method of moving a boat forward. When the Duty Vessels reached a port, smaller boats were used to bring supplies to the vessel from the shore.”
The sculling oar was generally 10 to 12 feet long and was made of yellow pine. The sculling oar was kept in place with an oar notch located in the centre of the port side stern of the boat. Like everything else that is muscle work a man’s build (read muscle) and height played a significant role in his ability to power the craft. On average, a good sculler could move a vessel through the water at around two knots. While boats as large as 24 feet were used, the average length of the boats most commonly used was 10 feet. At 76 years of age, Captain Wallace is still active in helping to insure that young Bahamians do not forget this important part of the Bahamian boating culture and legacy.
The Bahamian Brewery and Beverage Company (BBB) kicked off their 2013 sculling season at the “All for One” Regatta at Montagu Bay, Nassau last month. As one of the sponsors who came to the rescue of the event, the Bahamian Brewery’s national sculling races were a fun highlight to the weekend’s races.
With over 16 entries and four heats, final results placed David Rolle, third, Stephen Rolle second, and champion of the Montagu sculling races was Donnie Bastian. Bastian won 10 cases of beer, t-shirts, and the coveted trophy and honour of being the first sculling winner for 2013. Second place sculler Stephen Rolle won 8 cases of beer and for his efforts David Rolle, third place, won 6 cases.
Bastian, will travel to Grand Bahama later in the year for the finals of the ‘Sands Man In the Boat Sculling Championship Of The Bahamas’, home of the Bahamian Brewery. He will scull to become the enviable ‘Sands Man in The Boat Sculling Champion of The Bahamas’ – a title currently held by last year’s first champion Mr. Clayton Bain, who hails from Nassau.
Bahamian Brewery’s main product, SANDS, highlights the traditional sculling on its bottle design, which is also used in its advertising campaigns through out the country. “Traditionally sculling was used by fisherman who went ‘conching’ and at the time had no outboard engines,” explained George Kelly, Sands sculling event organizer. “It was also used in our Out Islands where there were no docks. The smallest person in the village would scull out to the mail boat and bring in cargo to the island.”