In American Small Sailing Craft, author Howard I. Chapelle writes: “Perhaps the most noted of American rowing work boats was the Whitehall.” That was the case in New York City, beginning in the 1820s, when Whitehalls served as water taxis. Two hundred years later, the Whitehall, in its many forms, may be the most noted American recreational boat.

Christopher Cunningham

These drawings and offsets in American Small Sailing Craft provide just enough information for an experienced boatbuilder to build the New York Whitehall. The orange highlights are errors I found; they were easily identified and worked around.

Chapelle’s drawings of the New York Whitehall built in the New York Navy Yard in 1890 occupy a single page in his book and include both lines and construction in profile, section, and plan view. The offsets and text suffered in the reproduction of the original artwork and require a magnifying glass to read. The two pages of text preceding the illustration delve into the history of the Whitehall type and offer general comments on the New York model’s construction: plank keels, skegs, steam-bent frames, white cedar planking, and oak keel and posts. Even for an experienced boatbuilder it’s a bare minimum to go on, and additional resources, particularly John Gardner’s chapters on Whitehalls in Building Classic Small Craft, are helpful.

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