The Periauger, modeled after the type of Colonial-era boat with the same name, has returned to Beaufort to be refurbished.
North Carolina Maritime Museum’s Harvey W. Smith Watercraft Center staff are refurbishing the replica — the only known boat of its kind — built about 15 years ago there, the museum announced Thursday.
“The boat itself, in its historic context, was really important to North Carolina,” maritime curator David Bennett said in a statement. “In the 17th and 18th centuries, it was a popular coastal transport, especially in North Carolina’s inner waters.”
Though public operations currently are suspended at the watercraft center, the double doors facing Front Street will be open for the visitors to the progress on Periauger.
“It should be there through the end of August, easily,” Bennett said.
Construction began in 2003 on the Periauger replica under the Periauger Project in partnership with the museum, the Perquimans County Restoration Association, Perquimans County and East Carolina University’s Program in Maritime Studies, and was completed in 2004.
Periauger is a generic term for a two-masted boat made of a dugout and split cypress log and propelled by both oars and sails, according to Perquimans County Restoration Association. The Periauger replica is 30-feet long with two masts that reach 25 feet and has rowing stations for at least six oars.
“A lot of people had these boats,” Bennett said. “But North Carolina’s climate is an inhospitable environment for the long-term survival of wooden boats.”
Mike Alford, the museum’s former maritime researcher, and boatbuilder Geoffrey Scofield used historical records and illustrations to study the Periauger.
“There weren’t even a piece of one to look at,” Alford said. “We just wanted to get it on the record. We didn’t have any plan to build one.”
The boat belongs to the Perquimans County Restoration Association and is housed at the 1730 Newbold-White House in Hertford.
Periauger has been featured in both historic documentaries and in the filming of the 2019 movie “Harriet.” In the film, abolitionist Harriet Tubman rides in periauger as she leads Union troops on a river raid of South Carolina plantations.
The museum’s boat builder, Tim White, is doing the work in sections, cutting out one piece of the cypress floor at a time, replacing the damaged portions with new cypress before moving on to the next. It’s a slow process, White explained, working bit-by-bit out of necessity.
“I don’t want to damage the integrity of the floor,” White said.