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By Dan Beard

ohb138.gif (5346 bytes)
Fig. 138 
The Buckeye.

The Buckeye, or "bug eye," as it is sometimes vulgarly called, has a great reputation for and seagoing qualities. When it cannot climb a wave it goes through it. This makes a wet boat in heavy weather, but when you travel at a high rate of speed you can endure a wet jacket with no complaint, especially when you feet that, in spite of the fast-sailing qualities of this boat, it is considered a particularly safe craft.

The construction of a buckeye has been evolved from the old dugout canoe of the Indians and the first white settlers. America was originally covered with vast forest of immense trees. Remnants of these forests still exist in a few localities. It was once possible to make a canoe of almost any dimensions desired, but now in the thickly settled regions big trees are scarce.

So the Chesapeake Bay boat-builders, while still adhering to the old dugout, have overcome the disadvantage of small logs by using more than one and bolting the pieces together. Masts and sails have been added, and since the increased proportions made it impracticable to drag such a craft on the beach when in port, anchors and cables are supplied. Two holes bored, one on each side of the stem, for the cables to run through, have given the boat the appearance of having eyes, and as the eyes are large and round, the Negroes called them buckeyes, and this is now the name by which all such craft are known.

At first only two masts with leg-of-mutton sails were used, but now they have a jib and two sails. With the greatest width or beam about one-third the distance from bow to stern, sharp at both ends, its long, narrow, and heavy hull is easily driven through the water, and makes both a fast and stiff boat.

The buckeye travels in shallow as well as deep waters, and hence is a center-board boat, but there is nothing unnecessary on the real buckeye-no overhanging bow or stern, for that means additional labor; no stays to the masts, for the same reason. The lack of stays to stiffen the masts leaves them with "springiness," which in case of a sudden squall helps to spill the wind and prevents what might otherwise be a "knock-down."

The foremast is longer than the mainmast and does not rake aft so much, but the mainmast has a decided rake, which some sailors say makes the boat faster on the wind. Sometimes in the smaller boats the mainmast can be set upright when going before the wind.

Wealthy gentlemen on the Chesapeake are now building regularly equipped yachts on the buckeye plan, and some of them are quite large boats. A correspondent of the Forest and Stream, in speaking of the buckeye, says:

"Last summer I cruised in company with a buckeye, forty-two feet long, manned by two gentlemen of Baltimore city, She drew twenty inches without the board. In sudden and heavy flaws she was rarely luffed. She would lie over and appear to spill the wind out of her tall, sharp sails, On one occasion this craft, on her way from Cape May to Cape Charles, was driven out to sea before a heavy northwest blow. Her crew, the aforesaid gentlemen, worn out by fatigue, hove her to and went to sleep. She broke her tiller lashing during the night, and when they awoke she was pegging away on a southeast course under her jib. They put her about, and in twenty hours were inside Cape Henry, pretty well tired out. Buckeyes frequently run from Norfolk to New York with fruit. For shallow waters, I am satisfied there is no better craft afloat. Built deep, with a loaded keel, they would rival the English cutter in seaworthiness and speed."

When the hardy, bold fishermen of our Eastern States and the brave fishermen down South both use the leg-of- mutton sail, beginners cannot object to using it while practicing; knowing that even if it is a safe sail, it cannot be called a "baby rig." 







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Last modified: October 15, 2016.