Ship Shaping

Many tourists visiting Charleston are fascinated by the city’s extensive maritime history, and some of the best things to do is some kind of boat trip in Charleston harbor. From 1740 to 1773, there were more than 300 ships built in local shipyards, most of them 20 tons or less. The most popular designs were schooners and sloops, whose “fore and aft” rigging was more practical than square-rigged to allow more maneuverability along the coast and in rivers. There were some larger brigantines built that combines fore-and aft with square rigging, and numerous plantation barges that carried goods to remote coastal areas. The age of steam ships and railroads in the 1800’s essentially brought local shipbuilding to an end, but there is one place where you can still find some of these colonial vessels, but you’ll need scuba gear – along the Cooper River Underwater Heritage Trail, where a number of small ships and boats are marked with plaques on the bottom where they eventually came to rest. By the way, the most complete and best illustrated study of shipping in Charleston is Priestley Coker’s “Charleston’s Maritime Heritage – 1670-1865”.

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