The English shallop was an open boat that sat very shallow in the water. The craft was about 7 feet wide and 30 feet long, small enough so that it could be operated by a small crew of men. It could be rowed on flat water or sailed when the wind picked up because it contained a mast and sail, most likely a square lugsail that could be hauled quickly up the single mast. A canvas tarp could also be erected to provide temporary shelter under harsh conditions. With its crude sail and lack of a sturdy keel, such a craft would not have been particularly easy to maneuver, but it would allow the voyagers to venture close to shore and far up into rivers. While experts don’t know if the boat’s hull had a round or flat bottom, they do know by viewing sketches on John Smith’s map that the bow and stern were relatively high compared to the lower mid-ship area. The shallop was small enough that it could even be carried if necessary such as over a shallow sand bar. They were probably transported from England in two pieces that could be stowed away on a larger ship and then assembled once needed. Captain Smith brought such boats to Virginia on his voyages to the eastern shore to establish a colony here.
A replica of Smith’s shallop was constructed by Sultana Projects, Inc., of Chestertown, Maryland in 2006 and 2007. Using 17th-century tools and methods to complete the boat, a crew of 12 modern explorers then used it to travel some 1500 miles, retracing Cap. Smith’s historic 1608 Chesapeake expedition. The trip took 4 months, and the shallop was powered only by oar and sail.