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Whale Boat

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Nantucket Whaleboat Adventure Rowing Club

A partnership of the Egan Maritime Institute,
Nantucket Community Sailing and Susan and James Genthner
(owners and operators of the Friendship sloop Endeavor)

Relive history aboard the Wanderer, an authentic reproduction of an original whaleboat. Learn the skills of the whalers and get great exercise.

Ever wonder what it was really like to row after a whale? By training aboard the Wanderer, sailors of today get a one-of-a-kind experience that is physical, educational, and fun. All are welcome, from novice to experienced mariners. The program combines history with exercise as rowers learn the methods employed by whalers of old while plying the waters of Nantucket Harbor. The emphasis is on teamwork, as five rowers are required to pull together in a cooperative effort.

The Wanderer is a double-ended rowing and sailing boat built to the exact specifications as those used aboard American whaleships in the mid-nineteenth century. Ranging between 24 and 30 feet long, whaleboats were extremely seaworthy but could easily be rowed by a five-man crew. Although the whaleboat in its time was one of the most built boats in history, very few original boats exist today outside of museums. The Beetle whaleboat, built by Charles Beetle of New Bedford during the mid-1800s, is characterized by the curvature of the stern and bow chock construction. Built specifically for the sperm fishery, the Beetle whaleboat is 29 feet long and weighs 1,200 pounds. An original Beetle whaleboat can be seen in the Nantucket Whaling Museum. The Wanderer was built expressly for Sue and Jim Genthner by Christopher Emerson of Emerson Boatworks in Manchester-By-The-Sea, Mass., from plans originally drafted by Charles Beetle.

The Nantucket Whaleboat Adventure Rowing Club meets during the summer months at Jetties Beach. Rowing times are agreed upon by club members. For more information, please contact Beth at


Officer in charge of the boat. He steers the boat while approaching the whale. After the whale is harpooned and the boat is "fast" to the whale with the whale line, the mate goes forward and does the lancing or killing of the whale.

Pulls the forward oar, called the harpooner's oar, until close enough to dart the harpoon. After darting, he exchanges places with the mate and steers the boat.

Pulls the second oar. Assists the boatsteer in stepping and lowering the mast. He pulls in on the whale line and tends it while the mate is lancing. He is the most experienced foremast hand in the boat.

Pulls midship oar.

Pulls tub oar. Wets the whale line as whale sounds prevent its burning from friction.

Pulls the stroke oar. He coils the line as it is brought aboard while the boat is being pulled up on the whale. He helps catch and secure the mast after it is lowered. He also bails the boat. The after oarsman works under the boatsteerer in maintaining the whaleboat. He is generally the lightest man in the boat.

All oarsmen heave in on the whale line, bail, and move aft to trim the boat as ordered while the boat is under tow.
From THE WHALE BOAT by Willits D. Ansel

P.O. Box 2424, Nantucket, MA 02584
NCS Office: 508-228-6600 | Jetties Sailing Center: 508-228-5358
© 2017 Nantucket Community Sailing, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization