dory banner


Peapod on display

Origins of Peapods

Peapods, like Dories were originally the sturdy working boats of fishermen. Peapods are natives of the NE United States and peapods are often thought of as Maine Peapods. Their origins is lost in mists of time but John Gardner speculates that the proto-peapods were probably at least partly derived from the seagoing canoes used by the Passamaquoddy indians.

Sturdy double ended boats have been developed in many parts of the world and there were certainly double ended boats on the east coast of North America before they acquired the label of peapod.

Peapods are strongly built boats rarely longer than 15 feet although they were built up to 20 feet.

Above is an interesting video of Arch Davis building a peapod.

Whatever the origin of these peapods they were magnificently well suited to the use they were put to. They were used by fishermen first as fishing boats, then as lobster boats. They had to be reliable and trustworthy in big waves and had to be easy to row. They also had to resist capsizing as the heavy weight of the lobster traps was hauled over the edge. The fishermen would sometimes row their peapods standing up, using longer oarlocks, looking forward to steer around obstacles and islands. They would also sit facing backwards and row.

Since peapods were often made with both ends in the same shape, it did not matter which way you rowed. Some of the older peopods that have been preserved, show 2 rowing positions.

Unlike Dories, which were built quickly from a few planks and sometimes quite lightly to allow for easy stacking, peapods were built with some heft to them.

Many ancient descriptions of peapods remark on the fact that they were heavy boats. Some old peapods weighted in at over 300 pounds. Considering that they rarely went over 15 feet in length this is quite a lot of weight.

This weight worked in the peapod's favour settling the boat in waves and chop and keeping it steady as the nets or traps were hauled in from the side. Since peapods were often kept on a mooring or tied to a dock and did not have to be lifted out and stacked on deck their weight was not a problem.

Besides its uses as a fishing and lobster boat, the Maine Peapod was the boat used by the lighthouse service. This sturdy easily rowed and sailed boat was well suited to this purpose.

clinker or lapstrake and carvel planking

Construction of Peapods

Peapods are found in either lapstrake construction (clinker built) or carvel planked. Both construction methods are still in use. Carvel planked boats result in smooth hulls that are easier to refinish but heavier since planks need to be thicker. Lapstrake construction results in a lighter boat since the construction allows for thinner planks. The stem and keel are usually found to be made of oak or other heavy wood, often bent. The planking is usually a lighter wood often cedar.

The keel varies as to the intended use of the boat and in some cases was replaced by a much flatter plank. This made beaching easier. If the boat was to be beached a worm shoe or replaceable board was installed. If the boat was to be sailed as they often were, the keel could be deeper.

Depending on the intended use of the boat, the bottom can have quite a lot of rocker or be quite flat.

Rowing peapods often have more rocker. The width of the boat also varies as does the shape of the hull at the front and back where it might have a slight hollow to cut into waves better.

Rocker is a term used to define an arc from bow to stern along the bottom of the boat. It is rocker that allows the boat to spin about its center and makes it more easily turned.

Sailing Peapods

The old peapods used spritsails with no boom to knock over the fisherman, later other rigs were used including the Gunter and lug sails. Fishing boat that used a sail sometimes had a comb like structure to hook the rudder to free the fisherman to tend to nets and traps. The tiller was simply placed in one of the teeth of the "comb" and this kept the rudder in place. A sort of tiller tamer.

Boats intended to be sailed often had deeper keel than boats that were intended to be rowed mainly.

Because they did not have centerboards or daggerboards, peapods were not weatherly. They were never intended to sail close to the wind and were happier running or reaching.

Modern Peapods

Peapods are still around but they are mostly used for recreation. Modern peapods are considerably lighter than their ancestors and have been modified to deal with the reduction of weight. They are often flatter on the bottom and have less dead-rise. (The amount of V shape in the bottom of a hull is known as dead-rise.)

Many designers offer their plans for peapods, I have included some on the sidebar.

Its nice to have a light boat, but putting a few bottles of water along the keel often improves the handling of light boats.

email me if you find mistakes, I'll fix them and we'll all benefit: Christine

Small Print

I don't claim to be an expert in anything. If you want to build a boat do your homework first. The most important criteria in choosing a boat is suitability of the craft to your conditions. Have fun.