The Historic American Sneakboat
Sneakboat and Decoys, Plum Island, circa 1885 Anonymous/©Fredrik D. Bodin
Basic Sneak Boat
The sneakboat is a type of duck hunting boat, dating from the early 1800’s, that was, and still is used throughout the United States in one form or another (sneak, sneak box, sculling boat, float boat, and coffin boat). This low-profile camouflaged boat allowed the hunter to lie down at water level amoung his decoys, maneuver quietly by wiggling a paddle out the stern transom, and lure flying ducks to seemingly safe waters. When the birds descend, he hunter sits up and fires away with a shotgun. Sneakboats proved to be deadly for ducks in the days of “market hunting,” when one could make a decent living killing waterfowl. The Rodigrass clan migrated to Plum Island from Nova Scotia in the late 1800’s to commercially harvest ducks, clams, and fish. They were notable both as hunters and as guides.
Nathan Rodigrass, Plum Island, circa 1885 Anonymous/©Fredrik D. Bodin
The Rodigrass Camp, circa 1900 Anonymous/©Fredrik D. Bodin
Built in 1882, the Rodigrass Camp stood on Plum Island until 1989, when it was torn down. The Rodigrass clan later became stewards of the National Wildlife Refuge on Plum Island, protecting the animals they once hunted. I’ve met people in Gloucester who are familiar with or hunt with sneak boats. However, not many of us have seen a sneak boat, and neither have the ducks.