Although the fishing boats on the estate saw the most action during the spring, Washington maintained quite a fleet of watercraft for a variety of purposes.
The following types of watercraft were noted as being built or used by George Washington in the operation of his fisheries, farming operations or business enterprises:
- Barges and Scows
- Hogshead Flats
- Fishing Boats
Flatboats and the Gristmill Construction
Beginning in March 1770, Washington was busy with the planning and construction of his gristmill on Dogue Creek.
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Another type of watercraft was obtained and put to work. Called a flat, this was a flat-bottomed, shoal draft scow, propelled by poles. In this case, his people were flatting bricks and the sand, stone, and oyster shells to be used for lime in the mortar to the site of the mill.
Looking ahead to the mill's completion, he planned to use the flats to deliver corn and wheat up Dogue Creek to the mill and to carry flour down the creek to the Potomac for loading on cargo ships that would deliver it to the markets. These ships would be owned by or under the control of merchants with the cargo headed for Europe and the Caribbean.
Barges, Scows, and Ferries
Barges and scows were used to transport goods from Mount Vernon to Alexandria and other ports, while smaller boats navigated Little Hunting Creek and Dogue Run to carry articles from one part of the estate to another.
Ferries conveyed passengers and freight from Mount Vernon to the Maryland shore, and other boats were used to unload cargo from larger vessels that would run aground in shallow waters.
A Whaleboat for 20 Pounds Sterling
In March 1772, Washington added to his fleet of boats by purchase of a whaleboat, obtained for him by the Governor of Maryland for 20 pounds sterling.
This was a type of double-ended, light, fast rowing, and sailing boat that had gained fame in the whaling ships. In June, the boat was in use to visit a fresh water spring on the shore north of Sheridan's Point and later for sounding the water depths from Ferry Landing to Sheridan’s Point looking for new fishery sites.
Schooners, Yawls, and A Brigantine
George Washington enjoyed a 17-day pleasure cruise in 1768. Setting off in one of his schooners, Washington spent his days fishing and going ashore to visit friends. He hauled his seine on the bar at Cedar Point, looking for a fish called sheepshead, considered a delicacy then but extinct locally now. Washington also fished Upper Machodoc Creek in King George County and Nomini Bay. He slept on the boat most nights during this trip.
Shipping and Transport
During the year 1760, Washington was involved in shipping and receiving tobacco, fish, corn, oats, traveling by the numerous ferries in the area, using his own boats to travel with Martha and the children for social outings at other plantations and, very importantly, receiving goods from England.
In the winter, Washington's boats braved the frozen waters of the Potomac to harvest sheets of ice from the river, to be pounded into a solid block of ice for storage in an underground icehouse.