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Sneak Boat Duck Hunting:
A Joppa Flats Tradition
with Geoff Walker

Geoff Walker grew up in the Great Marsh and has dedicated his life to preserving and protecting it. Hi is a Selectman in the town of Newbury, the Great Marsh Chairperson in Ducks Unlimited. He owns many "joppa Flast Sneak Boats" and in this video he explains and demonstrates its use. The Joppa Flat Sneak Boat design goes back well over a hundred years. Designed and built in by duck hunters around the Merrimack River Valley long before cars and planes were even thought of. Geoff Walker now owns an impressive collection of the stealthy little floats and is likely the world's expert on the subject.

The White Alligators of Joppa Flats by Geoff Walker

Waterfowl hunting has been an interesting tradition in New England beginning as a way to gather food to supplement farming and fishing. New England's soils were hard to clear and farm, but its coastal rivers and estuaries were rich with fish and the evolving shoals and emerging great marsh were fertile staging grounds to waterfowl migrations in the spring and fall.

Coastal waterfowling was once a part of the local economy. Market gunning for shorebirds and ducks became an industry. Many a local gunner got has dental bill bartered away with locally hunted ducks. The Migratory Game Act of 1918, issued to address over hunting, put a stop to the hunting of wild game to be sold at market. Hunting regulations evolved as hunting became sport and hwaterfowling entered the modern era.

Joppa Flats saw all of the above history, and was know as one the best waterfowling areas in New England. The birds from Great Bay and the coast of Maine funneled directly to Joppa's extensive mud flats. The sky was said to darken as the fall migrations "settled out of the evening sky" to "sift" into the creeks of Salisbury, Joppa, Woodbridge and Seal Islands and the marshes of Newbury. The fall on the waters of Joppa were very busy.

One of the most significant remaining historical remnants' or relics of those times are our Joppa Flats Sneak Floats. It was a creation of local craftsmen, and perfectly suited for these waters. The design was indigenous to the Merrimac River Watershed, and is really not found anywhere else. It was a boat, created, and built here by our early waterman. Many could be seen in the early 1800's and late 1900's, white in late winter, and green in early fall, slipping though the tall marsh grass along the banks of the Merrimac. Sadly, as hunters grew old and neglected maintenance, the wood boats fell victim to rot and decay and were lost forever.

The boat was fashioned of a combination of thicker pine planks on the bottom and thinner boards on the deck. The average length was 14 to 18 feet and had a distinctive wedge shape. A square transom with a scull hole proved to be suitable for a small outboard when they appeared.

The boat was designed to be sculled by a long oar which was inserted though the leather covered hole. The boat was a hard chinned design with a single or 2 boards ship lapped together forming the bottom with a 3-6 inch rocker from pointed bow to square stern.

The sides were usually a single wide pine board from old growth trees fitted to the bottom board and held in place by shaped stringers with "top returns" to which the deck and cock pit splash rails were attached.

The deck itself was constructed of bend, steamed, and shaped 3/8 thick by 6 inch wide pine boards attached to the top of the slightly domed stringers, designed to shed water.

The pointed bow was reinforced and fashioned with a waterproof box 12 to 16 inches long to contain enough lead as weight to counter balance the hunters weight preventing the scull hole from flooding the boat.

The cock pit had splash rails 6 inches high that forming a point. Water would travel up the low deck, hit the rail, and deflect towards the back keeping the hunter dry and warm. This design allowed the craft to be low to the water, yet seaworthy.

The hard chinned design produced edges on the side and top splash rail that were painted white. When sculled slowly through floating ice chucks, the boat would vanish from the birds' watchful gaze. It may well be the fist example of stealth technology.

The old Yankees who first built the Joppa Flat Sneak Boats knew exactly what they were doing. Early Joppa watermen developed a truly unique style of hunting that existed only in this region. I can almost hear them whispering as their practice hands worked their home built white alligators toward geese nestled into the bank of Seal Island on a "Diamond Blue" cold winter day, just as I have done many times with my father and now my son.


Danger in the Reeds is being produced by Staddles Productions
with the help of Dr Gregg Moore, Peter Phippen and Geoff Walker.

We would all like to express our graditude to our many Kickstarter supporters
without whom this project would not be possible.

Rick Hydren  ~ Office: 978-948-3346, Cell: 508-954-1298
PO Box 715, Rowley MA 01969


Portrait Photography ~ Real Estate Photography