News : Nonprofit Keeps Gundalow History Alive

Sep 5, 2014

Published in the Portsmouth Herald

By Michael McCord

In their heyday in the late 1700s and well into the 1800s, gundalows were ubiquitous in the Piscataqua River region as an indispensable part of the Seacoast's diverse economy.

For almost three centuries, these flat-bottomed cargo barges were a practical solution to transportation in the maritime regions of Maine and New Hampshire. They were the tractor-trailers and railroad freight cars of their day, as they efficiently worked the tides. As the gundalows evolved in style and function (adding sails, decks and even cabins), they became the transportation linchpin of commercial development as they often brought raw materials up river to cotton factories and brick yards, then returned with finished products.

Since its founding in 2002, the nonprofit Gundalow Co. in Portsmouth has provided thousands of school children and adults the opportunity to explore the history of the gundalow. In 2011, the Piscataqua was built at Strawbery Banke, following in the footsteps of the Capt. Edward H. Adams built there and launched in 1982. From May through October, the Piscataqua sails the tidal rivers as a floating classroom and passenger vessel, offering lessons that connect the history of yesterday to the environmental imperatives of today.

Mostly unheralded as a floating beast of burden, the last working gundalow was in service until 1920. Barbara Pinto Maurer, education director at the Gundalow Co., and a hearty crew of dedicated staff and supporters are working to keep the legacy alive. The Gundalow Company's mission is to protect the Piscataqua Region's maritime heritage and environment through education and action, and Pinto Maurer believes that mission has never been more critical.

Read the full story on SeacoastOnline