Rowing the Tidal Head of the Tuckahoe

I acquired my 12-foot dory skiff in September 2022. I had never sailed solo. So before I sailed, I needed to start slow – rowing. In November, I finally got her into the water closest to where I live – near the tidal head of the Tuckahoe at Hillsboro.

Hillsboro is one of the oldest towns on the Eastern Shore. The first bridge over the Tuckahoe was built there in 1702. In the late 1800s, steamboats of the Wheeler Transportation Line came upriver to Wayman’s Wharf, just a mile downriver from Hillsboro. The 124-foot Minnie Wheeler turned around at Wayman’s Wharf to head back down river. Now the river channel is narrow and the banks so shallow that I’ve run aground near Wayman’s Wharf in a kayak, and in a bass boat.

I wanted to row from Hillsboro downriver past Wayman’s and Kentucky Ravine, the site of the cabin where Frederick Douglass was born, and take out at Covey’s Landing. But my hand-me-down oars were too long and heavy, and the oarlocks were too low on the gunwale, so I could hardly lift the blades clear of the water. And I had no cushion for my butt. I was not good at navigating while facing backwards. I ran aground twice before I reached Stoney Point Landing. It was a slow and painful row. A hard lesson about changes I needed to make in my rowing setup.

Primitive public ramp on the Caroline Co. side of the Tuckahoe at Stoney Point.

But I’m not complaining. The rowing was hard. But drifting along on the quiet Tuckahoe was lovely.

It was hard. And I was resting more than rowing. Only got as far as Highfield Creek, just above Kentucky Ravine. Douglass wrote that as a boy, before he was forced into daily labor at the Lloyd Plantation on Wye River, he watched his grandmother cast nets for shad, and he fished in the pond at Levi Lee’s Mill above me on this creek. I tossed a roped cinder block overboard and rode at anchor inside the mouth of the creek. I lunched on wine, bread, and cheese before pointing upriver and rowing back to Hillsboro.

Time: 6.5 hours
Distance: 7.2 miles

More photos and videos are here.

I also write about traditional Eastern Shore sailing workboats here.