Here’s Spirit, a Cornish Pilot Gig, being rowed on Great Cove Friday morning, August 2, by members of a WoodenBoat School rowing course.


In days of yore, pilots often competed for the work of guiding incoming vessels into Atlantic Sea harbors in America and Europe; the pilot whose gig crew got him aboard the incoming ship first usually got the work. Those gigs also were among the first vessels used for shore-based lifeboats that rowed out to ships in distress.

As with Spirit, Cornish Pilot Gigs usually were 32 feet long with a beam (widest width) of just under five feet. Their six 14-foot oars were placed alternatively with one oarsman pulling one oar (a characteristic of a “gig”). Today, enthusiasts build these gigs to the old specifications and race them in CPG clubs. Spirit was built at the Apprenticeshop in Rockland, Maine, and was visiting at the time this image was taken.

The word “gig” reportedly originated from old English words that were associated with “bouncing” and “spinning” – something that can happen when these vessels heroically broach large waves. (Brooklin, Maine)