John Smith Barge

The John Smith Barge

“Spirit of 1608”


Sperit of 1608 4x6.

The John Smith Barge is a replica of the original style boats used by Smith during his initial exploration of the Chesapeake Bay in 1608. In his notes, he called the boat “the discovery barge.” She was a ship’s barge, designed to set anchors or ferry crew & supplies from ship to shore. She disappeared centuries before the creation of photography. If plans for her ever existed, they were lost to the passage of time. Based on descriptions by Smith and other eye witness accounts, volunteers at the Reedville Fishermen’s Museum carefully designed and reconstructed this vital link to the past.


Virtually all of the lumber in the Spirit of 1608 comes from trees toppled by Hurricane Isabel in 2003. Utilizing a donated sawmill, 63 volunteers at the museum labored more than 4000 hours in a process that included hauling trees, milling lumber, building frames, spiling, steaming and fitting planks, forging fittings and caulking seams. Spirit of 1608’s keel was laid January 17, 2006. She was christened on July 14, 2006.


The Smith Barge has been featured in the award-winning PBS documentary series NOVA and in keystone events throughout Virginia and Maryland. In June, 2007, the barge and her volunteer crew sailed from their home port of Reedville, Virginia to Washington, D.C. where they highlighted at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Spirit of 1608 and her crew of costumed interpreters are welcomed at schools, museums, parks and commemorative events across the Chesapeake Bay Region.


The Spirit of 1608 and her crew are available for events. To schedule their appearance at your event, please call the museum office for details and availability at 804.453.6529


John Smith Barge Volunteers Needed!


The John Smith boat is the traveling face of the museum and goes to many different type events throughout Virginia. The crew dresses in period costumes and informs visitors of the history of John Smith’s travels in the Virginia area. Volunteers are also vital in the setup of the boat once it reaches a destination. Currently, our crew has shrunk to three volunteers which is the bare minimum for setting up the mast for each venue.


INTERESTED IN LIVING HISTORY? We need to recruit some new blood for the trips. Most of our programs are on the weekends, primarily in the fall, although there are other times when the crew is requested to perform at the museum for school and other groups. Average is about 10 trips a year. If you have interest in sailing and history, this is a perfect opportunity to use those skills! Oh, and being able to do a pirate imitation helps too! Sometimes the children prefer to be pirates instead of John Smith men! Please call the director, Lee, for more information at 804.453.6529


We would love to have you come aboard!


The Rogue’s Gallery of the Chesapeake Bay!

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Reedville Fishermen's Museum