The Gundalow Company Mission and History
On a rainy day in June, 1982, the replica gundalow CAPTAIN EDWARD H. ADAMS was launched into the Piscataqua River while several hundred people lined the banks to watch this historic event. It took an impressive community effort to build the 70′ replica on the grounds of Strawbery Banke Museum, with a group of dedicated shipwrights and volunteers led by local legendary boat builder Bud McIntosh. This event celebrated the hundreds of cargo-carrying gundalows built in the Piscataqua Region starting in 1650. At the same time, it celebrated the 20th-century creation of a unique teaching platform that travelled to Piscataqua region riverfront towns carrying a message that raised awareness of this region’s maritime heritage and the environmental threats to our rivers.
For just over 25 years, the ADAMS was used as a dock-side attraction so people could learn about the role of gundalows in this region’s economic development as well as hundreds of years of human impact on the estuary. When the Gundalow Company inherited the ADAMS from Strawbery Banke Museum in 2002, the opportunity to build a new gundalow that could sail with students and the public became a priority. For the next decade, we continued the programs on the ADAMS while pursuing the vision to build a gundalow that could be more than a dock-side attraction.
In 2011 we built PISCATAQUA – a new traditional gundalow – on the grounds of Strawbery Banke, using time-honored methods and materials. However, unlike the ADAMS, PISCATAQUA is designed to take students and the public sailing! The programs onboard PISCATAQUA weave together environmental science, history, and maritime heritage, providing a unique educational experience for students of all ages. The strategic decision to build a gundalow certified by the US Coast Guard means that, for the first time, the public is able to sail on a regionally-significant historic vessel.
Today, the nonprofit Gundalow Company’s mission “to protect the Piscataqua Region’s maritime heritage and environment through education and action” is more important than ever. Thousands of students each year spend a few hours sailing onboard the world’s only Piscataqua Gundalow. They learn how gundalows were built here to carry lumber, salt marsh hay, oysters, bricks, pipe staves and coal on the shallow rivers where big ships could not go. Through a series of hands-on activities, students get a glimpse of the past 300 years on the working waterfront, and explore issues like water quality, habitat protection, stewardship, navigation.
It is our belief that the Gundalow Company is well-positioned to collaborate with partners to generate publicity, awareness, and action relating to the health of the Piscataqua Maritime Region and the Great Bay Estuary. Looking ahead, the Gundalow Company aims to be a leader in efforts to inspire stewardship of the Piscataqua Region’s environmental and maritime legacies. Our strategic alliances with a number of organizations within the Piscataqua Watershed serve to protect its “sense of place.”