York Delaware Ducker
Whether known as Rail-Bird boats, rail gunning skiffs, reed bird skiffs, push skiffs or pole skiffs, Howard Chapelle has called these altogether delightful boats the most able of all gunning skiffs for use in rough water. Some were fitted for sail. Many, beautifully built, came out of high-class boatshops near Philadelphia. The small birds known as rail frequented marshes south of that city and further down Delaware Bay, and market-gunners and sportsmen alike used the Delaware Ducker for their pursuit.
The ducker was a very lightly-built double-ended skiff - lap-strake, half-decked and about 16 feet long. She resembled closely some of the sailing cruising canoes of the 1880’s as well as some of the contemporaneous Adirondack hunting skiffs. Unlike her possible precursors, however, the ducker had to be seaworthy due to her work on the exposed Delaware shore. The ducker was usually a rowing boat, although some had false keels and a spritsail. The model of the boats did not vary much; they were exactly alike at both ends and were slack-bilged. When raced the boats were very often rigged as catboats, with a gaff sail of about 112 square feet.