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Moth Boats Dot Elizabeth City’s Pasquotank River in October

Posted on 10/01/2018 by Simone Cooper

Moth Boats

The classic moth sailboat has a storied history. The first boat of its kind was built in Elizabeth City in 1929 when Captain Joel Van Sant visited while ferrying a yacht along the Intracoastal Waterway. Inspired by the calm water of the Pasquotank River, he created drawn designs for a small sailing dingy and enlisted the help of local shipbuilders to construct one. They agreed to assist Van Sant and his finished boat was dubbed ‘Jumping Juniper’ because of its speed. The quick, light vessels soon became popular with residents along the eastern seaboard who built their own inexpensive ones and by the 1950s and ‘60s, moth boat races abounded up and down the east coast—except manufactured boats were then the preferred models for sailors.

Moth Boats

But in 1989, Elizabeth City hosted a ‘Bring Back the Moth Boat’ regatta that was launched to attract sailors who enjoyed designing, building and racing their own boats. Through enthusiasts and a newsletter, word spread about the race and now, the Elizabeth City race includes three divisions of classic moth boats: Vintage, Generation 1, and Generation 2. Vintage moth boats are generally heavier and slower with Generation 2 being the most lightweight and the fastest. Generation 1 boats fall between these two categories. Greg Duncan, coordinator for the 2018 regatta, notes that 18 sailors have registered this year and will be competing for those trophies.

A popular race that is unpredictably fun due to sudden wind shifts, the 2018 Classic Mothboat Nationals begins on Saturday, October 6 at 11:00 am and Sunday, October 7 at 10:00 am and is free to spectators.

For more information, please contact Greg Duncan at or at 252-207-9421 or visit

Simone CooperSimone Cooper is a publicist and branding specialist who is also a mid-century modern fanatic. When she’s not assisting clients with messaging, you can find her hunting for furniture and housewares from the 1960s.

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