The Marco Island Historical Society (MIHS) announces that a “living exhibit” featuring the onsite conservation of a unique, hand-crafted 1940s wooden skiff is extended through May at the Marco Island Historical Museum (MIHM). Every Tuesday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM, museum visitors can watch Master Boat Builder Roger Johnson and Ron Rutledge, who are donating their time to the project, as they work on what has been called the masterpiece of its maker Eugene Paul Teachout. The skiff also can be viewed during museum hours.
The skiff conservation is being sponsored by donors Vicki and Neil Bretthauer who have made a $20,000 contribution to fund the project that ultimately will become a permanent exhibit at MIHM. “The skiff is an important component of the Marco Island Historical Society’s plans for a reimagined museum lobby,” notes MIHS Executive Director Pat Rutledge. “We are so grateful to the Bretthauers for this generous inaugural donation towards these plans. The museum lobby provides an important first opportunity for our visitors to begin to engage with the rich history of Marco Island, and sets the tone for all that they will see and experience inside.”
Until being acquired by MIHS in January, the little skiff resided at the Museum of Florida History (MFH) in Tallahassee. Curator of Collections Austin Bell personally brought the skiff back to Marco Island. “This little skiff is a part of Marco Island history and it belongs here. We are grateful to the staff at MFH who made it happen,” states Bell.
Teachout was a printer and veteran of World War I who became a recluse and lived near Goodland, Florida on a mudflat surrounded by mangrove trees. He used the 11-foot skiff — likely built using cypress, mahogany, and red mangrove — for more than 30 years for transportation and fishing in the backwater islands around Marco Island. He designed and built the little boat using almost primitive, possibly eighteenth century, tools. Instead of using nails to hold the skiff together, Teachout laboriously whittled the boat’s fastenings of wooden pegs one by one. The boat has a small live-well for storing bait and an ingenious folding seat that allows the operator to row facing forward. A bulbous midsection adds to its stability and provides flotation support needed for a boat so small.
Teachout was discovered and befriended by Bud Kirk and his wife Kappy of Goodland. Known for helping those in need, the Kirk’s invited the shy hermit to live in a crab shack where Kirk made crab traps. Teachout called the crab shack home until he passed away in 1968. According to early comments by Kirk, the quiet craftsman was wonderful with wood and often did carpentry jobs around the little village of Goodland, but he described his boat as his masterpiece. The skiff’s intriguing story now continues at MIHM where the story of Eugene Paul Teachout, a recluse and craftsman who lived alone in the backwaters of Marco Island, will continue to be told for generations to come.
The Marco Island Historical Museum is located at 180 S. Heathwood Drive. The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free, and the site is handicapped accessible. Face coverings are required for entry, and social distancing and sanitizing practices are being followed. For general information visit www.themihs.org or call (239) 389,6447.