The Big Row is an annual trip taken by the crew of the Mabee Farm Bateaux, as organized by David Manthey.  In addition to the annual trip, we also go out rowing weekly during the season.


  • What? – An annual rowing trip using 18th century replica boats to learn about historical techniques and methods.

Typically, the Big Row lasts four days and we finish at a reenactment which lasts through a weekend.  If you join us, you can join us for any or all of it.


  • Who? – In brief, anyone who is interested.

We welcome anyone who is interested in rowing to join us.  If you’ve never rowed before or never reenacted before, we recommend you come out with us on one of our mid-week evening rowing sessions.  No experience or equipment is necessary for this — just show up at the Mabee Farm at the appropriate time, come down to the dock, and join us.

For the annual rowing trip, we try to stay in 18th century clothing and use 18th century gear.  We make some allowances, as modern society and modern life won’t let us do everything ‘correctly’ (nor would we want to reenact diseases, injuries, or disasters).  Anyone who comes on the trip should be aware that we are outside doing physical labor for multiple days — there is risk involved and it is work; however it is also a great experience.

Many of the crew are also members of the Second Albany County Militia, a reenactment group based near Albany, NY.  It isn’t necessary to be part of a reenactment group to join us.


One of our goals is to cover all of the waterways that Mohawk River style bateaux were used on.  Another goal is to try out different activities that bateaux were involved in.  Lastly, we want to support local historic sites and their reenactments.


  • When? – Once a year, but at a different time each year.

Since we try to tie in to other reenactments at different historic sites, we schedule the row to correspond with a particular reenactment.

We also have a weekly rowing session at the Mabee Farm.  In 2011 it was a 6 p.m. on Tuesday evenings starting in late May.  I expect it will be similar in 2012.


  • Why? – We learn about history and it is fun.

The Big Row has several purposes: to learn about history through “experimental archeology” by trying things out for ourselves, to bring attention to the local history of the upstate New York area, and to have an enjoyable adventure.

Most reenactments focus on the history of war, and, more specifically, on the infantry and artillery.  While this is interesting and worthy of study, we think that it is also worth examining civilian life and common activities were done.  Bateaux were cargo boats — the equivalent of a tractor trailer or truck today.  Almost any part of life requires goods to be transported — buying clothing, obtaining food, or waging war.  By studying a common transport method of the 18th century, we feel one can get a much greater breadth of knowledge and a better feel for the time period than by just looking at battles.


  • How? – Through the support of the crew and of the Mabee Farm and the Schenectady County Historical Society.

The bateaux are owned the Mabee Farm, part of the Schenectady County Historical Society.  Everything else is made by or supplied by one of the crew or reenactors.  You are welcome to help.

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