Hi, I’m Bill Burke, Historian for Cape Cod National Seashore. You’re standing in front of one of the most impressive boats you’ll ever see. It’s the hay barge – a boat built over 150 years ago for hauling cut salt marsh hay to local farms. The salt marsh and salt pond you see in the distance provided hundreds of tons of hay a year. Why the big need for hay? Well, quite simply, like most everywhere else a century ago, you needed horses to get around. And with Cape Cod dairy farms flourishing, it’s no wonder local folks harvested the nutritious grasses that grew on the upper fringes of the marsh to feed and bed their livestock. Like any boat, the hay barge’s shape gives away its function. Boat experts call it “beamy,” meaning it’s very wide, over 10 feet to be exact, in relation to its 31’ length. That provided a platform to haul lots of hay. And a flat bottom? Gets you in and out of shallow marshes to collect the stacked hay. Double-ended design allowed her to maneuver in open water near shore, unlike the common square-ended barges found elsewhere. Once you find where a mast and sail could be hoisted, you can picture sailing her loaded with long poles used to construct fish weirs in the more distant waters of Pleasant and Cape Cod Bays. Like the old-time “Cape Codder,” the hay barge is a symbol of Yankee ingenuity. Its rugged construction and unique shape helped her owners carve a living from both land and sea.