Island Lark #16
Charles C. Clendaniel of Grasonville, Kent Island, was a captain of schooners and bugeyes shipping freight along the Bay. He was a short and husky man and loved a good fight. Born around the time of the Civil War, Capt. Clendaniel decided in 1901 that he wanted a racing canoe. He had seen them all racing while sailing his schooner and he wanted to race one too. He went to James Lowery on Tilghman Island and asked him to build him a racing canoe.
James Lowery was already a well-known boat builder, having apprenticed under Sidney Covington in his younger days and married both of Covington’s sisters, Alice and Susie Jackson. Lowery had already built the Mary Rider (first canoe to win the Governor’s Cup), Hattie B, Leah, Elsie, and Sam. But in 1901, he built the Island Lark. Without a doubt the Island Lark had been built to be a racing canoe, not a working canoe.
Island Lark was a Kent Island boat until 1971. One question was whether the name came from the builder or the owner. Lowery seemed to have always named his canoes by proper names, such as Mary Rider, Hattie B, Sam, etc. If he had named the Island Lark as some sort of salute to Covington and his Island B series boats, it would have been 30 years after his connections to Covington had ceased. It is much more probable that Clendaniel named her, possibly as a lark in having her built in the first place, and the island part of her name refers not to Tilghman Island, but rather to Kent Island.
Captain Clendaniel’s grandson, C. Melvin Clark, well remembers his grandfather racing the Island Lark off Love Point. These were mostly informal races, but not all. In an issue of the Baltimore Sun, dated August 15, 1902, Island Lark was listed as one of the log canoes racing before a crowd of 5,000 spectators. The prizes were money and a sterling silver tea service.
Clendaniel continued racing the Island Lark for 10 years before selling it to Earl Long, also of Kent Island. Long raced the canoe for another 5 or 6 years before the hurricane of 1916 washed the Lark deep into a marsh and sunk her. The following year, Roy Radcliffe, Sr. found the canoe and was given the boat if he could get it out of the marsh. It took a mule team to do it, but out she came. Radcliffe converted the Island Lark to a waterman’s boat and worked her from 1917 until 1971 when his son, Roy Radcliffe, Jr. sold it to John Chamberlain.
Chamberlain began the first extensive restorations on the Lark and raced her for 5 years before selling the canoe to the present owners.
The first year the owners had the Island Lark they just went out and raced, capsized and sank overnight, but still managed to grab third place in the Sidney Covington race. In the Oxford race they sunk overnight. By the time of the Cambridge race, they sunk over lunch and again every hour and half after that. When they were hiking, they had to put their feet on the planks to hold them to the boat to keep them from coming off. The centerboard truck leaked so badly that someone had to bail continuously. That problem was temporarily solved when they wallpapered the truck with vinyl wallpaper.They had live crabs in the boat all the time and barnacles on the sides from being sunk so many times.The bottom had been painted to withstand that growth, but no one knew the sides needed it too! It became great fun to watch the Lark tied up at dockside slowly sink to the bottom of the river.
The present owners have restored and preserved the Island Lark and her heritage of the Eastern Shore for future generations to sail and protect as an example of a distinguished boat known only to Chesapeake Bay.
Island Lark is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Federal Government’s official list of resources worthy of recognition and preservation due to their significance in American history and culture. She is recognized as representative of one of the indigenous boat types on the Chesapeake Bay and for the important role she has played in the culture of the Eastern Shore. The Lark has gone on to win every coveted racing acclaim awarded to log canoes except for High Point, and then only because she hasn’t competed for it.