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May 1, 2001 Issue


May 15, 2001 Issue




May 1, 2001

The Sails Point Sharpie

A New Design by Jim Luton

I've recently found my mind drifting from its usual focus on outriggers, tris, and fast cats, to land on a former love of mine, the sharpie. My old volumes of Chapelle have found their way into the light of day, and once again are on top of the stack.

The design shown here is one I've adapted from the double ended types found on Maryland's Eastern Shore, and used initially for crabbing. In their smaller versions, the watermen could wade in the eelgrass rich shallows towing their boats behind and dip netting for soft crabs or peelers. They could also be rowed or poled, and were sailed as well. These double ended sharpies, or skiffs, as they are also known, soon developed into elegant gunning skiff, and later were raced as well. The owner would put on a huge rig which required several crew sometimes riding the "pry", or hiking board, to stay upright.

The Sails Point Sharpie, named for the hassocks out between Ruffle Bar and Canarsie Pot in my home waters of Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn, New York, would be perfectly at ease in the marshy shallows and narrow, winding channels, yet large and able enough to venture into much bigger water. Her construction method has been updated, to utilize sheet ply and glass. To keep her as light as possible, yet strong and stiff, I would plank her with 3mm ply over moulds and ribbands, adding a layer of foam and then biaxial glass. The arc bottom is a developed surface, which will allow a single sheet of ply to make the compound curves.

Once off the moulds, two bulkheads and four ring frames of 3/8" ply are bonded in, providing a clean, uncluttered interior. I've shown a laid cedar deck which would be beautiful, if somewhat time consuming to construct, but the same ply, foam, and glass as used for the hull would be perfect here. The shell will be extremely light and stiff, a necessity at my club where where we launch down a ramp to a floating dock. For solo sailing, some inside ballast could be carried in purpose made boxes flanking the centerboard trunk. The thwart abaft the trunk could be made removable at rest, to allow sleeping aboard on floor grates.

The rig has been updated as well. Sharpies would usually carry a sprit boom which is light and very simple, but I prefer a normal boom, which allows more latitude in sheeting arrangements. The jib is designed to tack to the bow sprit with furling gear. These sharpies originally used a club on the jib's foot, which allowed the rig to move further forward. The club was tacked to the bowsprit some distance abaft the jib tack. The club also allows the jib to set well downwind without a pole. I might consider this option myself, as the whole rig, centerboard and all could move forward, enlarging somewhat the aft cockpit. But I would have to give up the furling gear, making it a little more fussy to single hand.

This is the first of the sharpies I've drawn, but more are sure to follow. Maybe I'll get around to building one myself. I hope so. See you on the water.

Jim Luton, http://www.islanderdesign.com,

Note: Ibis article appeared previously in The Blade, the Newsletter of the Sebago Canoe Club.


DreamBoats The Phoenician

By Richard Carsen

Somehow I always felt that I was privileged to visit Portugal, that is, Lisbon and some of its surrounding coasts. I was then sailing on an Italian ship, taking emigrants from Italy and Portugal to South America. Already before we entered the Port of Lisbon, the young purser on board, an Italian, had pointed out to me something about the Portuguese that might well have taken me some time to figure out, had I to do it by my-self, namely that they are not latins. True, most of them do not look too different from Italians or Spaniards; but, the purser pointed out, it's not so much in the looks as in the character. Where latins are volatile and emotionally mobile, the Portuguese character is solid, more deliberately calm. What I found, walking around the port and the old quarter, was a population so mixed that there seemed to be no common denominator of type; every race in the world seems to have left its imprint, and that should not be a big surprise.

The same could be said for their boat-types. You will find types which seem to be directly related to ancient Egyptian or later Mediterranean types, and the small rowboat which is called the Phoenician, is no exception.

From ancient Egyptian drawings we know that the Phoenicians seem to have had double-ended craft, with a high perpendicular stem and stern piece at either end. As they are Shown in some drawings as landing on a beach, these high stem- and stern-pieces would be very practical in handling surf, as it would be for the Phoenician, which I show in the drawing. Only, the small boats are not double-ended. When returning to the beach, they are simply rowed backwards, the high stem facing the surf. These boats have no rudder. Their more contemporary offspring are still that way, although the stem is still high. but not as high as in the original; the bilges are now softly curved; however they still land them stern-first nor do they have rudders.

The Phoenician seems to be mainly used by the fisherwomen, when the menfolk are off on their yearly excursion to the Grand-Banks and other faraway places. The women then tend the lobster-traps and nets offshore, prob-ably providing for their numerous families until hubby returns and gets paid off for his trip. These boats are not round bilged. As a matter of fact, in section they resemble dories, and in profile scows. They have runners underneath their bilges so as to be able to handle them on the beach and up the cobble-stone ramps, where they park them in long colorful rows in front of their humble homes. Runners, I have found, are much more practical for handling a boat on shore then rollers, and replacing them from time to time is no big job. Rollers, even in my own backyard, I found a major headache, let alone trying to haul them up a cobblestone ramp.

I know that rollers are used by many fish-ermen OD their beaches, but it is more like sliding them over round poles; it is hard to roll anything in sand. It was therefore, I think, that Uncle Gabe (Rabl) prescribed a hefty outside keelplank; the damage is done to the keelplank, not the flat bottom, when grounding out, I know, I built and used one. To haul it to its berth on the parking lot, I constructed a kind of stoneboat, the wooden "sleigh" farmers use to collect and haul stones on the land. Certainly the runners on the "sleigh" get wom off, but the entire thing is replaceable from any scrap lumber. The same goes for the travois of the indians, they even used it on dogs. Old Indians told me that they knew about the wheel, it was explained to them as children, but it was impractical in a country without roads.

The small boat I describe here is interesting in many ways. The scow form of the profile and the flaring sides of the section, has been handed down to us through the ages, and repeated and repeated. The French punt that Phil Bolger showed us some time ago, has this basic design; so has the Norwegian praam or prahm, the Dutch vlet, and many larger craft. Usually these have a stem or false stem, a skeg and a rudder, and are set up to sail. But take away all that and what you have left? The basic design is the same. Even the conventional present-day craft, with straight stem and keel, have the same basic form, a form originally come to so as to be able to handle waves, not flat water. As Heyerdahl finds out in his RA (reedboat) expeditions: the very design is meant to deal with the particular stresses of swells, not flat water.

If, in a straight-keeled, straight-stemmed craft, you follow the chineline, where the side changes direction and becomes the bottom, you will see this timeless shape. Now the bottom is feathered into the keel, giving it a vee or wineglass shape in section, but I know of DO boat that you could not also do in hard-chine, Vee or flat-bottom, as Uffa Fox found out. It even seemed that the hard-chine boat was better in some conditions than the round-chine. Now Uffa was one of the really great builders/designers of England, and his books are worth reading.




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