Category Archives: Working boats

An 18ft sharpie drawn by Reuel Parker

Mack Horton sharpie Mack Horton sharpie Mack Horton sharpie

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By now, dear reader, you will know that I have a strange affliction in which almost every day something grips my stomach and says: YOU must BUILD a sharpie NOW!

I guess it’s partly because I’m not terribly skilled in the carpentry department, and however elegant they may be, sharpies always look a lot easier to build than any round-bottomed boat.

It’s a bit like that moment when you buy your first house and walk into a DIY shed. Young and impressionable, you look around, size up the hardware and the free instruction leaflets, and all of a sudden you’re thinking ‘I could install a new back door and put in a central heating system system while I’m at it – and everything I need is here in front of me, right now. I CAN do anything if I want to! DIY sheds are of course meant to make any man feel that way. They even fill them with a syrupy love song soundtrack to remind us we can do it all for our partners…

The idea that I have the power to build a sharpie is only one of the reasons I get gripped by them. Another is that I read Howard Irving Chappelle’s book American Small Sailing Craft far too early in life – I wasn’t yet 40, and it had a terrible and long-lasting effect. And yet another is that they can be such elegant boats, despite their relative simplicity.

Here’s a sweet example of one of these boats. It’s an 18ft sharpie that many sharpie enthusiasts read about first in Reuel Parker’s The Sharpie Book. In this case it was built by a chap called Mack Horton, and a very nice job he has made of it.

Anyway, I’ve included it here partly because I’m nuts about sharpies, and partly because that warm blue sea and water is really attractive when viewed from Southern England in February!

Mack Horton builds a sharpie here:

If you don’t know about Reuel Parker, the source of Mack’s plans, click here:

Are there any other Brits out there with a liking for sharpies? If so, why not comment below and get in touch? We could form an underground movement…

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They have flat-bottomed boats in France too…

I can’t resist adding a few more shots from Douarnenez. I read long ago that flat-bottomed US-style sailing boats caught on in France in a big way in the latter half of the 19th and early 20th centuries, so I was pleased but not altogether surprised to see these two, a scow and a sharpie, in the harbour during the maritime festival.

I haven’t seen any in France since that day, so maybe this was a rare sighting.

French scow French sharpie

I have not been able to discover anything about the scow Katie, but the foresail of the sharpie announces that the boat is operated by l’association Seudre et Mer, which exists to preserve the maritime traditions of Mornac and the le Seudre river.

Click here for more on l’association Seudre et Mer:

Loire river boat

One thing that did surprise me was this river boat, which I was told came from the Loire. It’s a big punt with a live-well and a sailing rig of some kind – there aren’t enugh clues here to indentify it with any certainty. The astonishing thing, however, is that rudder – have you ever seen a rudder better adapted to slipping over a sandbank in a flat-bottomed boat with inches to spare?

Here’s an intriguing photo and some notes about Loire river boats:…/photo566045.htm

A little light Googling revealed this small gallery of photos, including both Pen Duick and Pen Duick II:…/index.html

And this TrekEarth gallery of images of the Douarnenez and its harbour, including some more shots of La Cancalaise:…/Bretagne/Douarnenez/

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Bisquine La Cancalaise at Douarnenez

Bisquine Bisquine Bisquine

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Here’s another big boat to gawp at – and this time it’s La Cancalaise, perhaps the largest lugger I’ve seen and certainly the only one with three tiers of sails. Here are some photos of mine taken with a film camera at the Douarnenez Maritime Festival some time ago. This is her racing rig by the way; I’ve read the usual working rig for bisquine’s is smaller, and with only two tiers of sails.

Note the little steam launch in the foreground, by the way.

Click here for more on La Cancalaise: