This is especially for everyone who, like me, is dreaming of the summer.
If you’re curious about these elegant and unusual craft (which you may very well be, particularly if you’re a flat-bottom averse British sailor) take a peek at these links: Munroe and Egret at Duckworksmagazine, Ralph Munroe at the Wikipedia, Planing Around. Munroe was hugely influential – it seems to me his ‘Presto sharpie’ lifting keel hull forms would have seemed reasonably modern for decades after his death in 1933.
Fascinating though the Egrets are, I do wonder how you reef them before the squall arrives, which of course is essential in the waters around the UK – and yet boats like this used to perform all-weather services such as delivering and collection the mail, and life saving. As someone who single-hands quite often, I would not be keen on tottering about trying to manage those foresails.
A nice telling of the story of legendary boat designer ‘Commodore’ Ralph Munroe, his boat building and designing, his role in introducing the sharpie to Florida and the legendary Egret by Paul Austin appeared a few days ago on the excellent Duckworksmagazine website.
It’s a story with lots of interesting elements. Munroe’s life included great adventures and terrible tragedies, and then there’s his famous Egret – a very successful flat-bottomed boat that Munroe designed after having success with a series of round-bottomed sharpie-derived boats he called ‘Presto sharpies‘, which to my eyes appear to have been about 100 years ahead of their time.
Here’s a short quotation:
‘In 1886 Munroe designed his famous Egret, a 28 foot double-ended sharpie… Egret was flat-bottomed, after Munroe had made his money with round-bilged presto sharpies.
‘With few roads in and around Miami, Munroe and Egret was busy. She had a reputation for being fast and seaworthy, running breakers, sliding among the shallow inlets, gliding up to low wood docks.’
The Egret remains a puzzle, however – there are no lines drawings, and photos of what is supposed to have been a half-model of her hull is said not to resemble photographs of the boat recognised as the Egret.
I think of the Egret legend as having something of the power of the story of Delta blues musician Robert Johnson – both are said to have been revolutionary, and both have been copied and revived by modern practitioners (the illustration above is Howard Chappelle’s version). We have photos of Egret and recordings of Johnson (and a single known photo) – but both are shrouded in tantalising mystery.
See Paul Austin’s account appeared a few days ago on the excellent here.
Ben Crawshaw’s Invisible Workshop always provides a welcome dose of sanity when it’s needed, and his new post yesterday was no exception. In fact, it was better than ever: as I watched his video on YouTube I could feel the breeze and the water, the roll of the boat and the sense of freedom – until it was all over. Then when I had a chance I played it again, and again… Thanks for letting in a little happiness Ben!
Elsewhere on the Blogroll, we have A Shipwright in Training, in which a lucky psychologist sees the light and trains to be a boatbuilder, the Classic Sailing Club has several kinds of unpredictable fun on the Orwell and elsewhere, and Dale Austin’s Egret gets more and more interesting as his boat built to Commodore Monroe’s legendary design approaches completion.
And don’t miss Roache’s Adventures, which include some historical material, a trip to Woodbridge in company with some gorgeous Strange yachts, and some heavyweight advice to ‘dreamers’.