Traditional Ideas in a Modern Boat Design You Can Build Yourself
Although there’s some evidence similar boats were built centuries earlier, ‘sharpies’, as we know them, are supposed to have originated in the New Haven Connecticut region of Long Island Sound. These narrow, hard-chined, flat-bottomed centreboarders began to replace the huge dugout canoes used there historically to work the shoals and oyster fisheries. They were boxy enough to be easily built, fast under sail, and they could work the shallowest of waters.
This is an Oppikat 9ft junior catamaran. The builder launched it for his children and test-sailed it himself first. He emailed me to say that the boat is dangerous and he cannot let his children sail it. I asked for the measurements of his mainsail and he said that they had intentionally made it a ‘bit larger’. I found that it was approximately 65% larger than my designed mainsail, which is a massive increase. After remaking the sail to the correct size the boat is sailed safely by his children.
Most of the boats that are built to my designs are amateur projects. Amateur boatbuilding is in my origins for both building and designing, from very early in life. I watched my dad building boats when I was hardly more than a toddler. My first boat, built with the help of my dad, was a tin canoe. The first more serious boat that I built was a 4.5m tortured plywood catamaran that I designed as well. It was a very rudimentary design, drawn when I was absolutely clueless about boat design. Thanks to a good eye and more by luck than any other factor, I built a fast and well-mannered boat that was also exciting to sail. It had some structural issues with the trampoline frame that I was able to remedy by trial and error but I raced it, I surfed it and I cruised it. Both the boat and I survived our many experiences together. When I moved on to bigger boats I sold it to a friend and a few years later he sold it to another mutual friend. Built before epoxy became the standard boatbuilding resin, it eventually succumbed to rot after many years.