Thursday, June 28, 2012

Little Egret - A Munroe-style sharpie nearing completion

After having written recently about the so-called 'Humber Yawls', my mind turned to another type which may well provide similar character and utility, but in a boat which is vastly more simple to build.

I was brought up on the shores of Moreton Bay in south-east Queensland, Australia. Moreton Bay is a huge expanse of water protected from the open Pacific Ocean by a line of huge barrier islands - the bay itself being 100 kilometres long and 32 kilometres across at its widest point. The waters of this great waterway are open and deep to the north, but large portions of it, particularly in the southern half, are shallow and protected. As a friend once said to me, "There is a lot of water in Moreton Bay, but it is spread out very thin!" This sort of coastal area is, in my opinion, a magnificent location for dinghy cruising.

Pleasant days on Moreton Bay
 As a child, I learned sailing in Sabot pram sailing dinghies at the Cleveland Yacht Club, and I remember my father pointing out the "Sharpie" which sat on a mooring in front of the house next-door to the club. She didn't mean much to me, being a non-descript flat-bottomed boat of about 24 feet LOA fitted with a very basic cuddy-cabin. But Dad obviously thought highly of her, so I did store the image and the "Sharpie" name away in my memory.

One characteristic of this boat which I did appreciate was that the family of the owner could get her underway and put back to bed on her mooring in no time flat, and they never seemed to be stressed by the operation.

It is now more than fifty years since those days, but I have come to love the sharpie form, and marvel at the reported speed and carrying capacity of those used in the fishery, particularly the oyster fishery, on the east coast of the United States in the late ninteenth and early twentieth centuary.

A New Haven Sharpie, much used for oyster tonging in Chesapeake Bay

Some time back I wrote about the design and initial building stages of a sharpie I designed for a customer who wanted a 19 foot boat similar to one designed by Bill Schwicker in the U.S. The design ended up being very much after the style of Ralph Munroe's famous Egret, which was a cross between the hull-form of a sharpie and that of a Bank Dory, and which measured about 28 feet LOA.
You can read one of my posts on the design using this link.

An early drawing of my Little Egret design

An early drawing of my Little Egret design
The owner/builder of this boat has made wonderful progress, despite having to work at his normal job and being forced to carry out his building under a tarp over an outdoor deck. His determination, resourcfulness and quality of work should be an inspiration to those of you who procrastinate!
Here are a few photos of the job, including the almost-finished boat. This is just a very small selec tion of the photos, but you can see a very comprehensive presentation of John's photos, along with much commentary at this address

John's strongback under construction. Note his inovative a resourceful use of existing backyard structures!
Construction begins - the bottom panel being cut
Scarphed-together panels of marine plywood being marked out using offsets taken directly from the plans.
An example of determination - the project being protected from rain.
Rain protection for scarphed panels
The stitch-and-glue construction method allows one to mark shapes directly onto the plywood panels without lofting, and as long as the developed panel shapes have been correctly designed, a boat will appear without the need for a station mold or other conventional bracing structure.

John's first glimpse of a three-dimensional hull!
The addition of prefabricated bulkheads and frames gives shape to the boat, and also refines the rocker as the topside panels are held at the correct flare.
Cleats/deckbeams being glued to the bulkheads. This can be done prior to installing the bulkheads
Bird's mouth masts being assembled on John's fence! An excellent example of lateral thinking!
Casting a lead sinking weight into the lower end of the centreboard
Centreboard at a later stage, sheathed in epoxy/glass, and having had the pivot hole drilled oversize and filled with a reinforced epoxy plug which was cast in place. This was subsequently drilled to take the silicon bronze pivot pin
The very shallow, low aspect-ratio rudder was equipped with end-plates to improve efficiency. The excellent stainless steel shaft and head were devised by John
The rudder can be held at differing depths by moving the tiller attachment point up or down on the shaft
Here it is at the deepest setting
Masking for the bottom paint
Tantalising progress! Decks and coamings in place
Very nicely done floorboards
Floorboards in place, and seat-risers being fitted
Spars being fitted out and coated. Lovely homemade cleats
A big day! Moving the boat out of her coccoon
First opportunity to see the hull shape from above. The balanced ends will hopefully make her a good bar-crosser
John has done a superb job of taking this boat from plans to reality
Launching is not too far away now, and I eagerly await test reports. As soon as anything becomes available I'll put up a post. Remember to look at John's thread on the Woodenboat Magazine Forum at


  1. Hi Ross
    Are plans for this boat available yet?
    I'm thinking of building a sharpie like this.