One of the most interesting, least expensive, and perhaps most neglected hull forms is the sharpie. My sharpie designs range from 16’ to 75’, with drafts of less than ½” per foot of length. Simplicity throughout is a must; a low rig is required; and ample amounts of sail can be carried. Properly handled, a sharpie is extremely seaworthy and most suitable for gunkholing, island hopping and for coastwise cruising. In larger sizes, they are capable ocean-cruising vessels. Those over 50' are not stock plans.

The basic axiom in sharpie design and construction is that if there is not enough room in a given size, make it longer. The sharpie will not tolerate excessive beam and freeboard as a means to gain additional room. From 35’ up they can be built in steel, but only in the lightest type of steel construction. Properly handled and properly sailed, the sharpie is capable of surviving weather that many other types would find extremely dangerous. However, as with all light displacement vessels, they have to be sailed continuously.  Because of their shoal draft, there is only about 4’ of headroom in a 32-footer, and it is difficult to achieve full headroom in lengths under 50’. It is cheaper to build a 50’ sharpie than, say, a heavy displacement hull of about 35’ in length, and they both have about the same amount of interior cubic. All of the centerboard sharpies can be beached, and the smaller ones can be trailered. Inboard power is not practical in sizes under 40’; however, outboard power can occasionally be utilized. Poling and rowing are practical forms of propulsion on sharpies up to 35’ or 40’.

The sharpie is one of my favorite hull forms on which to experiment with rigs. I have built more than 40 of them over the years. The least expensive hull form has a plumb stem and square stern, although the round stern is prettier. Combining features, I incorporated both plumb stern and round stern on PANDORA. The double-ended hull is also possible, but the clipper bow seen on many sharpies just adds expense in construction and, for a given deck length, decreases the usable space and stability of the hull.

The gaff rig and Chinese lug rig are also happy combinations with a sharpie hull. The article, “Observations of a Non-Conformist,” which appeared in the August, 1966 issue of Rudder Magazine (and which also appears in COASTWISE AND OFFSHORE CRUISING WRINKLES) was based on my experiments with three different rigs on the same length sharpie hull and sailing trials conducted with them. I have also built sharpies with a fin keel which adds to interior room but at the expense of not being able to work in thin water.

For every dollar spent, the sharpie has more to offer than any other hull type as, for a given deck length, it costs about 1/3 as much to build as a moderate displacement vessel, and about 1/5 as much as a heavy displacement vessel. The smaller sharpies are well-suited to aluminum alloy construction, but wood construction is by far the cheapest method for the owner/builder. 

The interior arrangement shown above is for a 34’ sharpie. As can be seen, there is plenty of linear room but not a great deal of vertical room. On the smaller metal sharpies, the centerboard was sometimes moved off-center by a couple of feet in order to increase the usable room in the cabin; however, the best solution was to use a fixed keel when the added draft was permissible.

My wooden sharpies go up to 55’ in length. Aluminum sharpies are usually of the double-ended type from 30’ to 48’ on deck. The steel sharpies are from 32’ to 78’ on deck. Up to about 40’ in length, I build the sharpies upside down; for the larger sharpies, building right side up is easier. Stock plans are available up to about 50' on deck. 

Once the departure is made from the true sharpie hull configuration and concept, one is beginning to gild the lily.  Costs soar and the result is seldom an improvement.