Centerboard on Sharpie

Hi, this is my first post. I have built a stitch and glue dinghy and now I'm looking for a traillerable day boat for the family. The boat should be able to sail with 4 adults being one skipper and up to 3 passengers. I'm studying the Sharpie but find the daggerboard a bit okward when compared to a centerboard (but I never sailed a boat with a centerboard). I am also curious about your "kick-up daggerboard". Does it "replace" the centerboard when it comes to land on a beach? How does it work? Also can the Sharpie take other sail rigs? Thanks a lot...!!!

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RE: Centerboard on Sharpie

I'm building a Sharpie but I've not heard of the kick-up daggerboard.  To me it looks like a regular daggerboard and trunk.   I will stop here to keep this short, because I haven't learned how to insert blank lines yet.

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie


You sure you don't mean a kick-up rudder? A kick-up daggerboard doesn't really make much sense, whereas a rudder that kicks up when it hits bottom is pretty standard.

Daggerboards are used with no problem on lots of different boats. They can be more efficient than a centerboard because of their higher aspect ratio (long & narrow shape) which reduces drag and keeps the center of lateral plane from shifting as the centerboard is moved up and down.

They're also much simpler to build than centerboards and usually need less maintenance. They're not suitable for large boats, though, because eventually they reach a size where the weight makes them difficult to handle. But for a John's Sharpie they work just fine.



We sail a John's Sharpie

I just typed up a very long and involved post about the boat and how we sail it, an then it got wiped out.


Email me at and I'll fill you in on how we use the boat. But I'll say this- if you are loooking for a nice, family, saturday afternoon kick back on the lake sailboat, 


It's a relatively tender, quite fast and exciting sailing machine and as designed, requires two hands on the sheets to safely sail in winds above about 12 knots. In fact, as designed there is no way TO cleat the sheets and it isn't safe to do so in heavier air. 

We have modified ours quite heavily and recently sailed in the Texas 200- 5 days up the coast of Texas in winds ranging from 12 to 28 knots. You can see videos of the modified boat ( it's now a trimaran) sailing here- 


and a picture of the boat sailing as a tri here- 

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie

I've seen John Harris sailing it at Okoumefest in a reasonably stiff breeze, standing up in the stern with a passenger in the bow, so it's not as tender as all that. Turning it into a tri seems pretty drastic.

According to the advertising material, it was designed for use on the Chesapeake Bay. In the summer you'd be hard pressed to find winds as high as 12 kts there, at least outside of a thunderstorm.

In places where you get more wind, reefing is your friend. Note also that the ad copy says that a crew of 2-4 adults is ideal. I've seen it sailed single-handed, but then it had sandbags for ballast.

I think if the boat is used the way it was designed - sheltered shallow waters, good weather and properly loaded and reefed when necessary - it really is a fun, simple and unintimidating boat.

So Charlie, when are you taking yours across the Atlantic? :-)



Remember- John is an old Windmill sailor

Not at all fair to compare him to the average joe sailing the boat. 

I've cruised the Chesapeake and am aware of how light the air is there.

Here where we live on Matagorda Bay the every day summer wind is steady SE at 12 - 15, increasing to 18-20 by late afternoon most days. I took the boat out with 4 adults aboard at the Duckworks Mesasabout 2 years ago and within 5 minutes, returned to the beach to reef. With four adult men aboard. EVERYONE agreed it was the wise thing to do.

We rerigged ours from booms to sprit booms, which I HIGHLY recommend, and it IS a fun and simple boat. But unintimidating? Nope, it's exciting and if you aren't on your toes, it'll dump you in a heartbeat. I maintain after sailing mine for four years now, that it ISN'T a nice quiet family boat. It IS an exciting boat to sail and we liked it.  And by the way- my wife is a trophy winning one design single hand racer and we raced catamarans for several years before getting the Sharpie. So we aren't novice sailors.


Converting the boat to a tri made it into something really great. This is a modification John and I discussed two years ago. I had originally planned to use the sailrig amas, and double the sizes ( at John's suggestion). But those amas are roughly double ended, and just didn't look right on the boat. I built cardboard models to try it out. I fiddled with that some, but I'm a boat builder, not a designer, so I commissioned Graham Byrnes ( of B and B Yacht designs) to design the amas. I designed and built the crossarms and connectives.


We now have a comfortable FAST boat that we can trust, for beach camping in the far back bays here on the Texas coast, where normally there are zero people around once the sun drops. It's a pretty empty place and not somewhere you want to capsize a boat load of gear without being certain of self rescue. John knows about the problems with the boat- he now reccommends floatation all along under the gunnels for just that reason by the way and I've previously posted here with pictures of the floatation chamber I built to add in the bow ( which makes an excellent dry stroage box by the way). 

We've tested it now in winds ranging from 10-12 up to gusting close to 30, with zero problems. On the next to last day of the Tex 200 we close reached across San Antonio Bay in 18 knots of wind ( bailing all the way from spray coming in) and felt totally secure in the boat- without the mods we would NEVER have chanced the boat in that weather and on that bay.


As for the Atlantic- I've got a full keel ballasted sloop for that type of sailing. With the sharpie/tri conversion, we've now got both worlds covered- we can sail blue water in the Rhodes Meridian or gunkhole in shallow bays on the sharpie/tri. We can spend several days or weeks camping with that, or months cruising the sloop. 

I'm retired from boatbuilding now, with only two customer jobs to finish up by fall, then full time play- and my wife is READY to go cruising- so what's not to like? 

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie


I really have to thank you for the words. I will start another post about a keel boat, which I suppose works better for my safety concerned family.

See you in a bit

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie


I wasn't doubting your need for a more stable boat on the Gulf coast, just wanted to point out that if used as intended the Sharpie works fine. You are seriously taking it outside its design envelope, which is why you've had to essentially convert it into a completely different boat.  There was no intent to argue with your sailing and boatbuilding skills, it's just that your original post sort of made the boat sound scary. I was trying to reassure would-be Sharpie builders that it's a safe boat when used as designed.

Good luck on retiring from boatbuilding. I've already done that a few times and somehow there's always one more design popping up...




And I just wanted him to know

that the boat wasn't a laid back, poke around in, boat- it's an fast, exciting boat to sail but CAN be scary. NOT the same as poking around in an old cat boat for sure. And if you are sailing one in 3-8 mph winds, it's a real go'er. We've ghosted the boat in winds you could barely feel. I just think people should be aware of all sides of a boat when they consider one.


Of course, for us, I'd whole lot rather have an exciting, fast boat, than a slug. 


I'm retiring from boatbuilding FOR PAY. That doesn't necessarily indicate I'm done building boats FOR US!!! Cause you are correct- too many desgins out there.

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie

Charlie, somehow I missed the fact that you'd turned the Sharpie into a trimaran!

I'm having more trouble than I need building it with just the one hull (see my other post today) but that does sound like a VERY cool boat you have now.





Camper- email me

address in my first post, and I''ll send you some pictures of the boat.


But if this works, here's one picture of us and the boat-



RE: Centerboard on Sharpie

Wow, that's beautiful.  Maybe someday!

RE: Centerboard on Sharpie

Charlie, I'm curious about sail trim on this rig.  My question is this: have you found it best to trim both sails about the same when close-hauled?

If not, which sail is hauled in more?

The main must be set slightly

closer in than the fore sail. There is a good bit of seperation, but there is a small amount of interference, so the main must be a bit tighter. We generally don't notice much though.


By the way, we sailed her with regular booms at first, then switched to the sprit booms instead. I will never go back on this boat. The cat ketch rig is SO handy with the sprits and sail loading is less, that it's really a different boat this way. You no longer need vangs, since the sprit boom rig is self vanging. 

Gybing is simply a matter of pushing one sail across, or in light air, just letting it flop, with no attention at all. Also you can let the sail forward of abeam, which stabilizes it when running DDW. MUCH less hassle.  

And of course tacking consists of simply putting the helm down. In really choppy water you might have to back wind the fore a tad, but usually she just comes on through. Never need to touch a sheet. 

The sprits are detailed in the plans- or were in mine. 

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