There is certainly no other boat that offers the performance under sail and ease of construction of a sharpie. Developed in southern New England as workboats, their speed, shallow draft, easy handling, and quick construction caused sharpies to quickly spread along the Atlantic Coast.
There have been sharpie designs for homebuilders almost as long as there have been sharpies. John's Sharpie is similar in proportion to the sharpies used around New Haven, Connecticut for oyster tonging in the 19th century. Rendered in modern materials, this 21st century sharpie is fast, light, easy to handle, and easy to build. Renditions of John's Sharpie have been built from CLC kits and plans all over the world, from the 15th floor of an apartment building in South Korea to Coniston Water in the UK.
"It is a tribute to John Harris's successful combination of the various design requirements that none of us felt anything but total satisfaction with the basic overall concept, her sailing performance or elegant appearance on the water," said Water Craft magazine while sailing the Sharpie around Coniston Water. Read the entire review.
John C. Harris, CLC's CEO and a lifelong sharpie fan, designed the Sharpie for his own use on the Chesapeake Bay. Light weight and clean lines yield a boat capable of high average speeds, dinghy-like handling, and great pointing ability. The unstayed cat-ketch rig is efficient and beautiful, and without a jib there are no sheets to handle when tacking: just put the helm over and you're done. Extremely low wetted surface and a big rig means the Sharpie will whisper along in the lightest of air. Tie in a reef when whitecaps appear if you want to stay reclined inside the cockpit, or hike out on the comfortable side decks if you feel like exploiting the Sharpie's heavy air speed.
The Sharpie uses a daggerboard to get to windward. It's more efficient than a centerboard, takes up less space, and is easier to build. With the board raised and the rudder kicked up, it's easy to sail the sharpie onto the beach or pull it above the high tide line. With the board halfway up the boat will still point well, allowing you to sail in the shallowest water.
The interior is laid out for leisurely daysailing or overnight camp-cruising. The separate cockpits encourage relaxed sprawling, and are easy to cover with boom tents while camping. Ideal crew is 2-4 adults.
While John's Sharpie is a bigger project than our other small boats, woodworking hobbyists will find construction fast and straightforward. Construction time seems to average about 180 hours. No frames or strongbacks are required; the hull is of 9mm okoume bent around permanent bulkheads, then stitched and glued like a big kayak. The tapered masts are solid spruce or cedar.
Interviewed about this 1996 design in May 2011 on the blog 70.8%, John Harris had this to say about the Sharpie:
"I designed that boat to win the traditional boat race at MASCF. Its beguiling good looks were meant to look right on the St. Michael's waterfront, but conceal the speed and handling of a racing dinghy. I was 23, and it was a good 23-year-old's boat. I like that it's hard to find an angle from which the proportions don't look good. It's got razor-sharp handling upwind and down. Unfortunately, you get the bad with the good---John's Sharpie is wicked fast but also a little cranky. It was a good design lesson, including that two tall masts weigh twice as much as one tall mast. I'm not the only skipper to have capsized one. Many builders soon shipped a pair of sandbags either side of the daggerboard trunk to settle her down."