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A Project in Search of a New Home

By Reuel B. Parker

Sail Plan for the Pilot Schooner 40C

In early 2020 I met Chelsea Ragland, who was crewing for Danger Charters. My close friend Wayne Fox, who owned Danger, had put me in touch with Chelsea because she wanted to learn about boatbuilding. Danger runs three charter schooners of my design; one of which I built back in 1984 (the Exuma 52 SARAH).

At the time I was getting ready to sail PEREGRINE, my new cold-molded centerboard ketch, on a cruise to the Bahamas. Chelsea had never been to the islands, so she signed on as crew, giving us lots of time to talk about boatbuilding while enjoying paradise. We chanced to arrive in Bimini 12 hours before the Bahamian government closed the entire country to tourism (due to the Covid 19 pandemic), which made our cruise abbreviated, though we still managed to sail to some beautiful places … especially remote ones where we would have minimal contact with the native population, avoiding the strict regulations the government put into effect.

After we returned stateside, Chelsea contacted a childhood friend from her native Texas, and proposed that she build a cruising sailboat for him, and that I design it and help make it happen. Since I live in midcoast Maine during the summer season, Chelsea and her friend came to visit me at home, where we discussed the boatbuilding project. We chose my Pilot Schooner designs as a “point of departure,” and together worked out the parameters that would satisfy our client, and implement Chelsea’s boatbuilding dream.

For the schooner’s design, I worked from my Pilot Schooner 45 plans, creating a smaller version. The vessel that emerged would be cold-molded in Port Orford cedar, supplied by Americas Woods, a distributor of boatbuilding lumber in Washington, Maine. Construction would be triple-laminated using the methods described in my first book, The New Cold-Molded Boatbuilding.

Partial Lines for the Pilot Schooner 40C

Specifications are as follows:

L.O.A.             40′

L. EXT.           54′

L.W.L.             35′ 6 1/2″

BEAM             12′

DRAFT            4′ 2”

DISPL.             27,500 lbs. (13 U.S. tons) Laden

BALLAST         9,500 lbs. Lead (3,750 lbs outside; 5,000 lbs inside; remainder in tankage and trim)

SAIL AREA       914 sq ft working/1,254 sq ft total (light air)

TYPE                Full-keel pilot schooner yacht based on early 19th-century

Virginia models (Baltimore Clippers). Hull Speed: 8 knots

POWER            Inboard diesel, 40 to 60 H.P., under cockpit well

RIG                  Free-standing gaff rigged schooner with overlapping fores’l, self-tending jib and light air fisherman tops’l. The jib may be set flying with luff tension provided by a downhaul; or may use roller furling. The traditional jib is lowered by luffing up, releasing the halyard and tack downhaul, and stuffing the sail and club-foot into the fore-hatch. The roller furling jib may have doubled sheets or may be sheeted to the boom shown. The mains’l clew may be seized to a ring which slides forward when the outhaul is slacked, bringing the mains’l on deck OR may be reefed/furled to the boom if full-length battens are employed (suggested). This rig is one of the simplest ever conceived; yet it has power, versatility, practicality and economy. Howard Chapelle felt it should be revived for use in cruising yachts because of these qualities, without modification. So do I!

ACCOMMODATIONS      Interiors (2) shown sleep five. Double cabin aft. Head/shower forward. This is a comfortable, practical vessel, capable of extended ocean cruising anywhere in the world. Water capacity is 100 gal or more with a second tank under the hold. Fuel capacity is 200 gallons or 300 gallons (Alt. Plan).

CONSTRUCTION       Cold-molded wood/epoxy/fabric: Hull — double diagonal 5/16″

marine ply or solid planks over 3/4″ tongue and groove lumber. Outside Xynole-polyester covered; two layers below boot top. Decks – 1/2″ ply over sawn beams, Xynole-polyester covered.  Coachroofs — 3/8″ ply. Masts are hollow octagonal free-standing Douglas fir, booms and gaffs are solid Douglas fir.  Interior — painted plywood trimmed with varnished hardwoods.

I designed an interior plan based on our client’s parameters, but later changed it to the more traditional arrangement shown here:

Plan & Inboard Profile for the Pilot Schooner 40C

I elected to divide the ballast between a steel box keel filled with fitted blocks of solid lead, and inside ballast placed on the keel below the cabin sole. With a ballast ratio of 34%, this will be a very stiff hull, with righting moments beyond full capsize. But with moderate draft (4’ 2”), and ballast relatively high (compared to modern yachts), the motion of this schooner will be much gentler than for most yachts. Strongly raked, free standing masts of moderate height also indicate gentle motion.

Accommodation is for four people, with a large settee available for a fifth. The design also includes a cargo hold/food pantry with a second large optional integral water tank below it. The schooner will carry enough water, stores and fuel for long-range cruising. She will not be fast (hull speed is 8 knots), but she will be powerful, comfortable, and eminently seaworthy. She can go anywhere. She will stand up under her canvas, and carry it longer than most yachts. And the schooner rig has more options for carrying additional sail than any other rig. A little-known feature of free-standing masts is that by letting the sails out just forward of the beam, the vessel will steer herself downwind. And with the helm lashed on a beat, she will steer herself upwind. And the reef points will have full-length battens immediately above them.

Construction Sections for the Pilot Schooner 40

Whereas I often specify marine plywood for the diagonal planking, for this build we opted to use solid Port Orford cedar milled to 5/16’ X 5 3/8” planks – a convenient size for diagonal planking a very “curvy” hullform – also convenient to mill from Americas Woods’ available stock. The hull would employ solid Douglas fir and pressure-treated pine for the backbone – inner keel, apron, horn timber, knees, etc. Bulkheads would be 5/8” marine plywood, some of which were conveniently located at design stations. Remaining design stations were made from mold frames in the conventional manner.

I introduced Chelsea and our client to my friends at Hylan and Brown Boatbuilding, and we arranged for workspace in their yard, including help from one of their professional boatbuilders, and use of their large bench tools.

In July of 2020, construction got started, materials were ordered (epoxy and related products were shipped from Florida), and summer was in full bloom. Chelsea and I lofted the schooner’s design stations on two sheets of MDO plywood, the Strong Back was laid, bulkheads cut out, and design-station frames built. The frame was erected on the strong back, and with backbone, sheer clamps and bilge stringers, the hull began to take shape. I worked hands-on in the beginning, then shifted to advisory status as the work progressed. Finally, Chelsea kicked me out because I was old and in the way!

The Pilot Schooner 40C hull in frame

By early Fall, the bare hull was planked, without stem, outer keel, or sternpost. At that point, with cold weather rapidly encroaching, Chelsea had to decide whether to store the hull in a friend’s barn for the winter, or have it shipped to my shop in Florida, where she could continue working on it. She decided on the latter, which would include hiring my late partner Bill Smith to help her, fabricating all metal parts including a steel box keel for outside ballast, help with cabinetry, systems, etc. I would help part time with spar-making, rigging, machinery, and systems also.

The bare schooner hull arriving at my shop in Riverside Marina, Florida

When the hull arrived in Florida, we unloaded it, plus various remaining supplies. We blocked the hull upside down in my work space, and began organizing our seasonal work plan. Chelsea arrived soon after. And at that point, our client pulled the plug on the project, for reasons that were never explained, and left the three of us without work. This destroyed the very tight schedule that would be required to accomplish our goals through the winter work season. All three of us had arranged our lives around this project, and suddenly we were left swinging in the breeze. This was particularly devastating for Bill, who had cancelled other work projects for this one, and was left suddenly unemployed.

Many weeks went by, with Chelsea trying to get the project back on track. In the end, our client – really Chelsea’s client – made a number of severe and vulgar accusations against Chelsea, causing her severe stress and unhappiness, and completely terminating the project. He abandoned the whole thing, leaving the hull stranded in my work space. He declined to pay rent on the space, refused to reclaim his property (we were all owed money), and terminated all communication.

Eventually we had the hull moved to my friend David Halladay’s “Boatsmith” facility in Jupiter, Florida. My late partner, Bill Smith, had made the steel box that would contain outside ballast, which was also moved to Boatsmith.

At the time of this writing, in early February of 2024, the hull is likely to be moved again, this time to a friend’s storage facility in Tampa, Florida.

The purpose of this article is to offer this project to someone who has the resources, abilities, and drive to complete it. I am offering the bare hull, with the box keel, for sale for $10,000. The package includes a full set of plans for the project.

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By Reuel B Parker

The Roslyn Yawl MINOCQUA under sail in the 1890s—note the “balance jib”

(photo courtesy of Gordon E. Hurley, Jr.)

In the late 19th century, the sharpie type of inshore fishing boat began to insinuate itself into the world of yachting. In addition to the obvious qualities of speed and shoal draft, the low cost and simplicity of sharpies encouraged a new breed of yachtsman, who previously had not been able to afford anything that might be called a “yacht”. 

As sharpies evolved into yachts, various modifications of hull and rig were employed that might have been considered “improvements” over the original fishing, oystering and crabbing models. A number of innovative designers and builders got into the act, and some remarkable vessels resulted.

One of these men was Thomas Clapham, from Roslyn, Long Island, New York. While the true sharpie hull is flat-bottomed, Clapham created a hull with moderate, fairly constant deadrise from amidships aft, and with increasing deadrise from amidships forward. While these modifications created a whole new animal in marine architecture (the V-bottom boat), Clapham called his invention a “Non-Pareil Sharpie”.

MINOCQUA’s Lines, from The Sharpie Book (originals traced from Clapham by Howard Chapelle)—note the optional outside-ballast keel

Another innovation employed by Clapham was the addition of an optional full-length, curved keel, which incorporated outside ballast, making the design truly ocean-worthy. In general proportions, however, the new design was consistent with true sharpies in beam-to-length ratio, extreme shoal draft, low freeboard and strongly flared topsides.

Both bottom and topsides planking employed “developable surfaces” (able to be planked from flat panels), allowing planking from standard lumberyard plank stock with no spiling required. In this, Clapham’s hull retained the simplicity of construction and low cost of the true sharpie.

What this means in today’s world of cold-molded wood/epoxy construction is that the hull can be built easily, rapidly, and very inexpensively using full sheets of marine plywood. It can also be easily built in aluminum or steel.

I included MINOCQUA in The Sharpie Book (1994), but didn’t draw building plans for her until a decade later (2004), when I designed my own version for cruising, which I named MINOCQUA II. I designed my version to be built using full sheets of marine plywood over longitudinals and plywood bulkheads. In 2007 I designed a slightly larger model (41 feet) to achieve standing headroom in the cabin. I added a skeg-type hollow box keel, incorporating lead ballast, to make my model self-righting from a full-knockdown (capsize to 95 degrees).

Plan and Inboard-Profile views of my 41’ cruising version of MINOCQUA II

Clapham’s rig is unusual by today’s standards, employing a long, sprung-down plank bowsprit with a big self-tending jib, a “Sliding-Gunter” mains’l, and a yawl Marconi mizzen. I would, however, make one concession to modern thinking, by employing a roller-furling system for the jib.

The famous Roslyn Yawl sail plan, on my 41’ cruising version of MINOCQUA II

Proportions for MINOCQUA II are:

L.O.A.                     40’ 10”

L.W.L.                     31’ 7”

BEAM                     10’ 0”

DRAFT                   2’ 2”

DISPLACEMENT    8,750 lbs. (approx.)

BALLAST                3,250 lbs. (approx.)

SAIL AREA             750 sq. ft.

TANKAGE              Fuel: 55 gal. Water: 110 gal.

AUXILIARY POWER Inboard 2-cyl diesel (15hp) or outboard in an offset well located just aft of station #6

My modernized Sail Plan for MINOCQUA II

Thomas Clapham was an outspoken champion of shoal-draft yawl-rigged cruisers, and designed numerous additional models, including a 61’er for a member of the New York Yacht Club in 1881. His nonpareil sharpies could be single-handed by lowering the main in strong winds and sailing under “jib and jigger”. His designs had a great reputation for speed, and won many races. They were well-balanced, often steered themselves, and sailed with dry decks in rough weather. His hulls were remarkably stable, and were considered uncapsizable with the optional outside-ballast keels.

In the November 1915 issue of Yachting, William J. Starr wrote:

…flaring topsides and lifting type of overhanging ends gave them much reserve buoyancy and stability in spite of their relatively narrow breadth.… In form of section these Clapham sharpies were the V-bottom boats of today—nothing more, nothing less—starting with a sharp V entrance forward (originally used to prevent pounding), with a good amount of straight deadrise amidships, and flattening somewhat aft into a very clean run. The secret of their speed with small driving power and their clean sailing was the perfectly fair segmental rockering of their bottoms from forward to aft, and perhaps fully as important, the perfect diagonal formed by the sweep of their bilge when heeled under sail.

What this technical description means to the layman is that water flowing under this hull, when heeled over, has the minimum possible impediment, and that the immersed planes of hull bottom and topsides are symmetrical, with the chine acting like second keel. Starr further explains that Clapham experimented with towing models, and faired his lines using straight-grained pine battens, to assure that there would be “no concealed humps or hollows to stop the clean run of the water.” Brilliant architecture!

I think Thomas Clapham, right along with Nathanial Greene Herreshoff and Ralph Munroe, must share the title of “Father of the Modern American yacht”.

Appleton, Maine, 10/21/13 (Originally Blog #4 for WoodenBoat online)

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BY Reuel B. Parker

The Terrapin 34 TOMFOOLERY under sail in the Florida Keys

A long time ago, I came across a pair of marvelous books on wooden boatbuilding by Harry Sucher: Simplified Boatbuilding—The Flat-Bottom Boat, and Simplified Boatbuilding—The V-bottom Boat. Both were published in 1973 by W.W. Norton & Co. I still cherish my well-worn first-edition copies. Browsing through the second book I came across a “33’ Modified Sharpie Terrapin Schooner” on pages 283, 284 & 285. Sucher’s plan shows a flat-bottomed hull with increasing deadrise in the quarters to the transom. The little schooner has low-freeboard, twin houses (very low), and a self-tending gaff schooner rig. The bottom is cross-planked forward, and file-planked aft, in the deadrise part of the hull. Sucher claims that his design is based on “terrapin schooners” from the 1880’s that were used in the turtle fisheries in Florida and the Gulf of Mexico. I believed him, of course, and for many years I thought that’s where they originated.

Two decades or so later, when I started my research for The Sharpie Book, I turned up information (and a sketch) in Howard I. Chapelle’s The National Watercraft Collection (U.S. National Museum Bulletin 219; 1960), garnered in turn from Small Yachts: Their Design and Construction, Exemplified by the Ruling Types of Modern Practice by C.P. Kunhardt (1886). It turns out that the terrapin schooners were actually sharpie fishing smacks used on the Chesapeake Bay and waters southward.

Kunhardt’s drawing of a terrapin smack, from Forest and Stream, 1885

What defines a “smack” is a wet fish hold, created by isolating the large middle portion of a vessel’s hull with watertight bulkheads, and drilling small holes in the bottom to flood the hold. Fish in the hold will thereby have a healthy environment to thrive in until they can be taken to market. No ice required. This would work well for keeping turtles also, but I have never found a reference (other than Sucher’s) that the smacks were so used. It seems plausible that they were, even though they were certainly inshore fishermen. I can envision them sailing along the Southeast Florida coast, harvesting turtles swimming off the beach after laying their eggs.

Chapelle also described the terrapin smacks, in more detail, in Paper 25: The Migrations of an American Boat Type (1961—Library of Congress), including a Lines Drawing.

Chapelle’s lines drawing of a Maryland Terrapin Smack, based on a wreck, sketches, photographs, and dimensions given by Kunhardt— from Paper 25 (Library of Congress)

The dimensions of Chapelle’s terrapin smack are 37’ 10 ½” between perpendiculars, 9’ beam, and 1’ 7 ¼” draft. The wet well is divided in half by the centerboard trunk.

It is of note that Chapelle’s drawing has no deadrise aft, which made me speculate that Sucher may have added it of his own volition (a common modification), except that if you look closely at Kunhardt’s sketch, you can just see deadrise at the transom. It is also of note that a similar type existed on the Chesapeake Bay, which did have a flat bottom forward with deadrise aft, and was known as the Hampton Flattie. These varied in size from 16’ to 30’, according to Kunhardt, who wrote about them also for Forest and Stream. The “flattie” models were smaller than the “terrapin” models, and were rigged as gaff sloops. Chapelle found a hulk near Elliot, Maryland, about 1940, and drew plans based on it. The flatties were used for oystering and crabbing, while the terrapins seem to have all been fishermen (smacks). (I sell plans for a 24-foot “flattie” sharpie.)

In the mid-1980’s, two friends approached me with a request for an extreme shoal-draft, low-cost, charter bareboat for the Indian River area of Florida’s east coast. I designed my own Terrapin Schooner in response. My first hull lines were for an arc-bottom modified sharpie 34’ between perpendiculars, 10’ beam and 2’ 3” draft. I later designed a second version (of the same dimensions) with deadrise forward (V bow sections), which I felt would be more seaworthy, and which would not pound (the nemesis of sharpie hulls).

The Lines for my deadrise (arc-bottom) Terrapin 34 design

I designed my terrapin to be a simple cruising sailboat, with the hope that several would be built and rented as “bare boats” out of Ft. Pierce, on the Indian River. I should mention here that the Indian River is a long, narrow, shallow estuarine lagoon, protected by barrier islands, teeming with wildlife of great diversity. There is excellent fishing and collecting of clams and oysters in season. There are many endangered manatees. The bird life alone is fantastic. Wildlife enthusiasts could easily spend a week cruising the Indian River from Stuart to Cape Canaveral, stopping to anchor each night in protected coves. There are numerous parks and wildlife refuges right on the water. My terrapin would be equally at home in Florida Bay, the Keys, the Bahamas, and cruising the coasts of the southeastern United States. She would also be an excellent choice for Mississippi, Georgia, the Carolinas, Chesapeake Bay, and the shallow inland waters of New Jersey.

Plan & inboard profile for the Terrapin 34 cruiser

Unfortunately, the bareboat enterprise never materialized (I still believe it was a great idea), and I relegated my design to the status of “stock plan.” But in 1989 I received a phone call from a retired colonel in Texas, who said he was driving to my Islamorada boatyard (in the Florida Keys) to meet me. I tried to discourage him, until he mentioned that he was bringing money!

Even though it was very late in our “building season” (neither I nor epoxy can tolerate the Florida heat between May and November), we started construction on the first Terrapin 34 schooner in April of 1989, and launched the finished TOMFOOLERY sixteen weeks later that July.

The first Terrapin 34 in frame, Islamorada, Florida, 1989—note the refrigerator (upper left corner) required for controlling epoxy curing times in high heat conditions

During the design process for the Terrapin 34 I had chosen a simplified version of my usual method for cold-molded hull construction, which I dubbed “quick-molding.” This involved double-diagonal planking the hull bottom using the thickest plywood planking that could take the curves involved, and full-sheet 5/8” (actually 19/32”) plywood for the topsides planking, joined by butt-blocks. For the first Terrapin hull I specified 5/8” BBOES plywood, used in forming concrete. This yellow pine plywood seemed to be of very good quality, with almost no core-laps or voids, thick surface veneers, and very few “footballs” (knot-plugs). The slightly oily surfaces bonded thoroughly to epoxy during my tests, and I really thought I was on to something! (I am always searching for good, cheap plywood….)

Construction Sections for the Terrapin 34

Construction went rapidly and well, with a crew of six. I divided my work force into two and sometimes three crews, each with separate projects. Thus we were simultaneously building the hull, centerboard and rudder, spars, and making custom stainless-steel hardware.

Diagonal Planking—first layer

The hull went together easily and quickly, although we broke a couple of planks on the curvaceous stern. Decks consisted of the same 5/8” plywood, laid over sawn Douglas fir beams.

Solid Douglas fir deckbeams and carlins being installed—note the solid blocking used between the beam-ends on the shelves

Masts were got out of solid full-dimension 6×6 air-dried Douglas fir timbers, and booms and gaffs from smaller fir timbers.

Masts came from fir timbers, laid out square, tapered, and octagonal

The masts were then power-planed, sanded, epoxy sealed, primed, and painted

The interior consisted of painted plywood trimmed with varnished mahogany—simple but elegant. The colonel specified that no thru-hulls be installed, so I gave him a removable basin whose contents he could toss overboard. The head consisted of a similar arrangement. There was also a large ice hold, and a two-burner stove. Total materials costs, including outboard motor, sails, upholstery and rigging, were $24,000. Labor was about twice that figure.

The plywood interior being roughed in – Icebox, Galley Drawers, Double Berth

Power consisted of a 4-stroke Yamaha 9.9hp outboard located in a well in the cockpit. Sails and running rigging were Dacron; anchor rodes and dock lines were Nylon (I spliced the rodes to 5/16” hot-dipped galvanized chain), and standing rigging was hand-spliced 5/16” stainless-steel, with galvanized rigging screws and stainless-steel chain plates. All exterior surfaces were covered with epoxy-saturated Xynole-polyester cloth—with two layers on the bottom. All exterior paint was polyurethane over epoxy primers. Bulwarks were Douglas fir finished bright.

We launched TOMFOOLERY in July, and she was a pretty sight.

Launching TOMFOOLERY in July, 1989—the author is to the right of the centerboard

The colonel and his wife came for sail trials, and to take TOMFOOLERY home to Texas with a hired captain. The little schooner sailed fast, was stiff, balanced, pointed well, and was quick in stays—never missed a tack. I felt she motored well, but the colonel thought she should do better, and tried putting the outboard on a transom bracket (not a good idea). 

The Terrapin 34 TOMFOOLERY sailing

To the best of my knowledge, there has never been a revival of terrapin schooners. It seems that these beautiful, pragmatic workboats have been lost in the corridors of time. In all the years I have offered plans for my Terrapin 34, I don’t know for certain of another one being built.

I eventually designed a Terrapin 42, of which at least two were built (the first being OYSTER—built by my partner Bill Smith in Ft. Pierce in 1993/4); a Terrapin 25 (SKIMMER—also built by Bill Smith in Ft. Pierce in 1991); a Terrapin 21 (built by Bill Oelrich); a Terrapin 30 (Built by Doug Ferrell); and a Terrapin 16 (none known). My smaller Terrapins are gaff-rigged sloops, like the Hampton Flatties.

The Terrapin 25 was the prototype for the Creative Marine Skimmer 25 GRP production sailboat, produced from 1992 to 2002. Molds were pulled from her hull and decks.

The Terrapin 25 SKIMMER sailing off Key West, built in 1991

The Terrapin 42 schooner OYSTER, built in 1993/4

A Terrapin 30 by Doug Ferrell

A Terrapin 21 by Bill Oelrich

Every once in a while someone from Texas will tell me that TOMFOOLERY is alive and well, under different owners, and that she still turns heads wherever she sails. Long may she live!

*   *   *

The Terrapin Series Designs are available from Parker Marine Enterprises. Website: They can be seen in the Catalogue of Cruising Sail.

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By Reuel Parker

Around 1991, Jon Eaton (my editor at International Marine Publishing) suggested that I write a book about sharpies. He knew I was a fan of the type (inshore fishing/oystering/crabbing boats), and I gladly accepted the assignment.

I researched the history of sharpies in various museums and historical societies on the US East Coast, from Mystic Seaport to Miami. I already owned many books, pamphlets and government papers about sharpies, especially from marine historian Howard Chapelle.

During one hectic summer in Rockport, Maine, I wrote the text and designed (adapted, really) all the examples for The Sharpie Book. I edited through hundreds of my construction photos, and made additional drawings to illustrate the history and construction of the boats—both using traditional methods and contemporary “cold-molded plywood/epoxy” techniques. I published the designs with their Tables of Offsets – giving them to the world.

The 19-foot sharpie GATO NEGRO sailing in the Florida Keys

During the years prior to and after writing the book, I designed and built several small sharpies. The first sharpie I built for myself—around 1988—was the 19’ Ohio sharpie GATO NEGRO, which I built in my small boatyard in Islamorada, Florida Keys. Although I have continued to design many more sharpies, both large and small, I had never built and owned a large cruising sharpie myself… until starting to build IBIS in December of 2007.  

My shop and office trailer for building the 45’ sharpie IBIS in St. Lucie Village, FL

Because many waterfront marinas and boatyards along the east coast have been bought and converted into condominiums, it has become increasingly difficult to find a slip for a cruising boat without also purchasing a condo. It occurred to me to create a new design series that I called “Maxi-Trailerable Boats”—shoal-draft sail- and power-boats limited in length to about 45’, 10’ beam, and 15,000 lbs maximum displacement. Vessels of that size can be carried on standard 3-axle 40’ trailers (manufactured primarily for the sportfishing industry). This represents the maximum size vessel that can be transported on federal and state highways with a permit, but without requiring escort vehicles. Using a commercial tow truck, an individual permit is not even required. With tabernacled masts, the rig can be taken down or set up in a matter of a few hours. Thus you could take your cruising boat home with you, or transport her to your desired cruising location.

IBIS completed, on the trailer—centerboard to left; tabernacle A-frame on the bow

My design concept was that you could store and maintain your boat at home (or at an inexpensive storage lot inland) and launch/haul her at a local boatyard using a Travel-Lift or crane, or at a launch ramp using a large four-wheel-drive truck. You could eliminate slip rent and boatyard storage fees, saving several thousand dollars per year.

To promote the concept, I decided to build a prototype. I chose the Straits of Juan de Fuca Sharpie design for my conceptual “point of departure”, because my design adaptation of the 1880s original model (included in The Sharpie Book), seemed like a good choice. These vessels were halibut fisherman—double-ended, gaff-rigged schooners about 36’ in length. Chapelle considered them to be one of the most seaworthy of all the sharpies. The only other popular double-ended sharpie—Commodore Ralph Munroe’s famous EGRET—was from the same time period and also had a reputation for seaworthiness.  

Drawing from these inspirations, I created a 45’ sharpie hull, with 10’ beam and 2’ 6” draft. The hull employed elements of both designs. A big advantage of the long, narrow, flat bottom was that I could employ enough rocker (fore-and-aft curvature) to achieve standing headroom in the cabins. Also, double-ended hulls are often believed to be more seaworthy than other types, and they are “easily driven”, achieving hull speed with a minimum of energy—either from sails or auxiliary power—due to low wetted-surface.  

The result was the schooner IBIS, which I launched in early 2010. IBIS was designed to be a live-aboard cruising sailboat, ideally suited to the shallow waters of the US East Coast, the Florida Keys, and especially for the Bahamas.

IBIS anchored off Lee Stocking Island, Bahamas, in two feet of water

(aground at low tide) – we were able to walk ashore!

Although I have sailed several shoal-draft cruisers extensively in the Bahamas, I had never sailed a true flat-bottomed sharpie there. Indeed, I had never owned or even sailed in a large sharpie at all. Hence, in late winter of 2010, I sailed IBIS down the Florida coast to Key Biscayne, across the Gulf Stream, and down through the islands. That first trip was fraught with problems—the heat exchanger broke; one of my inexperienced crewmembers backed over the dinghy painter and pulled the prop shaft right out of its coupling; the pump-out for the holding tank got plugged up; and we had a personality conflict between two crewmembers which resulted in one of them flying home from George Town, Great Exuma. Nonetheless, we had an overall good cruise, and learned a lot about taking a sharpie out in the open ocean.

IBIS handled 4’ to 6’ seas surprisingly well on a beat or close reach (she did pound pretty hard at times), and was fantastic from a beam reach to a run. My tactic for achieving “Easting” in the strong Trade Winds was to motorsail under jib and reefed mains’l (or under reefed fores’l alone), pointing as high on the apparent wind as I could. In winds around 25 knots, and 6’ to 8’ seas, I learned to fall off and slow down to 7-knots (IBIS sails and motors at 8-knots easily), making 100-degree tacks under double-reefed fores’l and diesel. In wind and seas beyond that, working to windward became impractical, and we anchored in some protected cove or creek to wait for gentler conditions (which is what most people would do anyway). A happy surprise was how stiff she sailed in all wind conditions and points of sail. And her helm was perfectly balanced after some modifications.

IBIS under full sail in the Trade Winds; note her ground tackle and side davits

(and yes, the crew are naked)

I took IBIS to the Bahamas four times, and sailed her in many conditions. I was very impressed with her abilities, and realistic about her shortcomings. Overall, I am now convinced that a well- designed and –built big sharpie (with self-righting ability) is an excellent choice for cruising the islands. I did not find myself overly restricted—only the really hard-core sailors will beat to windward in seas over 8’, or winds over 25 knots. Patience is always required in cruising. On the other hand, the ability to sail in less than three feet of water really opens up the possibilities for cruising anywhere! But especially, in the Bahamas, we could explore shallow, seldom-visited creeks, cross tidal flats that dry out at low tide, and access dozens of safe, quiet, remote anchorages that very few other boats could even dream about! We entered 3-foot-deep Alligator Creek on the north end of Cat Island to watch baby sea turtles race in front of us! Note that IBIS’s hollow box keel is full of lead bricks – she is fully self-righting.

In late 2013, I sold IBIS to a 60-year-old New Jersey surfer. He cruised in the Florida Keys with her, which I had never found time to do (see photo). He also defaulted on her owner-financed payments, forcing me to re-possess her at great cost and expenditure of time! He abandoned IBIS in New Jersey, and I had to make repairs and sail her single-handed back to Florida in December. The trip was a nightmare of bad weather!

IBIS sailing in the Florida Keys

Back at Riverside Marina, where I built her, I restored IBIS and sold her again, to a family in North Carolina. I agreed to sail IBIS to the Bahamas one last time, and to teach her new owners how to sail her in the most idyllic setting on Earth. I had a lovely Canadian woman as crew (my three first mates on IBIS have all been Canadian women), and we had an excellent cruise. We then delivered IBIS to her new owners in New Bern, North Carolina.

As fate would have it, the new owners had some problems that precluded their dreams of living and cruising on IBIS, and she sat abandoned in her slip for the next seven years.

Last Spring (of 2023), I was finally able to visit IBIS, and obtained a slip in her marina for my new Commuter 325 PANTHER. The family who own her joined me there, and for a week we worked on pumping out flooded compartments, throwing out rotting garbage, killing millions of roaches, and rescuing sails and upholstery where possible. We did a massive cleanup and salvage operation, and lowered IBIS’s masts. We then hauled her out at Duck Creek Marina (a truly great little boatyard), where she got her bottom scraped and cleaned. After I left to proceed home to Maine for the summer, IBIS’s owners continued working on her, and arranged to have her trucked back to Riverside in Florida. Our mutual plan was to restore IBIS this winter (’23-’24), and sail her back to the Bahamas in March of 2024, where she would remain year-round, under their ownership. I was to take them sailing when they could come, and have IBIS for myself for part of the winter.

Since I published this post, I have learned that IBIS’s owners have had extenuating circumstances that caused them to be out of touch for six months. They have asked me to remove their names from this post, which which I have done.

I want to thank the many people who have contacted me about IBIS. THANK YOU!

Sailing from the Banks into Exuma Sound at Leaf Cay, Bahamas

Reuel Parker — 1/12/2023, and 2/16/2024, Saint Lucie Village, Florida

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By Reuel Parker

Chesapeake Bay brogans circa 1901 from Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes and Bugeyes by M. V. Brewerton (photo by George Barrie Jr.)

The missing link in the well-known evolution of Chesapeake Bay oyster fishermen is the Brogan. First came sailing log canoes, which are still extant on the Bay, and are raced very competitively to this day. Last came the bugeye and the skipjack—bugeyes are getting scarce, but skipjacks (AKA bateaux) still work the oyster beds under sail, and are among the last sailing workboats in the world.

The canoes, brogans and bugeyes were constructed of logs—some of the large bugeyes used as many as seven huge logs in their bottoms, with topsides framing and planking above. Skipjacks came about when the large trees required for bugeyes were all gone. They were built plank-on-frame.

The brogans were the direct ancestors of the bugeyes—also built with log bottoms and planked topsides, but smaller in size. The brogan rig, as seen in the photo above, continued to be used, on a larger scale, by the bugeyes and skipjacks, although most of the smaller skipjacks were sloop rigged.

Skipjacks photographed by the author in 1995 at Tilghman Island, MD

In 1997, Danger Charters in Key West commissioned me to design a 44’ 6” skipjack (3-sail bateau), to be used as a day-charter vessel in the “Lakes”—large bodies of very shoal water in the lower Keys, teeming with wildlife. I had been a fan of the type for several years, and had visited the last of the working skipjacks on my schooner LEOPARD in 1995. I designed several more skipjacks over the years, but have never had the pleasure of building one.

I learned about brogans from M. V. Brewerton’s excellent book Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes and Bugeyes. While bugeyes were large—up to 80’ on deck—the brogans were small—around 30’ to 35’ on deck. I wanted to design a modern version of the brogan—adapted for cold-molded construction for shoal-draft cruising—but didn’t get around to doing it until December of 2011.

The only lines drawing I have ever found for a brogan came from Brewerton’s book (shown below). They show a very lovely, nearly symmetrical, easily-driven double-ended hull of excellent proportions. I could find nothing in Howard Chapelle’s books or in any others in my library. I studied these lines carefully before drawing my own.

Lines for a 32’ brogan traced from a plate in Chesapeake Bay Log Canoes and Bugeyes by M. V. Brewerton (derived from a half-model)

Sail Plan for the author’s Brogan 33 design

Brogans were double-ended, beamy, of moderate displacement, and shoal-bodied with centerboards. They carried free-standing masts, very raked, with the mizzen raked markedly more than the main. This rig was adopted by the later bugeyes and skipjacks, with less deviation of rake between the masts.

Plan & inboard profile for the brogan 33

For my new design, I placed a cabin between the widely spaced deck-piercing masts, high enough to create a feeling of open space even though headroom is limited to 4’ 8”. Accommodations are for two adults in a king-size V-berth and two children on the settees. The V-berth can sleep four adults in a pinch. With a huge sliding hatch, the cook can stand up under a dodger or a boom tent rigged between the masts. I included the beloved traditional clipper bow common to all Chesapeake Bay oyster boats.

I made the side decks wide; with cabin-top handrails (shown), lifelines and stanchions may be avoided. The cockpit is huge, and the seat lockers are six feet long—perfect for lounging or sleeping. Six people could be very comfortable day-sailing. Five watertight bulkheads make this design as unsinkable as possible. With 140 gallons of water, long cruises are possible away from civilization. A drop leaf table is set at the same height as the centerboard trunk, and can seat six comfortably.

For construction, I adapted my triple-laminate cold-molded wood/epoxy method, which was perfectly suited to the graceful round-bilged brogan hull sections. Alternate construction methods include strip-planking with fabric/epoxy layers inside and outside, and radius-chine plywood/epoxy lamination. Ballast is internal, located beneath the cabin sole on both sides of the centerboard trunk.  

Construction sections for the brogan 33

Specifications for my brogan 33 are: 32’ 4 ½” length on deck; 41’ length over all; 31’ 1 ½” waterline length; 9’ 2 ½” beam; 2’ draft (5’ 1” board down); and 12,000 lbs displacement. Sail area is 478 square feet. She may be rowed from the cockpit, sculled, or fitted with a diesel inboard for auxiliary power. If an outboard were incorporated in a well, it would have to be offset so as not to break the full-length keel.

I think the brogan would make an excellent, seaworthy small cruiser—comfortable enough to live aboard, simple enough to sail single-handed, and capable of cruising the Florida Keys, Cuba, the Bahamas and beyond. (A brogan crossed the Atlantic in the late 19th century.)

You can purchase Plans for the Brogan 33 from this web site.

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The Shoal Draft Alternative


By Reuel B. Parker

The author’s first designed and built shoal-draft cruiser—The Exuma 44 TERESA beached at Paradise Island, Bahamas in 1986

I began designing shoal-draft cruising sailboats in 1983, specializing cold-molded wood/epoxy construction, and I have consequently designed more than fifty over twenty-one feet in length. Of these I have built twelve, and been involved in the construction of another five. The first of these was the Exuma 52 SARAH, which I built in Fort Pierce, Florida, in 1984, for the Polvere family. From the hundreds of plans I have sold for big cruising boats, dozens have been built, varying in length from 21-feet to 75-feet. For shoal draft boats under 21-feet, hundreds have been built all over the world. Most of these are sharpies, plus a number of scows, periaguas, Sea Bright skiffs, prams, garvies, and dories. 

My first cruising sailboat was a heavy-displacement deep-keel cutter. I built her on a California beach in the mid-1970s, and sailed her some 35,000 miles to twenty foreign countries in the Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic oceans. When I sailed to south Florida in late 1980, I was very tired of running aground, and ran aground more than ever cruising the east coast, the Bahamas and the eastern Caribbean. I decided to try shoal draft for my next boat, and I never looked back. 

FISHERS HORNPIPE, the author’s first cruising sailboat, demonstrating the woes of deep draft at Norman’s Cay, Bahamas, in 1982; 

She was destroyed by Hurricane Maria at Isla Vieques, Puerto Rico, in 2007 

My first personal shoal draft cruiser was the 44-foot cat schooner TERESA. I built her in cold-molded wood/epoxy, in Islamorada, Florida Keys. She was absolute simplicity, and I lived aboard and sailed her extensively for several years before selling her. She was fast, weatherly, dry—and had a draft of 2’ 8” board-up and 6’ 1” board down. With her free-standing masts and cat schooner rig, and only two working sails (plus a light-air “kite”), she was easy to sail single-handed, and is the only boat I have ever owned that steered herself downwind. By letting the sails out forward of the beam, whichever sail caught more wind pushed her back on course. On a trip during a norther—returning to Florida from the Bahamas—TERESA steered herself in 25 knot winds and 6- 8-foot seas, making an average speed of 10.4 knots against the Gulf Stream.

I cruised the Bahamas in TERESA twice—in the winter season of 1985/86 and in April/May of 1987. I discovered that with her draft of 2’ 8” she could navigate mangrove creeks, small-boat channels, and cross sand bars that were dry at low tide. Running aground was no problem because she remained upright. I often beached her using the centerboard to hold her in place while we went exploring. The degree of freedom and safety this gave me was nearly a religious experience. 

The cat schooner TERESA sailing wing and wing on the Bahama Banks

TERESA had two Yamaha 9.9 horsepower four-stroke outboards in wells for power, and when they were tilted up, she had plugs for the hull which made her counter stern completely fair. With nothing dragging in the water, her speed under sail was phenomenal. With the outboards she cruised under power at 8.5 knots, and we tended to pass everything we encountered in the Intracoastal Waterway. People were shocked to learn that she was powered by small outboards. I sold her in May of 1988, and she was destroyed in 2019 by hurricane Dorian at Man’O’War Cay, Bahamas. 

Cruising the northern Bahamas, I discovered that TERESA could run through the inside passage for the infamous Abaco Rage, saving having to go to sea to round Whale Cay in rough conditions. Sailboats with even 5-feet draft cannot do this, and must either wait for fair weather or beat to windward in powerful Tradewinds and large seas. All my subsequent shoal draft cruisers were able to repeat this remarkable feat. 

The author’s pilot schooner LEOPARD effortlessly making 12-knots on the Bahama Banks

My next shoal-draft cruiser was the 61-foot (75-foot LOA) Virginia Pilot Schooner LEOPARD. She was to be the epitome of cruisers for me—I intended to sail her back to the Pacific—but in early 1998 I was diagnosed with stage four cancer, and had to give her up. Her draft was 4’ 0” board up, and 10’ 6” board down. She was very powerful, very fast, and was also surprisingly weatherly. She was all the proof I needed that shoal-draft cruisers could do anything I could possibly want a sailboat to do. She routinely sailed at 11- and 12-knots, and even hit 15-knots GPS a couple of times. She won the Chesapeake Bay Great Schooner race in 1994. To prove her seaworthiness, I took her out into the North Atlantic in a full gale with stays’l and double-reefed fores’l and mains’l, and drove her to windward in 8- to 10-foot seas. She ran fast and dry until we punched into a large, breaking freak wave above a sea mount—but by then she had already proven herself to me. 

I sailed LEOPARD to the Bahamas in 1995, ’96, and ’98. She survived Hurricane Georges in her slip in Key West while I was undergoing radiation treatment for cancer in Maine. My third cruising sailboat, IMAGINE, which I had sold, was destroyed in that storm. (She was a 1926 Alden Malabar Junior sloop, which I had restored—see “A Story of Priorities” WB #65.) 

Taking LEOPARD through the very shallow South Bight of Andros in 1996;

Crew from left to right are Amy McGee, Scotty Folger and Christine Parrish

During LEOPARD’S first trip to the Bahamas, I navigated the South Bight of Andros for the first time, and was impressed by how unique an experience it was. The Bights of Andros are estuarine channels that completely cross the largest island in the Bahamas. The Bights are over 25 miles long, very shallow, and require playing the tides carefully. It was during my first few passages through South Bight that I determined four feet was the absolute maximum draft for a versatile cruising boat. Andros has the world’s third longest barrier reef, but exploring it from inside requires a draft of considerably less than four feet. LEOPARD could not do it. 

The author’s third shoal-draft cruiser T’IEN HOU on the Maine coast

(Photo by Tom Lokocz Adams)

When it became evident that I was going to survive cancer, I designed and built a 52-foot cruiser (65-feet LOA), with a retracting wing keel. T’IEN HOU was by far the most comfortable home I have ever had—on land or on sea. I originally designed and built her as a three-masted junk-rigged “lorcha,” but when I figured out that I was neither Chinese nor Portuguese, I converted her to a ketch, with twin heads’ls, gaff main and sprit mizzen. She was dry and weatherly, and performed very well in everything from light air (being easily driven) to gales at sea. Her hull design was based on the large Sea Bright Skiff models of the early 20th-century. 

The retracting wing keel was a design experiment that worked incredibly well, but lacked the important quality of a centerboard to be pushed into its trunk when running aground. The wing keel was made from welded steel with lead ballast inside, and weighed 3,500 lbs. It increased draft from 3’ 2” to 5’ 1”—which was much more effective than one would expect because of the delta wing. With the keel deployed, weatherly ability was excellent, and when retracted the keel lay flush to the underside of the wide box keel. Both the fin and delta wing were designed to NACA 0009 foil shapes, with the delta wing “upside down” to pull to windward when heeled. 

T’IEN HOU’S retracting inverted wing keel

Twin ATV winches on deck to raise the wing keel;

The device between them is a Dorade ventilator/skylight

I sailed T’IEN HOU to the Bahamas in 2002, ’03, ’04 and ’05, as well as to Maine and back several times. I explored the North and Middle Bights of Andros for the first time, and have used these beautiful estuaries many times since to access the southern Exuma chain of islands and beyond. I sold T’IEN HOU in February of 2007, and her new owner has sailed her extensively in the Caribbean. 

The author’s forth shoal draft cruiser, IBIS, in Joe’s Sound, Long Island, Bahamas

Because boatyards and marinas on the American coasts are gradually disappearing (being turned into condominiums), I decided to design some shoal draft cruisers—both sail and power—that could be trailered on generic 3-axle 15,000 lb capacity trailers. These would have a maximum beam of ten-feet, and a maximum “dry” displacement of 14,000 lbs. I decided to build one on speculation, to promote the concept, in 2007. The result was a 45-foot (53’ LOA) sharpie schooner based on the Straits of Juan de Fuca halibut fishermen of the late 1800s. IBIS is a true flat-bottomed sharpie, strongly built of marine plywood, epoxy and Xynole fabric, with a hollow box keel filled with lead. Her draft is 2’ 6” board up, and 7’ 10” board down. She is self-righting and a stiff sailor, with single-halyard gaffs for simplicity. Her masts are in tabernacles to facilitate trailering and exploring inland waters. I designed and built a new type of centerboard for her, on the principal that it would be ballasted and function as a fin-keel when fully deployed. I built it from steel, filled with lead and polyester resin, for a finished weight of 1,350 lbs. It required an electric winch to raise it, and it had a unique shape to facilitate its ability to function as a vertical fin keel. 

The centerboard required that a substantial part of it remain inside the trunk for lateral strength. The design exceeded my expectations during sail trials, and I have since designed several new versions based on the same principals, including several made from marine plywood instead of metal. I eventually redesigned the underwater shape such that it would have a true foil shape in any cross-section, regardless of how far it was deployed.  

The Sharpie 45SJI IBIS by the author showing her ballasted fin-keel/centerboard

I sailed IBIS to the Bahamas in 2010, ’11, ’12, and ’16, and was happy to learn that a modernized 19th-century fishing sharpie was well suited for cruising both in shoal water and the open ocean. In 2015 I scrapped IBIS’ steel centerboard and replaced it with a modified plywood one, somewhat lighter and with a more versatile shape. 

With a draft of 2’ 6” I felt I had finally reached the minimum draft practical for a cruising sailboat large enough to live aboard, make ocean passages, and shallow enough to go places few other boats could go. During those four cruises in the Bahamas, we encountered plenty of rough conditions in the winter Tradewinds—and in crossing the Gulf Stream eight times. IBIS could motor-sail to windward under jib and reefed mains’l, punching into 6- to 8-foot seas and 25- to 30-knot winds. And yes, she does pound pretty hard in those conditions, but it soon became evident that she could withstand more abuse than I could! 

A second-generation centerboard/fin-keel for IBIS made from lead-ballasted marine plywood

I sold IBIS to a family in North Carolina in 2016, and took them sailing in the Bahamas to teach them what she could do. With my first mate Rebecca McCleary, we sailed to many beautiful and remote places, and caught lots of fish trolling with Cuban “Yo-yo” reels and lures. IBIS was inexpensive and simple to build, and an absolute delight to sail. 

   Left: first mate Becky with a black fin tuna   Right: The author with a dolphin

In late 2016 I began construction on what I was certain would be my last big cruising sailboat. I sold my house in Maine to finance the build, and it took longer and cost much more than I anticipated. I chose a deadrise hullform (V-bottom) inspired by Chesapeake Bay “Buy Boats”—and by the designs of Long Islander Thomas Clapham in the late-1800s. The most famous of these is the “Roslyn Yawl” MINOCQUA, which inspired Thomas Day—founder of The Rudder magazine—to have designed and built his famous SEA BIRD yawl, which he sailed across the Atlantic in 1911. Above the water, PEREGRINE’s topsides are inspired by the beautiful Maine coast sardine carriers—and by the rig designs of L. Francis Herreshoff. 

I designed my hull to be long, narrow and shoal—53’ on deck (57’ LOA), 11’ 6” beam and 2’ 6” draft, board up. I built her in cold-molded marine plywood, covered with Xynole fabric and epoxy. It took 3,500 hours to build her, and she went $30,000 over budget—wiping me out financially. 

The author’s fifth shoal-draft cruising sailboat PEREGRINE on her mooring in Brooklin, Maine, in the summer of 2019

After sailing PEREGRINE to Maine and back in 2019, I decided that her draft was too extreme at 2’ 6”. I therefore designed and built a second keel—a shallow, low-aspect-ratio fin—to be retrofitted beneath her traditional “drag” box keel. I transferred some of my inside ballast into the fin, which I called a “torpedo keel” because that’s what it looked like, and I added another 2,000 lbs of lead, plus concrete and polyester resin to eliminate voids. 

PEREGRINE’S “torpedo keel”, which added ballast and greatly improved stability and sail-carrying ability

PEREGRINE has a big traditional centerboard—12-feet long by 3-feet high weighing 800 lbs. It is built of marine plywood over a core framework of Wolmanized pine, and filled with lead, kiln-dried sand, and polyester resin. With the new “torpedo keel,” the centerboard was shifted down 11-inches, making it even more effective, and increasing draft in the down position to 7’ 6”. The board has a NACA 0009 foil shape below the keel, and is rectangular in shape inside the trunk. It is raised by conventional block and tackle, and is a very simple and effective device. With her Marconi ketch rig and fully-battened sails, PEREGRINE is very weatherly for a motorsailer. 

I sailed PEREGRINE to the Bahamas in March and April of 2020. We were literally the last boat to enter the Bahamas at Bimini on March 17, as the whole country went into lockdown at 0500 the next morning. Because we were concerned about entering the Bahamas at all, we crossed the Gulf Stream in 15- 20-knot easterly winds with six-foot-plus seas. The ride was a little rough and wet, but neither difficult nor uncomfortable for PEREGRINE. We motorsailed under stays’l and mizzen, running the big Yanmar 4JH110 at 2,200 rpm to maintain a speed of 8.5 knots, very close hauled. The crossing took about seven hours, and we anchored off the dinghy dock just north of the Bimini Big Game club in four feet of water—out of the tidal currents. 

We crossed the Banks to Andros on the 18th, and navigated North and Middle Bights, which I had been doing since 2003 in T’IEN HOU, and later in IBIS. From there we had a somewhat dysfunctional cruise because of the Coronavirus, but still enjoyed ourselves. We sailed PEREGRINE in all kinds of weather, including a couple of pretty disagreeable northers, and I concluded that she was an excellent shoal draft cruising home—adept at both gunkholing and ocean passage-making. 

PEREGRINE in the Bahamas in early 2020

*   *   *   *   *Reuel Parker is a yacht designer, boatbuilder, photographer and author of books and magazine articles on maritime subjects (design, construction, sailing and history). He is a lifelong cruising sailor, and currently lives aboard PANTHER, his first personal cruising powerboat. He lives in Maine, South Florida and the Bahamas, and sails further as time and tide permit. You can see his designs at He regularly writes for WoodenBoat Magazine and Professional Boatbuilder Magazine, and has had articles in several others.