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What is a Sharpie Boat?

By Harriette Halepis
Updated May 17, 2024
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A sharpie boat is a long narrow sailboat with an extremely flat bottom. It is believed that sharpies originated in New Haven, Connecticut, as oyster boats, though this belief is not backed by fact. Still, sharpies are popular throughout Connecticut as well as in other parts of the United States.

New Haven sharpies only require one person to crew them. These sharpie boats often include two masts that are used to create a faster rig. Typically, a New Haven sharpie boat is around 27 feet (8.2 meters) with a plumb bow and a counter-stem. Since oyster fishermen needed a boat that was solid and relatively quick, the sharpie design proved to be just the right kind of boat to collect oysters. Once sharpies were introduced within the Florida area around the year 1881, the Egret sharpie boat appeared.

Commodore Ralph Monroe brought the first sharpie boat to the Florida area in 1881. Monroe eventually created the Egret sharpie boat, which instantly gained popularity. The Egret had flared sides, and it was a double-ended unlike the New Haven sharpie. This new design allowed the Egret to sail rougher waters than the New Haven sharpie. Throughout the 1880s, the Egret sharpie was perfected with the help of other sailors and boat designers.

Recently, the sharpie boat has caught the attention of modern sailors and boat designers alike. As a true piece of marine Americana, the sharpie has been remodeled numerous times since the 1930s. In 1931, the Kroger brothers created a sharpie design that was later used in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. The Kroger brother design was so successful, that the very same sharpie design is used competitively in the United Kingdom, Holland, Portugal, and Germany today.

Original New Haven sharpies were crafted from waterproofed wood, though today's sharpie boats are often made from fiberglass and other modern materials. The sharpie design is regarded as one of the best sailboat designs ever created. Older sharpies are considered collectors items, and even modern sharpies are highly sought after.

Purchasing a sharpie may require a bit of research, since these boats are not sold frequently. Unlike mass-produced boats, sharpies are almost always handmade making them more expensive than most other sailboats in their class. Sharpies are not meant to cross oceans, though modern sharpies are built for speed. The vast majority of sharpie boats can be found in Connecticut and Florida, though many can also be spotted in Australia.

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Discussion Comments
By parmnparsley — On Jul 05, 2011

@Glasshouse- I have read that sharpies are easy boats for the inexperienced boat builder. Because of their hull characteristics, anyone with money, good plans, construction skill, and determination can put together a nice sharpie boat. The smaller boats are almost as versatile as a kayak or canoe, and can be manned by just one person.

Larger boats in the 35-foot range require two to man but are still just as maneuverable. These longer boats are also better suited to longer blue water trips, and can handle rougher waters.

I did an internet search after reading this article and found a number of places where one could purchase sharpie sailboat plans.

By Glasshouse — On Jul 04, 2011

@anon171027- I do not see why a sharpie sailboat would not be suited for the Mediterranean. If you were doing a lot of coastal cruising, I think a sharpie could be great for those waters. I have been to a few places in the Mediterranean where the coastal waters are calm and shallow, and the little islands and peninsulas are plentiful.

I guess it would depend on where in the Mediterranean you are sailing, but I would say a sharpie would be perfectly suited for the sea's conditions. You would probably have to consider building yourself a boat however because there are very few manufacturers that build sharpies. The only manufacturers I have seen are based in the United States and Australia.

By GenevaMech — On Jul 03, 2011

@Cougars- Sharpie boats are niche sailboats. These unique boats are best suited for shallow water and coastal sailing. You are right in your assumption that they are not as steady as a deep hull, heavy keeled sailboat in rough seas, but they can hold their own when under full sail.

Most sharpie boat plans include a retractable centerboard, which is essentially a keel that tucks into the hull. This makes the sharpie very maneuverable in waters around bays, inlets, islands, and other shallow areas. The hull design also makes sharpies great load haulers. The biggest downside is the high center of gravity, and the fact that they are not self-righting when capsized.

If you were someone who loves to sail around the coasts, or go island hopping (i.e., sail the Gulf of Mexico or Florida keys), a sharpie boat would be well-suited. In these settings, a sharpie can raise the centerboard in extremely shallow water, and can safely be beached instead of anchored.

By cougars — On Jul 03, 2011

How do you keep a flat-bottomed sailboat from capsizing? I thought that sail boat design calls for a weighted keel to keep the boat from flipping. Additionally, how does a sharpie boat steer in the water without a keel? Would the flat bottom make a sharpie boat harder to navigate? I have never seen a sharpie boat so I do not know how they sail, or what conditions they are best suited for.

By anon171027 — On Apr 28, 2011

it's a sharpie recommended for mediterranean waves?

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