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Thread: Crab Skiffs

  1. #1
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    Default Crab Skiffs

    Lets talk about Crab Skiffs for a minute.

    What makes a good crab skiff? What are some good examples? Can you share some pictures of some you've seen or built? How large and how small makes the average crabber? Sail options?

    Are most dagger boards, center boards, or other?

    Would it be right to call them small sharpies? What is the length to width ratio?

    Most of the boats I've seen called "Crabbing Skiffs" look like what I like, but finding any sort of specific information on them seems daunting.

    Any of you Chesapeake boys (or others) want to share?

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    This what I think a crab skiff oughta be:



    This image is from here. and the inspiration from Chapelle.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    If you're interested in crabbing skiffs, you should order a copy of a small booklet by Howard Chapelle on crabbing skiffs, available for $5 from the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum: www.cbmmstore.org/chbaycrsk.html

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I've read that booklet cover to cover twice. We have it at our local library as well as some other books by Mr. Chapelle (American Small Craft is a title that comes to mind).

    A lot of the crab skiffs I see in books seem to be larger and sometimes double enders. A lot of the crab skiffs I've seen mention of on the net seem to be 14' square stern 'sharpies'. The smaller ones also seem to be true rockered flat bottoms whereas some of the larger ones are v bottoms.

    The Chapelle inspired D Hylan Crab Skiff shown above is darned near perfect in every aspect. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I've studied the plans quite a bit and can't see one line I'd like to tweak. It is a truly gorgeous skiff, and I'd love to build, own, and sail one. She's just a tad big to fit on my lawnmower/4-wheeler/utility trailer. I have slobbered all over my 'puter screen looking at that one. The sad thing is no one else has built it and put pictures where a dummy like me could find em.

    It also seems, at least with the boats I've been looking at, that the smaller crab skiffs seem to carry leg of muttons with a sprit boom, while the larger ones are often 'regular(?)' spritsails, sometimes with or without a small jib.

    I'm also wondering (maybe the topic for another thread?) if a boat this size should be built of 'cheap' pine or plywood. Juniper might be a consideration as well.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    That is a gorgeous skiff.

    I second Mr. Paskey's recommendation to buy Chapelle's pamphlet. It's a great little book. It has designs and a few wonderful illustrations.



    This is Aurora, an 18' modified sharpie skiff from Reuel Parker's Sharpie Book, using lines taken by Howard Chapelle in American Small Sailing Craft (fig 115). These boats were built between about 1890 and 1920:





    This is a centerboard skiff and the design calls for a leg-o-mutton sail, which a typical rig for crabbing skiffs, though some larger boats were rigged like skipjacks. My current rig uses an old used sail (skipjack rig)--I'm still saving my pennies to buy the proper sail.

    Crabbing skiffs varied pretty widely in design--flat bottom, v-bottom, double-enders, transoms...Chapelle lists craft from between about 14 and 27 feet. They share a lot in common with sharpies and are often classified as sharpies, but classifying them properly is just as much about the question, "what is a sharpie?" as it is "what kind of boat is this?" It seems to me that, historically, the term "crabbing skiff" has referred more to a boat's function, whereas "sharpie" refers to a hull's specific attributes. Classification can get kind of messy.

    If you're looking for a build, check out Parker's Sharpie Book. He provides offsets for a few smaller crabbing skiffs. If you're just looking for straight information, Chapelle's books are the place to go (he also provides offsets). I'm sure that others here who know far more than I do will have plenty of advice too.

    What has inspired your recent interest?

    -Nathan
    Last edited by npbarker; 10-25-2010 at 07:08 AM.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Crab skiffs on the bay and crabbing skiffs on Core Sound and crab skiffs being sold as plans all carry different meanings and shapes. You need to understand the limitations of taking an outright fishing skiff and have a sail rig to assist its propulsion. You need to also understand that even a flat bottom or a wharped vee bottom for shallow draft needs either a daggerboard or a swing keel to save your butt too and to actually steer your boat straight too while under sail.


    Your rudder and centerboard will need to be matched if you plan on having a sailing skiff that will go windward. Bilge keels of false keelsons have nothing at all to do with sailing performance and handling, but installed in cross planked bottoms to strengthen the bottom. Conventional framing does not come into play in most of those builds except for the intregal parts and to transfer stresses across both the beam and length.

    Several discussions and comments in a couple threads has addressed rocker bottoms. The flat bottom for sure will not sail like the rocker bottoms either. You need to figure out what you want. The overall length also needs to be under 14 foot if you wish not to title it. But if you use a motor anytime you will still need to title and numbers according to the current rules.

    Your best bet is 15 foot for several reasons , interior room in a vee bow shape thats reduced by the trunk and seating arrangement unless you want to sit on the bottom inside too. Next would be to make use of materials even if you are going with solid wood which also comes in 16 foot, including the cedars.

    Cheap materials? Thats subjective. Juniper is priced almost the same locally as the WRC too. The white pine is junk while the fasteners and bedding costs the same that you should be using for this boat.

    Short of going with the juniper, go to several of the regular lumberyards and pick through their western red cedars which is still being sold in limited amounts and long lengths. Plans? The museum has several already proven too for less than the cost of several cases of beer. If you want a sailboat in that size look no further and get to work tommorrow.
    Pretty boat Nathan, you posted while I was typing.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Quote Originally Posted by mommicked View Post
    I've read that booklet cover to cover twice. We have it at our local library as well as some other books by Mr. Chapelle (American Small Craft is a title that comes to mind)...........I'm also wondering (maybe the topic for another thread?) if a boat this size should be built of 'cheap' pine or plywood. Juniper might be a consideration as well.
    Looks like I hit "reply" too soon (or too late). Everything I've learned about crabbing skiffs is from Chapelle, so I'd be interested if there's more historical info out there too.

    As for building materials, I built Aurora (10+ years ago) with cheap ply and pine. If I were to build it again I'd have used higher quality materials. She's in good shape now but I wonder how long that'll be the case. But you build with what you've got...I was a broke high school kid when I built this boat, so I did what I could. I'm no expert, but for me, this boat is a delight.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    She's just a tad big to fit on my lawnmower/4-wheeler/utility trailer.
    You should be able to put a longer tongue on the trailer to get the boat's weight forward enough to carry it ok.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    You need to understand that even a flat bottom or a wharped vee bottom for shallow draft needs either a daggerboard or a swing keel to save your butt too and to actually steer your boat straight too while under sail.
    Aye sir, I agree fully. I have seen two boat plans that used keelsons (?) instead of daggers or centerboards. I hate dagger boards, but don't mind a boat that uses centerboards or keelsons if they are matched to the sail size.


    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    Your rudder and centerboard will need to be matched if you plan on having a sailing skiff that will go windward. Bilge keels of false keelsons have nothing at all to do with sailing performance and handling, but installed in cross planked bottoms to strengthen the bottom. Conventional framing does not come into play in most of those builds except for the intregal parts and to transfer stresses across both the beam and length.
    I have seen two plans that carry keelsons in lieu of daggers or centerboards to achieve windward ability. One is the weekender, the other is the Natzio Sandpiper. I've sailed neither so I can't comment on performance. I'd love to hear your opinion on the Sandpiper (second boat from the top) as it uses what the designer calls bilge keels. I have no intention of causing a disagreement between yourself and the designer, nor do I wish to cause you to change your thinking. I would like to know why you don't like the design if you don't though. I respect your opinion, although like any knucklehead, I may get very good information and go do something stupid anyhow. I beileve she is designed to screw and glue with external chine logs.
    http://www.broadlyboats.com/modules....ntpage&artid=1

    http://www.broadlyboats.com/conrad/Cnp3.pdf

    http://www.broadlyboats.com/conrad/Cnp4.pdf



    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    Several discussions and comments in a couple threads has addressed rocker bottoms. The flat bottom for sure will not sail like the rocker bottoms either. You need to figure out what you want. The overall length also needs to be under 14 foot if you wish not to title it. But if you use a motor anytime you will still need to title and numbers according to the current rules.
    Aye sir. I might clarify. I do like the concept of both a true flat bottom, but in a sailing or rowing vessel rocker is needed. What I should have perhaps said is flat rockered bottom (as opposed to a v bottom or tortured plywood concept). She would have rocker fore and aft, yet be flat side to side. I've been around planked juniper and fiberglass motor boats most all my life, but sailing and rowing vessels add new concepts and terms that I may stumble over from time to time. A 7' pram, with an electric trolling motor must technically be titled here in NC these days. My trailer has sides, and is wide enough to allow a 4'x8' sheet of plywood to lie flat. The fore and aft boards are removable to allow a small skiff to ride, so long as she isn't too wide. She could probably ride on her side if she were well built but not to heavy, though more likely at that point I'd be looking for an honest boat trailer.

    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    Your best bet is 15 foot for several reasons , interior room in a vee bow shape thats reduced by the trunk and seating arrangement unless you want to sit on the bottom inside too. Next would be to make use of materials even if you are going with solid wood which also comes in 16 foot, including the cedars.
    I'm afraid you are right. A boat can go up to 15' 6" or so on the same bill of materials as a 13' 9" boat in most cases, giving a larger, more versatile boat. And if I am tempted to use a trolling motor to get home, I may as well title it and have built it at 15' 6". My very first concept for a small sail boat was I missed my Sunfish, but wish it had (a) traditional working boat looks and (b) more cargo space for tackle boxes and coolers. Something to go clamming or speckled trout fishing in, or perhaps drift for flounder.

    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    Cheap materials? Thats subjective. Juniper is priced almost the same locally as the WRC too. The white pine is junk while the fasteners and bedding costs the same that you should be using for this boat.

    Quote Originally Posted by erster View Post
    Short of going with the juniper, go to several of the regular lumberyards and pick through their western red cedars which is still being sold in limited amounts and long lengths. Plans? The museum has several already proven too for less than the cost of several cases of beer. If you want a sailboat in that size look no further and get to work tommorrow.
    I have purchased several sets of plans from the museum with the intent of studying them more than building them. I especially like the 15' pole skiff (though she looks as if she was built more for motoring as she has little rocker) and the 19' v bottom that belonged to Dr. Borden (very nice boat, but too big for my meager budget and perhaps patience level).
    Pretty boat Nathan, you posted while I was typing.
    Aye, she is very pretty indeed, and while different than our local boats, she has a lot of the same looks.


    I am a semi unemployed construction worker, and while not asking for any sort of sympathy in any way, my budget is rather limited. But this type of boat has been built on shoestring budgets before, and I'm probably not going to do a gold plated admiral's version. Just a good honest work boat that can be gotten muddy and bloody, hosed out, and spend the winter shivering on a trailer, waiting for spring!

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I also meant to add that if I build a boat from a design that doesn't include sail plans, I'd have to figure the proper size sail and centerboard, and attempt to get them into the right locations. I might be better off in that respect to try to just build a boat from plans, hoping the designer has done his homework in that department.

    I feel like I could probably make a model of a wood skiff that would work, but getting the sail and centerboard correct would be far trickier for me than getting the hull right. I may well be wrong on that score.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    IIRC, there is more than enough info (building notes, reduced plans, tables of offsets) in Reuel Parker's THE SHARPIE BOOK to build his 20' Maryland Crabbing Skiff and he has already done the work of adusting the lines for plywood construction and recreational use and loads. For $15 new at Amazon.com or a little less used or free from your local library, it's a great place to start.
    Last edited by Matthew L; 10-25-2010 at 12:52 PM.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I built Hylan's crabbing skiff.

    I tow mine on a modified light-boat trailer behind a Subaru Impreza.
    It's a blast.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I think there is some confusion on the terminology pertaining to bilge keels, which I take as runners built inside the bottom planking of the boat in cross planking which was being discussed. They reinforce the planks between the main keelson and the chines and has nothing to do with how the boat handles or performs.

    Since you bring up the weekender as being one of the examples that displays this, you seem to be speaking to exterior fixtures of wood fixed in place below the bottom planking. You can buy a weekender for peanuts but will find that the boat will never do what you want the boat to do, IMO. The limited amount of room if you build the boat with the cabin, add that to the amount of additional gear for the rigging, for one thing your costs for your return will leave you with a sour apple taste. Most small sailboat's sails and rigging will cost almost as much as the hull materials by itself too. The weekender rigging is a gaft rig and requires duplicates of everything unless you build your blocks out of wood, yet another project by themselves.

    While there are literally hundreds if not thousands of those boats built in the past, there are other hulls these days for the area that far surpasses the weekender. One thing is for sure, beaching is a real issue with the fixed appendages sticking down. When the tide ebbs in sand, you are basically stuck for bunches of hours too until the water returns.
    Last edited by erster; 10-25-2010 at 07:59 PM.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    DavidF, do you have any more building or sail pics of your lovely looking crab skiff? How long did she take to build? Any issues or difficulties with building? Are you happy with her sailing performance?

    Lance

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Unfortunately, most of the build photos are on the hard drive of a dead computer. But I do have this one, which gives a fair idea of how little space you need to build a skiff. This is just after I turned her. Didn't need help.

    I do have some more sailing shots. This is on Lake Huron.

    This on a lake beach in Vermont.

    And, this on a beach in Maine after an epic sail in the fog near Lubec.


    The boat is a peach to sail and stands up to a breeze, although I wish I had put reef points in the sail because I like sailing in heavy wind.
    It is a very easy boat to row for long periods of time because it tracks like a train. A great fishing and camping platform.
    The plans were spare for someone with my abilities at the time (first boat built from scratch.) But there was a ton of documentation to help me fill in the gaps.
    My choices at the time were windward and flapjack. I chose Hylan's skiff because his lines are better. But now, I think I would like side decks.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    DavidF, looks like you have had some interesting trips in the CS!

    Why do feel the needs for side decks? Does she heel easily when it gusts? Spray from choppy conditions? How well does she go to windward? I'd think that she would look great and possibly sail a bit closer to the wind with a balanced lug. Have you ever slept on board? How do you think a smaller version would handle, say the 13 - 14ft LOA?

    That's probably more than enough questions for one post

    I just love her lines, clean and uncluttered interior and simple, unsupported rig ...

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs







    A Chapelle crabbing skiff based on one in the booklet by CBMM. Plans from Smithsonian.

    If you're wondering why most of the photos are of the stern it's because that's all you generally see of it unless you're in a power boat.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I would like side decks for sitting on when hiking out. I've had the boat out in 25 knots of breeze and it was almost impossible to capsize (I tried in tests) but sitting on the gunnel is uncomfortable for long periods.

    She goes to windward about as well as you can see in the pics. You can point higher but she luffs and loses momentum (momentum is very important in a short heavy boat with a long keel and deep skeg.)

    I've napped aboard but prefer to sleep next to a campfire.

    A smaller one might handle fine but space is one of those things you always want more of (my son doesn't like it when I try to share his tackle box and with this boat you can bring along several rigs.)

    Hope that helps.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I bought this skiff last summer for use in NC. This image was taken by the previous owner. I'm working to lower the mainsail a little.

    Mr. Erster, a fellow forumite, built this by eye a few years ago. I don't have many decent images yet. Its in NC and I'm in MT.

    A future thread.

    Gary


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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    The previous caretaker used the museum's plans to build the rigging since the sails were smaller and he also wanted to rig the boat with a topsail. The plans calls for a 12 foot mast unlike what I used originally, 16'5". In the meantime he also wanted to see under the foot of the sails. This was the rigging he duplicated but never got around to rig the topsail.


    I stuck with one larger main with the reefing in the main that make up for the same amount. The boat sailed in litewinds nicely and was very quick in the weather we used the boat in normally. We reefed at around 15 knots of wind. The jib was also a lapping jib. Both sails were used on Popsicle and was just right for that boat.

    This is the set that was used on the boat originally with a 16 foot mast giving the boat a total of 185 sq. ft.


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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Nice-looking boats. Thanks.

    What's the advantage of the leg-of-mutton rig, which I've got on a Bolger Gypsy, as opposed to other trad types such as a balanced lug?



    I'd cite the simplicity: a) no standing rigging; b) one sheet, and C) a floating boom with snotter that acts as both a vang and outhaul.



    Disadvantages might be: a) a mast (c. 16 ft.) that's longer than the hull; b) no simple way to reef or lower the sail (mine being on an extremely tapered mast); and c) higher C of E than a sprit or lug sail of the same area.

    Just curious—

  22. #22

    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    The advantage of a triangular sail on a narrow double ended boat as opposed to a balance lug is more sail area lower down, and less weight higher up. The worst possible rig you could put on a traditional double ended crabbing skiff as in Parker is a balance lug.

    To get more sail area, a jib. This again places most of the area as low down as possible. But no way do you want anything like a square sail with a spar placed 18 ft up where it has maximum leverage.

    I know, I did it.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    When I sketched out a balanced-lug sail plan (based roughly on the rig for the Goat Island Skiff), the C of E was quite a bit lower than that of my present Bolger-standard leg-of-mutton sail, with a mast 3 ft. shorter.

    We have abrupt, shifty gusts of wind and singlehanded I'd not care to mind a jib.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Some gorgeous boats. I'll bet a lot of these would do well to troll for bluefish and spanish mackerel. Erster, I'd love any details you'd like to share or links to build threads (if you did a build thread) on any of those three.

    I'm also still smitten with D Hylan's and Natzio's two sail skiffs.
    Don't worry, that storm'll prolly just blow on by us.....

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    mommicked,

    I sailed sharpies/crab skiffs while living in Beaufort NC. After moving to Australia I decided to build one and take advantage of the shallow water around Metung. I went with a Reuel Parker design, the 18' modified sharpie skiff, same as Nathan. I've been sailing it for 4 years and have discovered no flaws in the design.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Wouldn't a lugsail have a lower ce than a leg of mutton, given its lower mast and more sail area down low? I just put a lug on my bolger cartopper, a very similar boat to the gypsy, and it works very well, very stable to my surprise (i thought the long yard up high would make it unstable, but it actually seems more stable now)... maybe all those" lugnuts" have something...

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    In sailingskiffs.blogspot.com Jim Luton's stretched Windward 15, CRICKET, is a beautiful example of the type. Mike Wick

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    I suggest that it is time for you to e-mail the museum store at CBMM and purchase the lazer cut model kit of a crabbing skiff. You will learn quickly from building that. Mike Wick

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Nathan and Leaotis-

    beautiful boats - I really like those Parker designs - how did you find the plans to work with?

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    The white pine is junk
    While I would never use the spf 1x stuff for structural material, ie frames stringers etc, I have used it for floorboards on a couple of boats and it worked very well- more than adequate and relatively cheap. Just hand pick through the stuff at your big box store and get it without pith and as free of knots and unwarped as possible.

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    "how did you find the plans to work with?"

    I built from the Sharpie Book. I think I heard that the plans do not contain any more info than the book. I built at the Wooden Boat Centre Melbourne Aus where I received lots of guidance. We drew the boat full scale on the wall (lofting?) and built from that. The book contains all the information you need just not much instruction.
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Mr. Leotis, I've looked at your build thread, and I live east of Beaufort. That is one pretty boat, and I'm fond of 'local' type designs. Nice boat indeed! Does she look 'at home' or out of place along the other boats in the areas you frequent? I know very little about traditional AU small craft as they're in short supply over thisaway!
    Don't worry, that storm'll prolly just blow on by us.....

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    thanks and yes they call drawing it out full size " lofting" over here- not sure what they call it in Aus, Leaotis

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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Quote Originally Posted by mommicked View Post
    Mr. Leotis, I've looked at your build thread, and I live east of Beaufort. That is one pretty boat, and I'm fond of 'local' type designs. Nice boat indeed! Does she look 'at home' or out of place along the other boats in the areas you frequent? I know very little about traditional AU small craft as they're in short supply over thisaway!
    I was motivated by Leotis building thread when I started building Parker's 19' Ohio Sharpie. As a newbie builder I thought the plans and Sharpie book were adequate if not very detailed. But it is after all a fairly simple straight forward build which I really enjoyed and now I am hopelessly addicted.

  35. #35
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    mommicked, The indigenous fishing boats around Melbourne are Couta Boats. They evolved for use in Bass Strait which is just about as different from Core Sound as you can get. Most small traditional sail boats here seem to be of English influence... sorta fat and round to my eye.

    Say "Sharpie" to the average Australian and they will think of something like the Sydney 18s which look like a Crab Skiff after 100 years of development. I know of a few Crab Skiff Sharpies here but not many.
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  36. #36
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    Someone told me that "sharpie" in Austrailia referred to any hard chined boat. No?

  37. #37
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    Default Re: Crab Skiffs

    My boat is a descendant of traditional crab boat sharpies. MALU‘s design is strongly based on Clark Mills Windmill, a modified sharpie designed to be the next step after the Optimist pram.
    http://windmillclass.org/
    I’ve lengthen the hull from 15’ 6” to 17’4” and the beam from 4’8” to 5’2”, and given her a more traditional sheer line. I changed from a dagger board to a centerboard. The sprit rigged main has 94 sq. ft. and the jib 31 sq. ft.. Her construction is okume plywood and spanish cedar glued and sealed with epoxy. Her construction with build in air tanks along each hull.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/airehea...7625301917471/

    michael

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