I spent last week in Jupiter, Florida as planned, helping David Halladay and the crew at Boatsmith with the intial set up of the hulls for the Tiki 30 catamaran they are building. It would have been worth the 1600 mile round trip just to see the beginnings of this Wharram catamaran, but as it turned out, I also was fortunate enough to meet yacht designer and author, Reuel B. Parker and see his latest sharpie under construction.
I recently wrote about Reuel Parker here in these pages under the topic: What is a Sharpie? In this post I described his definitave work on these specialized sailboats, The Sharpie Book, published in 1994 by International Marine. I've long been interested in his design work, since like James Wharram he has voyaged and cruised extensively and his focus has been on simple, relatively inexpensive craft that can be self-built by almost anyone.
Before I went to Florida, David told me that he had met Reuel by chance at a boatyard where he had gone to look at another vessel. He saw this big sharpie being built in a corner of the yard, under a temporary tent shed, and immediately thought it was a Parker design. David asked the man working on it if it was, and he said yes, but the builder didn't bother to mention that he was Reuel Parker himself. David only learned this after stopping by a couple more times and attempting to start a conversation. But as he found out, when Reuel Parker is busy building a boat, he doesn't like to waste time socializing. He told David that if he stopped to talk to eveyone who had questions he would never get any work done. But since he did say that he would be willing to talk one evening after working hours, over an ale or two, David and I took off an hour early one day from the shop, stopping along the way to pick up some Bass Ale.
We found Reuel Parker working late that evening, and at first he ignored us, and seemed to have forgotten meeting David previously. We hung around the periphery of his temporary shop and admired the lines of the new sharpie he was working on, carefully staying out of his way. At last Reuel warmed up a bit, and as it was getting late, put his tools down and accepted a bottle of ale. He told us the boat he was building was a stretched and modified version of the San Juan 36 found in The Sharpie Book. This new vessel was 45-feet long and had extra outside ballast in the form of a shallow lead shoe. Reuel had made amazing progress, having just been working on the boat for 9 1/2 weeks. He told us he works seven days per week, and at this stage the outside of the hull was complete with sheathing and primer, and was turned right side up. The interior was over half complete, and he was almost ready to begin decking and building the cabin houses. This 45-foot schooner was being built for a remarkably low outlay in materials, as Reuel has perfected the art of building high quality boats while avoiding expensive, specialized "marine" products.
In the photo below you can see the flared hullsides and gently-arced flat bottom that characterizes a Parker sharpie. Reuel Parker (seated) explains the design to David Halladay. He became much more talkative when he realized we were quite familiar with his design work and that we both have a sincere love of boats. Reuel told us he was building this new design "on spec" just as David is building his Tiki 30.
Below is a view into the stern of this shoal-draft double ender. You can see the simplicity of the construction, with it's plywood hull sides and bottom and framing of mostly ordinary construction grade timbers. Epoxy resin is used throughout for laminating, sheathing, and filleting. The interior paint is an industrial Sherwin Williams epoxy product called Tile Clad #2, described in detail in Parker's books on boatbuilding.
Despite it's shoal draft and simplicity, this 45-foot schooner will have comfortable accomodations for cruising, divided into two separate cabins. Here you can see the dinette area, which is located so that the crew can eat meals while looking out the starboard portlights. The large centerboard trunk can also be seen here, just inboard of the dinette. The plywood hullsides in the interior will be planked with thin strips of tongue and groove hardwood. Most bulkheads are painted white. Every thing is designed for long life and low maintenance.
And speaking of well-built and well-maintained vessels, right next to the yard where Parker is set up, is a marina where Sarah, an outstanding example of one of his cold-molded shallow-draft schooners, is docked. David and I walked over to take a look at her, and I was blown away by the elegance and beauty of this 52-foot sailing vessel. My only regret was that it was nearly dark when I took a few photos of her, but even so you can get the idea below. I'll post more photos and details about Sarah in a future article.
Our visit with Reuel Parker lasted maybe a half hour, after which time he was ready to get cleaned up after a long day of boatbuilding. While talking to him I was so intent on the listening to his thoughts on boatbuilding that I totally forgot to ask if he had any of his books for sale in the office trailer parked right next to the project. So on Sunday morning, when I left Jupiter for the drive back to Mississippi, I detoured back to the boatyard, where I once again found Mr. Parker and had the pleasure of another short conversation with him about boats. I purchased signed copies of two of his books: The New Cold-Molded Boatbuilding: From Lofting to Launching and The Voyages of Fishers Hornpipe.
I'll be reviewing those here as well. I had read a borrowed copy of the cold-molded boatbuilding manual before, and learned a lot from it. The narrative of his earlier voyages on Fishers Hornpipe promises to be an exciting read and I can't wait to get into it. I hope to be back in south Florida soon for the launching of David's Tiki 30, and at the rate Reuel Parker is going, I might be in time to see his new schooner go into the water as well.