Sunday, May 4, 2008

Update on Reuel Parker's Latest Build

Back in February, I posted here about how I had the privilege to meet one of my favorite boat designers - Reuel Parker, while I was in Florida working with David Halladay on the beginning of his Tiki 30 project. Well, I've just returned from another work trip to south Florida last week, and this time David and I had the opportunity to visit with Mr. Parker two more times. These visits led to lengthy conversations with the designer about his latest project and boatbuilding and sailing in general.

As when we met him in February, Reuel Parker is working 7 days per week on his latest boatbuilding project - the 45-foot sharpie schooner, Ibis. Ibis is coming along nicely and much progress has been made since I saw the boat the first time. When we arrived one evening at 6:00, thinking maybe Reuel was ready to quit for the day, he was in the process of fitting the starboard bulwark/toerail and was not planning to stop for at least another hour until we interrupted him with an offer of a cold bottle of ale. Remembering us from before and and realizing that we had a genuine interest in his boats and were not there just to bullshit and waste his time, Reuel opened up quite a bit more and really showed us around the boat, explaining how and why he was doing certain things.

The photo below shows Ibis at the stage of construction she was at on Monday, April 28. The interior is mostly done, the houses and decks are completed and sheathed with Xynole polyester cloth, and the bulwarks were being installed.

Reuel describes the new design as a longer version of a 36-foot double-ended sharpie schooner based on the Straits of Juan del Fuca mackeral-fishing sharpies of Washington State in the 1880's. The new sharpie is 45' on deck, 10' beam, 2'6" draft, 15,000 lbs displacement, with an unladen trailer weight of 12,000 lbs. She is a bald-headed gaff schooner, with self-tending sails. She has a new-design centerboard made of steel and lead-ballasted which is a foil-shaped fin when down. The boat sleeps four in two private cabins, has a hot-water-shower, solar-powered refrigeration, and carries an incredible 300 gallons of water and 80 gallons of fuel. Auxiliary power is an Isuzu 3LD2 diesel (40hp), which will propel her at speeds over 8 knots using less than .75 gallons per hour.

You may notice from the photos that the cabin houses appear a bit high in proportion to the hulls compared to some of Parker's designs, but he said this was a compromise to achieve standing headroom for him (5', 10") in a sharpie of 45-feet. The boat is designed for living aboard and extended cruising, and standing headroom is highly desirable for this purpose. Visually, the extra height of the cabins will not stand out too much with the lowering effect of the high bulwarks he is installing and the contrasting paint scheme of cabin sides.

This boat is coming together at an amazing pace for one man working alone, but Reuel Parker clearly knows what he is doing when it comes to boat construction, and he doesn't waste time during daylight hours. He has also perfected the art of building large, high quality vessels with mostly ordinary construction-grade materials, eliminating the need for exotic hardwoods and other materials with the "marine" designation that so dramatically increases the price of boatbuilding. Parker's methods and materials are described in great detail in his books: The New Cold-Molded Boatbuilding: From Lofting to Launching and The Sharpie Book

Below is another view of Ibis, from the port quarter, showing the foremast tabernacle. Both masts will be fitted in tabernacles, as the boat is designed as a "maxi-trailerable" vessel.

Parker's definition of a "maxi-trailerable" is: "These vessels are 46' and under in length, 10' beam, shallow-draft, and 15,000 lbs or less. The concept is to provide cruising boats that can be stored on 40' 3-axle trailers, eliminating the need for slips and boatyards, which are rapidly turning into condos all over the American waterfront. The boats can be towed by a tow truck without permits or escort vehicles, or can be towed privately with only a wide load banner (no escorts). "

I think he is right on target with this design concept, as I see this same thing happening close to home here on the Mississippi Gulf coast as well. Since Hurricane Katrina destroyed so much of the waterfront, taking away the grand old mansions and the boatyards and marinas that were already in short supply, the casino and condo developers are snatching up every bit of property they can buy. The dock space problem is not going to get better, and slip rental fees are bound to keep rising. This is why I chose the Tiki 26 as a design to build after I lost my deep draft cruiser, and this is also what appeals to me so much about Reuel Parker's shoal draft designs. It's a good thing to own a cruising boat, rather than letting a cruising boat own you, but if the boat has to be in the water it's entire life and has to be maintained in boatyards, you really don't own it.

David and I returned again to Reuel's building site on Wednesday morning, to deliver some teak that David promised to bring him in exchange for a copy of his book: The Voyages of Fishers Hornpipe.

Although Reuel doesn't normally use teak on his boats, he did mention that he would like some pieces to get out the hand rails for the cabin tops, and David has teak practically running out his ears in the Boatsmith shop.

This second visit last week was even more interesting than the first, as Reuel invited us into his design office where the walls are covered in boat drawings and photographs and nautical books are stacked high in every available space. Since I had sent him a copy of my book On Island Time after meeting him in February, and also a link to my website, Reuel knew about the web design work I do and the blogs I am doing for my Tiki 26 project and David's Tiki 30 and other projects. He said he would like to get the construction of Ibis on his website somehow, and so now we have agreed to work together to create a blog on the construction of this vessel. This should be good news to the many Reuel Parker fans out there who are hungry for more information on his designs but have found little available on the web.

The other good news for those interested in Reuel Parker designs is that he was considering signing up for PayPal so he could accept credit card sales through his website, and upon hearing from me that I had good experiences with the method of payment, he has done so since Wednesday. You can now go to his website at and purchase all of his catalogs, books, and boat plans using a credit card through PayPal. Reuel Parker is more than ever interested in making his designs more accessible to those who are interested, and I am looking forward to working with him on the new Ibis blog to bring photos and descriptions of his work to the web so that the world can watch as this sharpie schooner comes together. Look for more on this here on Scott's Boat Pages, and when the blog goes live I'll post the link, as well as create a link from


  1. Thank you for putting this on the web!

    I saw my first mention of "maxi-trailerable" in an inset for the new edition of the Sharpie Catalog. I live near the Sacramento Delta, where shoal draft is required, and marina space is insane - one of these vessels sounds absolutely perfect!

    I'm looking forward to reading your blog.

  2. I'm loving this boat, and the down to earth build! Thank you for bringing the Sharpie more exposure on the web.


"A boat is freedom, not just a way to reach a goal."
Bernard Moitessier - A Sea Vagabond's World


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