New Haven and North Carolina Sharpies

New Haven Sharpie

The New Haven sharpie, a flat-bottomed sailing skiff, was originally developed for oyster fishing,
about the middle of the last [19th] century [[ca 1850]].

New Haven sharpie

Very economical to build, easy to handle, maneuverable, fast and seaworthy, the type was soon adapted for fishing along the eastern and southeastern coasts of the United States and in other areas. Later, because of its speed, the sharpie became popular for racing and yachting.

This study of the sharpie type - its origin, development and spread - and the plans and descriptions of various regional types here presented, grew out of research to provide models for the hall of marine transportation in the Smithsonian's new Museum of History and Technology.

THE AUTHOR: Howard I. Chapelle is curator of transportation in the U. S. National Museum, Smithsonian Institution.

New Haven Sharpie

FOR A COMMERCIAL BOAT TO GAIN widespread popularity and use, it must be suited to a variety of weather and water conditions and must have some very marked economic advantages over any other boats that might be used in the same occupation. Although there were more than 200 distinct types of small sailing craft employed in North American fisheries and in along-shore occupations during the last 60 years of the 19th century, only rarely was one of these boat types found to be so well suited to a particular occupation that its use spread to areas at any great distance from the original locale.

Those craft that were "production-built," generally rowing boats, were sold along the coast or inland for a variety of uses, of course. The New England dory, the seine boat, the Connecticut drag boat, and the yawl were such production-built boats.

In general, flat-bottomed rowing and sailing craft were the most widely used of the North American boat types. The flat-bottomed hull appeared in two basic forms: the scow, or punt, and the "flatiron," or sharp-bowed skiff. Most scows were box-shaped with raking or curved ends in profile; punts had their sides curved fore and aft in plan and usually had curved ends in profile. The rigs on scows varied with the size of the boat. A small scow might have a one-mast or two-mast spritsail rig, or might be gaff rigged; a large scow might be sloop rigged or schooner rigged. Flatiron skiffs were sharp-bowed, usually with square, raked transom stern, and their rigs varied according to their size and to suit the occupation in which they were employed. Many were sloop rigged with gaff mainsails; others were two-mast, two-sail boats, usually with leg-of-mutton. sails, although occasionally some other kind of sail was used. If a skiff had a two-mast rig, it was commonly called a "sharpie"; a sloop-rigged skiff often was known as a "flattie." Both scows and flat-bottomed skiffs existed in Colonial times, and both probably originated in Europe. Their simple design permitted construction with relatively little waste of materials and labor.

Owing to the extreme simplicity of the majority of scow types, it is usually impossible to determine whether scows used in different areas were directly related in design and construction. Occasionally, however, a definite relationship between scow types may be assumed because of certain marked similarities in fitting and construction details. The same occasion for doubt exists with regard to the relationships of sharp-bowed skiffs of different areas, with one exception-the large, flat-bottomed sailing skiff known as the "sharpie."


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