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The Whiskey Plank

We have asked some of our WoodenBoat magazine contributors to write custom posts here, in a series of blogposts. You may comment (if you’re a member of — It’s free and easy). We are pleased to share these with you. The views expressed are those of the authors and may not necessarily reflect those of WoodenBoat.

The whiskey plank, traditionally, is the last plank fastened into the hull. The occasion is typically marked by a party to celebrate.

by Reuel Parker

SARAH sailing.
SARAH sailing in the Ft. Pierce Inlet in early 1986—Bill Smith on the bowsprit.

Fort Pierce is at the northern extremity of South Florida, about halfway between Miami and Cape Canaveral. It is a small southern city, little more than a century old. It was named after an Army fort built there in 1838, during the Second Seminole War. The city was incorporated in 1901.

by Reuel Parker

The Scow JACOB.
The Scow 45 JACOB—Alix (my delivery crew), and Jill (ace boatbuilder)

Part One—Islamorada

by Reuel Parker

Reuel sailing GATO NEGRO.

I sailed my first cruising sailboat, FISHERS HORNPIPE, from California to Florida in 1979/80. I re-entered the USA at Key West, and fell in love with the island. It was profoundly unlike anyplace I had ever been, and I had been to a lot of places. I found a slip in the old Truman Annex, and then had to find money to pay for it. Because I design, build and restore wooden boats, I soon found a job restoring an antique lapstrake Scottish tender for a cruising family. I also converted it to a sailboat, adding a rudder, daggerboard, mast, sprit and sail, all of which I made. That got me through that first winter—I had arrived flat broke.

by Reuel Parker

Approching the west enterance.

I sold my pilot schooner LEOPARD in late 1998, during my fight with cancer, and several years went by before I built my next cruising sailboat, T’IEN HOU. I launched her in early 2002, and in ‘03, ‘04 and ‘05, ran through the Bights of Andros with her.

by Reuel Parker

Crew members.
In the South Bight of Andros—LEOPARD’S Crewmembers Amy, Scotty & Kris

By Reuel Parker

After running the northern New Jersey coast between Manasquan Inlet and Sandy Hook in the restored 1965 Chris Craft Commander 27 JB, we entered New York Harbor on May 3rd at 11:30. The 5-foot swell that was running turned into the Harbor, and JB literally surfed down the ground swells, blowing out big wings of spray as her bows plowed into the wave troughs. I had never experienced anything like this before (all my ocean encounters having been in sailboats), and after the initial alarm I felt, found it quite exciting.

Verrazano Narrows Bridge
Approaching the Verrazano Narrows Bridge from New York Harbor

By Reuel Parker

Chris Craft Commander
The restored 1965 Chris Craft Commander 27 J.B. just prior to being launched for the first time in a decade

By Reuel Parker

Sail plan.

As a cruising sailor, I have noted for many years the increasing numbers of cruising catamarans. Despite the fact that all my cruising has been in monohulls, multihulls have always been of interest to me. I sailed on a Piver trimaran in the Bahamas with a friend many years ago, and sailed on a couple of the big charter “cattlemarans” in Key West. I have numerous friends who design, build and captain big catamarans, including people at Gold Coast in St. Croix. I have seen Wharram cats everywhere I have sailed, and followed with great interest the designs and writing of James Wharram and Chris White, among others. And because of my interest in early human history, anthropology and underwater archeology (especially migration), I have read every book I could find about Polynesian people and their vessels.

by Reuel Parker

Sea Bright 39 Sail Plan

As many of you know, I am a devoted fan of the Sea Bright Skiff. These remarkable surf boats developed on the New Jersey shore in the early 19th century, and spread around America in the life/rescue service, once they became respected as the most seaworthy of all small craft.

I wrote about them in WoodenBoat Magazine (issue #230, Jan/Feb 2013), featuring a 14′ camp skiff I had just built. I have been designing them since 1995, starting with an 18′ “Microcruiser” intended to sail in the open ocean.

By Reuel Parker

Yawl 43During my research on sharpies, many years ago, I was intrigued by the boats of a Long Island designer/builder named Thomas Clapham. In the late 1870s, Clapham developed a “new” hull shape he called the “nonpareil sharpie.” While traditional sharpies are flat-bottomed, a handful of innovative designers were experimenting with different hull shapes while retaining other sharpie qualities, which included a narrow beam-to-length ratio, light displacement and flaring topsides planking. Clapham’s contribution was the V-bottom, and he is often considered to be the “father of the V-bottom boat.” And thereby one of the fathers of the modern American sailing yacht, along with N.G. Herreshoff and Ralph Monroe.


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