to or


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. If you want to contribute your own original posts, we ask that you do so at “Your Turn,” not here. 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

Mast Section
Mast Section from step to spreaders, 9 1/2″ x 7 1/2″ outside dimensions

I have developed a “new” mast construction method for use on light- to moderate-displacement sailboats having a Marconi rig, and for motorsailers. I put “new” in quotes because I am sure it has been thought of before now.

The four corners of the new construction sequence are all made identical in section, from Douglas fir or Sitka spruce 3x3 lumber. The corner pieces are rounded to a 2 1/2″ diameter radius, the inner corner is cut to a 45-degree bevel (to lighten the mast), and 1/2″ x 3/4″ rabbets are cut onto two corners to receive 1/2″ marine plywood front, back and sides. The corners are epoxy scarfed (8::1) full-height. They are identical in every location, greatly simplifying construction, as all corners are cut using a table saw set to the same settings. All mast taper is made on the plywood sides, back and front.

By Reuel Parker

The fishing camp
The fishing camp in Islamorada, Florida Keys, as we found it

In early 1985 I searched South Florida for a place to set up a small informal boatyard—really just a place to build my newly-designed Exuma 44 cat schooner in cold-molded wood. Camping out with a group of friends in the Keys, I found an overgrown, deserted property on the south shore of Windley Key (Islamorada) that seemed perfect. It had about three acres, a ruined fish-camp shack, a 100′ canal and concrete dock, and no neighbors on either side. The land was on a stretch of old A1A that ran parallel to the Overseas Highway, and was therefore quiet and isolated, having virtually no traffic. My kind of place!

by Reuel Parker

The schooner IBIS

For over 35 years I have lived, on and off, as a cruising sailor. In addition to designing, building and restoring wooden boats, this has been my life. In all those years, I have learned a lot, and made a lot of observations. Cruisers are in some ways a huge community, spanning oceans and borders, as well as lifestyles and economies. So there is overlap, a great exchange of information, and mutual learning experiences.

There are as many types of cruisers as there are people and boats. We are a very diverse group, in every way imaginable. But some things tie us together, because we all have to deal with them: Like anchoring.

by Reuel Parker


Around 1991, Jon Eaton (my editor at International Marine Publishing) suggested that I write a book about sharpies. He knew I was a fan of the type (inshore fishing/oystering/crabbing boats), and I gladly accepted the assignment.

I researched the history of sharpies in various museums and historical societies on the US East Coast, from Mystic Seaport to Miami. I already owned many books, pamphlets and government papers about sharpies, especially from marine historian Howard Chapelle.

by Reuel Parker

Australia 47
Australia 47, featuring L-Head rotating wing masts

In 2003 I received a commission to design a 47′ aluminum schooner for a doctor in Australia, who wanted a fast, shoal-draft racer/cruiser. I designed new rotating wing L-Head masts for her, using modern hardware, winches and aircraft-grade plywood for the mast sides. The new masts, while based on my earlier low-tech L-Head masts for the Conch 32, were designed considering the conditions likely to be encountered in the Southern Ocean. I designed the schooner to ABS requirements for offshore racing yachts—all aluminum scantlings being carefully chosen for weight, dimensions and strength. We did a full hydrostatics workup to ensure self-righting abilities in capsize conditions. My engineer Tom Lokocz Adams collaborated with me on this project. I featured her in my article for Professional Boatbuilder Magazine on shoal-draft stability (issue #139), and included her in my IBEX session on the same subject in the fall of 2013.

by Reuel Parker

Conch sail plan
Conch 32 Sail Plan (select image to enlarge)

In the late 1990s it occurred to me to design a trailerable one-design racer. I was living in Key West, and I also saw this as a way to get involved in Key West Race Week, a fairly major event in the world of fast sailboats.

Most small one-design racers have fin keels and require custom trailers, necessitating the use of a crane or Travel Lift to launch and haul them. Without very much knowledge or experience with one-design classes or rating rules, I simply dove into the project. I figured that one-design boats primarily race against each other, so I could design what I wanted… and I had a lot of ideas I wanted to try.

by Reuel Parker

T’IEN HOU in her early “Lorcha” persona, anchored off
New Bight, Cat Island

I first sailed to the Bahamas in early 1981, in my cutter FISHERS HORNPIPE. I had sailed the HORNPIPE from California, through the Panama Canal, arriving in Key West in late 1980. Since the Bahamas were pretty much on the way to anyplace north, I decided to make a quick perusal of them. I didn’t expect much, after the Pacific Coast, Central America and the Western Caribbean—I figured the Bahamas were just too close to the USA to have any good, unspoiled cruising. I was very wrong!

By Reuel Parker

In cruising, sometimes something good comes out of something bad. On Friday the 13th of April 2012, I was sailing homeward bound in my sharpie schooner IBIS. I had three close friends on board, and we were enjoying the unparalleled beauty of the Exuma Cays Land and Sea Park. We had been anchored for the night off the crescent beach at the southwest end of Hawksbill Cay, a place I have visited many times. I have known for years that there are ruins of a colonial plantation on Hawksbill, and I have always wanted to explore them. Exploring ruins is a lifelong passion of mine.

by Reuel Parker

No, they are not a myth—Reuel’s Angels really do exist!

by Reuel Parker

For many millennia, sailboat masts have been made from trees. Trees are an obvious choice, as they are essentially ready-made masts, as if designed and grown for that purpose, which indeed they are, right down to the correct taper. Dry them out, strip the bark off, seal the wood, lash on hardware and rigging and off you go!


Subscribe to The Whiskey Plank