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Nonprofit boat builders make plans for new craft

This undated photo shows the East End Classic

This undated photo shows the East End Classic Boat Society's raffled off dinghy, left, in front of their workshop. This boat is the first sailboat built by the group since it opened its workshop in 2008, and is now making plans to build a second sailboat next year. Credit: East End Classic Boat Society

A group of volunteer boat builders in East Hampton plans to spend about 400 hours next year making a Sharpie -- a classic flat-bottomed boat with a sail that was popular on Long Island in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Similar to today's clam boats, but without the tapered rear that allows outboard motors to be attached, the boat will hark back to the time when baymen couldn't just drive out onto a beach, but had to sail several miles from their dock to where they were harvesting oysters and clams.

"The prevailing winds were always offshore in the morning and onshore in the evenings. It worked out pretty well for most fishermen," said Burt Van Deusen, a member of the East End Classic Boat Society, who is helping design the boat.

Members of the not-for-profit group make about half their annual $20,000 budget by building and raffling off a small boat every year from their Amagansett workshop. Earlier this month, John Reinbold, a summer resident of Montauk, won a Goeller Dinghy at the raffle, which brought in about $13,000.

While Sharpies -- which resemble a classic Cape Cod oyster sloop -- are work boats with low side railings, the one that will be built next year will be more for pleasure than for work, Van Deusen said.

Its flat bottom allows it to be sailed onto a beach. It will be faster and safer than those original sloops and built with white cedar planking and an oak frame with pine seats. And, it is expected to take less than half the 900 hours of labor it took to build the Goeller Dinghy.

The Community Boat Shop where the group plans to build the boat is open to the public on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. year round. It is behind the town's Marine Museum on Bluff Road in Amagansett.

In keeping with its mission to bring back the skills of handcrafted small-boat building -- the Sharpie will be about 12 feet long -- the group also gives classes in small wood boat design, building and restoration, and boat repair and maintenance.

And while Van Deusen doesn't like to use the phrase "pleasure boat" to describe the Sharpies, which served hardworking baymen for decades, he said the one being built in Amagansett will certainly look pretty.

"We're not quite sure . . . we're thinking about a black hull and naturally oiled interior. Or, we might make it several shades of gray inside. We kind of vote on it as we go along. We want to charm it up a bit," he said.

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