To give credit where credit is due, this design was initially inspired
by Harry Sucher's wonderful drawings for a Terrapin schooner in his book
Simplified Boatbuilding. Research on the type turned up information (and
a sketch) in Howard Chapelle's The National Watercraft Collection, garnered
in turn from Small Yachts: Their Design and Construction, Exemplified by
the Ruling Types of Modern Practice by C.P. Kunhardt (1886). The type was
a sharpie fishing smack used on the Chesapeake Bay and waters southward
in the late nineteenth century. Chapelle described the Terrapins in detail
in Paper 25: The Migrations of an American Boat Type (1961), including
lines taken from a wreck. I redrew the lines for Chapter One of The Sharpie
Book, and designed my own series of TERRAPINS which are not, properly speaking,
sharpies; but rather arc-bottomed batteaux with sharp, Veed entries.
They do look like the original type above the water line, and carry a similar
rig, except for my smaller models (16', 21' & 25'), which are sloops
of a rig from smaller Chesapeake craft of the same era (most notably the
A total of five Terrapin models are now available, from 16' to 42', for QUICK MOLDED construction. This method is described in our manual The New Cold-Molded Boatbuilding, a copy of which is included with plans purchase.
The Terrapins are designed to be built almost entirely of generic plywood; either ACX, BCX, or BBOES (plyform), which is very inexpensive, and is made with water-resistant glue. Construction is the simplest possible in the cold-molded genre: the bottoms are double-diagonal planked using ripped plywood planks; topsides and decks are formed single-layer using full sheets of plywood. The hulls are planked over longitudinals; there are no permanent frames, floors or cabin sole. Bulkheads are filleted and taped in place after the hull is right-side-up. Quick and clean!
The 34 footer has only 4'7" headroom, but has a large and comfortable interior none the less. The 42-footer has full standing headroom. The 16'er is a day-sailor; the 21- and 25-footers are comfortable, fast pocket cruisers. The three smaller TERRAPINS are trailerable. All are simple, safe and exciting to sail, and the hulls will easily surf off the wind beyond hull speed. They are surprisingly stiff, weatherly and fast. They are pure simplicity. It is doubtful to us that more boat can be obtained for the money. Materials costs for the 34, including sails, outboard motor and simple interior were about $20,000 in early 1989.
The first TERRAPIN 34 was "Tomfoolery". During sail trials she proved to be a fast, stiff and weatherly sailor. Her helm balanced beautifully and she steered herself much of the time. "Tomfoolery" was unexpectedly powerful, but easy to handle by two competent sailors. While few gaff-rigged schooners are ideal single-handers, the Terrapin 34 can certainly be sailed by one person alone. In 15 knots of wind she does 8 knots on a reach, beyond her hull speed, without putting her rail in the water! The batteau hull punches into medium head seas without slowing down or throwing spray. In short--the vessel is a DELIGHT to sail--and there is little in this world as beautiful as a gaff-rigged schooner!