January / February 2021

Softly, Softly

The creation of an Iain Oughtred–designed sharpie

More than 30 years after Iain Oughtred developed a fascination with Ralph Munroe–designed sharpies, LUELY, built to his Haiku design, which was inspired by Munroe’s 1886 EGRET, flies down the Beaulieu River in southern England.

There’s barely a whisper of wind as I stand at the end of the pontoon at the Buckler’s Hard Yacht Harbour on the Beaulieu River in Hampshire, England. A family in kayaks paddle past cheerfully, a couple of RIBs rumble upriver, and a flashy 40' sailing yacht moors up next to me, expertly maneuvered into place by a middle-aged couple. On the shallow bend of the river, an egret stalks its prey with a beady eye. And then, above a bright green strip of swamped grassland, two cream-colored sails appear, looking every bit like a pair of wings. As they fly gracefully down the river toward me, the lines of a poem come into my head:

O luely, luely, cam she in And luely she lay doun: I kent her be her caller lips And her breists sae sma’ and roun’.

For this is indeed the lovely LUELY, named after the opening lines of “The Tryst” by the Scottish poet William Soutar, which is coming luely (softly) toward me. And it’s not just the lack of a breeze that is making her approach so luely, but it’s in the very nature of the boat. With her flat bottom and shallow draft (she draws just 13" with her centerboard up), she just skims over the water, finding wind where there seems to be none. And with her unstayed, cat-yawl rig, there are no jibsheets to clatter across the foredeck as she comes about and no rigging for the wind to whistle through (if there were any wind). She moves, quite simply, luely.

Purchase this issue from Woodenboat Store

From This Issue

Issue No. 278
The Wheeler 38 LEGEND

In September 1934, after the writer Ernest Hemingway’s first months with his

Issue No. 278
A.C. Brown & Sons Shipyard

In the early 1960s, when journalist and historian Drew Fetherston felt drawn to

Issue No. 278
Iain Oughtred

It’s strange how our lives so often run in circles.

Issue No. 278
Glued Lapstrake Plywood Plank Clamps

For a winter project last year, I decided to build the Joel White–designed

From the Community