Updated aug 20 2006 at 13:00.

Building the "Mystic"

The first cruise with "Gryningen" (Dawn) which is a Ted Brewer designed "Mystic" sharpie is described here. Building the boat is described below.

Plans for "Mystic" were ordered in June 1999. I had two different models in mind, a slightly smaller boat "Windswept" that is strip planked with plywood bottom and the 32 foot long "Mystic". "Mystic" seemed so easy to build that I selected the bigger one of the two. I started the work on "Mystic", that will be called "Gryningen" (dawn in Swedish) in the future according to my youngest doughter, at the end of the summer of 2000. During that summer the strong back was built and a few frames. During the summer 2001 the body was essentially finished but the body was left inverted for the winter to avoid damage due to water freezing inside the boat. In early spring 2002 the body was turned over and internal work and decking could start. Work started from the forward end moving backwards. It was essential at this stage to plan the building steps in such a way that everything was easily accessible like building the forward bunks before laying the deck. At a relatively early stage the centreboard case (massive!) was installed and the centreboard slot was made. The centreboard was built from several layers of plywood with stainless steel armament. A ca. 50 kg lead weight was added at the aft end of the centreboard to ensure that it won't float up by itself. During the spring 2003 the engine was mounted and the first set of fittings were hotgalvanized. So far almost all fittings are self made from soft iron because it is easy to work and I believe that they will last reasonably well when hot galvanized (time will tell!). Another positive thing about making fittings from ordinary iron is that it is dirt cheap! If my selfmade fittings give me problems I will replace them later with similar ones made from stainless steel.

The "Mystic" is an American sharpie selected especially to allow me to keep my boat at our own beach. The entrance to our place is very shallow (70 ... 90 cm) which means that the "Mystic" is perfect having a draft of slightly over 1 foot (30 cm). The engine I am going to use will increase the draft to ca. 45 cm but that should cause no problems. Another reason for selecting the "Mystic" is that it is very simple to build and having no personal building experience it looked like the best bet. Additionally I feel the boat looks very nice and traditional in spite of probably being faster than most modern boats of the same size.

Sharpies are fairly narrow flat bottomed craft using centreboards. Modern sharpies are built mostly from plywood with bulkheads and other internal components forming structural parts of the hull. The construction ensures high strength and very low weight which in turn should ensure a very fast boat that easily surfs (planes). A modern sharpie can best I think be compared to modern wind surfers which of course are known to be very fast.

Reuel B. Parker has described the speed potential of sharpies in his "The Sharpie Book" (ISBN 0-07-158013-1), recommended(!). The book can be ordered from Amazon. The book has the following quotation from "American Small Sailing Craft". It is unclear if the examples are for working sharpies of for extreme racing sharpies:

The speed of the sharpies has ample testimony, and some of the large boats were found to have sailed at remarkable rates: one sharpie covered eleven nautical miles in thirty-four minutes (over 19 knots!), and another averaged 16 knots for three consecutive hours. These high speeds were obviously with started sheets and with the hull in planing attitude.

In another place in the same book it is stated:

The pure racing sharpies of the Connecticut coast were completely radical. They carried square sails on the foremast and had double sprits (one above the other) on the sails. The sprits on the fore sail was often so long that they had to be eased by slacking the snotters when tacking or jibing, or they would break against the mainmast. Two planks were carried, about 16 feet long, which were run out to windward as "springboards." Eleven of the 12-man crew sat out on these to keep the boat from capsizing. One of the 35-foot racers described by Chapelle carried 2,250 square feet of sail, so you can see why they reached speed close to 20 knots...

In Australia there is significant racing activity with sharpies. Do a search for "Sharpie" on the net.

The picture below shows the situation in march 2003. Observe snow and ice on the ground!

During the summer 2001 the frame of the boat was built. All heavy beams were laminated from local pine. No oak was used mostly due to problems of availability and problems with gluing. Laminating the beams proved easy and if I build another boat in the future I will use the same method again. It is easy to spring thin planks around the body single handed. I would not like to do the same with heavy planks. All main beams were laminated using epoxy glue. Because I didn't have enough clamps laminations were screwed using stainless steel screws that were left in the laminate. Leaving the screws in the laminate is not very nice actually when later fitting the deck beams because mr Murphy ensures that you always will find screws when you are doing cuts in the beams. In some places I was able to think ahead to avoid the problem but not always. On the other hand finding screws means that one improves ones sharpening skills. The reason for leaving screws in the beams was to ensure that if there is delamination cracks will stop at the next screw and catastrophic propagation should be avoided.

The picture shows the house seen from the rear. The roof beams are put temporarily in place to provide a feeling for the form of the roof. The house sides will require significant shaping to fit the roof.


The boat has been built mainly from materials that are easy to get locally and of course inexpensive. In practice this means that all parts specified as oak are replaced by locally grown pine. Because everything will be glued there shouldn't be any necessity for oak (that holds mechanical fastenings very well).

The planking is done from local construction plywood (pine/spruce). Because all domestic plywood is made using recorsinol glues it should be perfectly OK for marine use. I even think that it is a good thing that epoxy penetrates well into the plywood. B.t.w. penetration can be improved significantly by adding alcohol (Ethanol) to epoxy perhaps 20%. The alcohole will evaporate before the epoxy sets but it will help the epoxy to penetrate the wood. Because the plywood is covered by one or two layers of epoxy glass the cheap plywood should be ok. Inside the house better birch plywood is used for visible parts because it has a better quality surface.


Many thanks to my brothers for the 17 Hp Volvo diesel with sail drive. The engine was taken from the catamaran shown in the picture below. Removing the diesel engine installed between the hulls and replacing it with a light 9 Hp out board lightened the catamaran by ca. 200 kg. This increased the speed from a maximum of ca. 9 knots in good wind to ca. 15 knots because the lighter boat now starts to plane and isn't restricted by hull speed.

Originally my intention was to use a 9 Hp outboard in a well. A diesel is clearly better but it required some design changes (without asking Ted!). The foot well will be slightly smaller than originally planned. There will also be an extra deck hatch to allow easy removal of the engine and/or saildrive. The picture shows the situation just after the engine was lifted in place. The through hull for the saildrive is ca. 150 mm thich laminated plywood set in the same place as the outboard well. The lamination does not contain iron in order to allow easy modifications in the future (use of router). The hole is epoxied to waterproof the plywood.

The engine weight is ca 150 kg including the saildrive. I used one of the boom fittings to make a simple crane. Using self made blocks it was a fairly easy matter to lift the engine onboard. The picture shows the situation just after the engine was lovered in place.

The engine mount is made from galvanized soft iron. Fortunately the original engine mount was available which made it easy to make a simple pattern for the engine mount. The mounts were welded in place to ensure good fitting.

The picture below shows how the pattern was used. Metal parts were fitted directly to the pattern before welding. Time will show if the engine mount is strong enough or if there will be problems with fatique.

Observe that the sail drive hasn't yet been connected to the engine. Of course I realized through trial and error that the sail drive has to be fitted in place before the engine :(. To fit the saildrive the engine had to be shifted 20 cm forward temporarily. The operation was useful on the other hand because I thus understood that enough free spece should be left in front of the engine to allow removing it later.


The "Mystic" is designed for round wooden masts. I originally planned to make round "bird's mouth" masts where 8 staves are used. Producing eight tapered staves with the required precision and handling eight staves simultanously and knowing that the glue would set in a short time seemed too frightening though. Thus I decided to build very simple box section masts. The fromt and the back of the masts vere based on 50x150 mm scarphed (12:1) pieces. Due to the thickness of the front and the back the side parts were wery small staves. The first scarphed heavy part (back side for example) is used as the base to which the side distance pieces are glued. After checking that the first glued part is true the front side heavy part can be glued one piece at a time which makes the handling of the pieces much easier and also gives more handling time before the glue starts to set. Of course I forgot to use this technique for the main mast scarphing both the front and the back pieces before gluing the mast. Handling 9 m parts (single handed) that taken separately bend as easily as spagetti isn't very pleasant!

The hollow parts of both masts are loosely filled with crumbled aluminum foil. In this way the masts will become ca. 5 m lång radar reflectors because the vooden masts are partially transparent to radar waves. The radar is thus able to see the foil inside the masts and the echo seen is good. This kind of radar reflector has been tested for example by L & L Pardey.

When assembling the masts I added a network cable (providing several twisted pairs) intended for future instrumentation needs. I also added a antenna cable and cable for power for possible future masthead lights.

The mast construction is clearly seen in the picture below. Observe the very large number (actually too few) of clamps. I have some 30 clamps and ten more would have been welcome!

General comments

Ted Brewer's "Mystic" is an extremely light fairly big sailing boat for coastal use. According to Ted it has logged speeds over ten knots over one nautical mile. The displacement of the boat is slightly over 2500 kg which is extremely light for a boat of this size.

I have done some preliminary stability calculations based on the original design. My own "Mystic" has the freeboard increased by ca. 50 mm to ensure better reserve stability and also as an extra bonus to give more headroom in the house. The calculations indicate that the "Mystic" with polyurethane filled masts should be self righting up to ca. 120 ... 125 degrees. This means that that it is stable enough even for offshore use. This result should be compared to present day's very wide body boats where the corresponding value is only 115 degrees. The final calculations will be made during the winter 2003 when I am able to get a better picture of the real mass distribution of the boat. It is also possible that I will do some simple real stability test to check the calculations. The picture below should thus so far be viewed with some healthy scepsis. The graph is for a unmodified "Mystic" with 600 kg (ca. 1200 punds) of ballast. The center of gravity is assumed to be 200 mm above the waterline.

Metal Fittings

Finding fittings for a wooden boat designed around 40 years ago is difficult. There are some companies on the internet that sell "Classic boat" fittings but finding a fitting of the correct size is still difficult and "classic" boat fittings tend to be very expensive. Reading a book of L & L Pardey I realized that the goose necks and window frames ought te be fairly simple to produce. I found a suitable model in L. Francis Herreshoffs book "Sensible Cruising Designs". I did some simplifications to make the plugs easier to make in plywood (I increased some dimensions slightly). Because the original model is taken from a modified sharpie of the same approximate size as my "Mystic" I think the goosenecks are strong enough.

After some fairly extensive search I found a small special foundry "Erikoisvalu Oy" close to Helsinki that was willing to cast the very small series I needed, two sets of goosenecks and four window frames. The price I payed was significantly lower than the price for similar components bought from a chandler.

The exercise clearly showed that a person able to make the necessary wooden plugs and able to use a drill press and a lathe has no need to fear making custom fittings in bronze. The price of the fittings will probably be lower than the price for similar factory made fittings.

The window frames and the goose neck are shown in the pictures below.

The summer 2005

The summer was used to finish hundreds of small details like installing the rudder ... and finding out that the rudder came too close to the folding propeller when folded. A significant part of the front of the rudder had to be cut away. It will be interesting to see if steering gets very heavy with the rudder less balanced. Fortunately the rudder was made in metal which means that it is easy to cut off the offending part. If necessary I'll add some surface to the fron/bottom of the rudder next spring to improve balance.

I made a lot of small metal fittings for the masts and booms in stainless steel when I found a good supplier of stainless material. Stainless is unpleasant to drill but welding turned out to be easier than ordinary soft steel.

In July the boat was launched with all the expected complications from building it with the rear towards the land. I had called a launching party to celebrate five years of building but we only succeeded in moving the boat a few meters until it was stuck. We had some nice food and coffee and made some new plans ... During the next few days I moved the boat into the water with some help from my son. It turned out that the heavy rubber rollers I had made were too week. My elder brother told me to try the biggest possible fenders to use as roller. The idea worked perfectly. It was easy to gently lift the whole boat using six fenders and an compressed air pump. A single big fender was able to lift the whole boat!

The next step was to install the instrumentation for the motor. Some debugging was necessary because some wires were missing. Fortunately the wiring diagram was available even if not completely accurate. The engine runs like a dream, evenly and very quiet compared to my other boat's air cooled 5 HP diesel.

The first test of the engine was to motor to a marina close by that has a mast lift. After some waiting for reasonable weater (less than storm winds :) ) the masts were lifted in place on the second try. The first try showed that the main mast was 2 ... 3 mm too wide for the hole in the deck. A few minutes at home with a power plane together with some warnish fixed the problem.

Of course I measured the masts and holes for the masts thoroughly before trying again. The main mast was lifted in place without problems. Then the mizzen mast was lifted and found too wide for the hole ... fortunately the mast was only turned 90 deg to the side (sail track to the side) and because the mast isn't square there was a problem. Turning the mast allowed it to be lovered into place.

During the next two weeks booms were fitted together with blocks and sheets. The picture below shows what the boat looks like during the weekend september 10...11. The jib is being tested to check that the general dimensions are OK. The next picture shows the boat from the front. As shown the boat lies ca. 20 m from our house. . There are still a lot of details to finish but the goal is to finish the boat enough during the month of september to be able to try sailing a few times. Time is running out though because with some bad luck the first snow (that will not last) may come in october.

First sailing experiences

The first sail trial with all sails up was done on october 2. The wind speed was 5 ... 6 m/s (10 ... 12 knots). When going windwards the speed generally was around 5 and 5.5 knots. There were no steering problems in spite of my rudder modification (see details above). It was easy to adjust sheets to allow the boat to steer itself.

The first trials indicated that the mizzen sheet block should be moved perhaps 50 cm forward to give natural sheet angles. The main boom was ca. 10 cm too short. This will be fixed by extending the boom end fitting (metal). I had to do a similar kind of extension with the jib boom. I use a jib boom to allow easy single handed sailing.

The area where I am going to sail

The east coast of Sweden and especially the southern part of Finland are very special areas for sailing in the summer. The sailing season is in practice from the beginning of May (this is normally ca. 2 weeks after the last sea ice melts at our place) to the middle of october.

The best time is usually June ... August but finns normally prefer July. In July the temperature at sea, when when the sun shines, is around 20 deg. C occasionally significantly higher. It is perfectly possible to sail all around the clock because in the middle of the summer there is no real night. The sun sets in the night but it is so close to the horizon that there is light in the North all through the night.

I made a special page describing the kind of sailing waters we have here. There are no tides and generally insignificant currents. Coastal navigation is ordinarily done visually because one is close to islands all the time. This means that one has to be alert and know the exact position all the time because there are at least as many :) rocks as there are islands. On the other hand there are sheltered places everywhere in a blow.

The future

If you happen to read this page and you have built/own another "Mystic" or similar type of boat let me know. I am very interested in future boat swapping. The southern coast of finland is a very nice and safe cruising area with ca. 30 000 islands from Sweden in the west to Russia in the east. Sailing here is very nice during June, July and August. The optimum is probably July and August when the water is fairly warm (18 ... 20 deg). There are no tides here and thus also almost no currents. I have personally never experienced an environment with significant tides, but it surely would be interesting.

You can reach me at the address:

Lars . Silen @ kolumbus . fi

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