The Sharpie "Charlevoix" - a "good little ship"
By Michael O’Brien


A formerly "quiet little boat company" is making a new splash, and in a big way. Lakeland Boatworks of Middleville, Michigan has been manufacturing wood and epoxy recreational boats from 16 to 32 feet for some years now, and their product line has been significantly enhanced by the arrival of their newest creation, the "Charlevoix", a classic yet retro 32-foot ketch.


The Charlevoix is an arc-bottomed 32-foot "sharpie" a wood planked racing-cruising class ketch of stoutness and strength. No other boat offers the performance under sail of a sharpie. Sharpies were originally developed on the Atlantic coast as workboats, seining oysters, clams and crabs in Long Island Sound and up and down the eastern seaboard.

Sharpies have been a part of the Great Lakes scene since the late 1800's. Known for their sea-keeping abilities due to their stable flat hulls, these boats carried cargo or served commercial fishermen. The boats are legendary in their ability to sail in shallow waters and sail at above average speeds.

The Charlevoix is 32 feet long and features an arc bottom amidships with deadrise increasing toward stem and stern. This increases displacement for stability but doesn't significantly affect wetted area for speed. With draft at a little over two feet with the centerboard up, the Charlevoix can explore inland waters as well as the larger lakes. Unlike most sharpies, this model offers a little more headroom and an unobstructed galley, since the centerboard is placed well forward. The 8 foot beam makes this vessel trailerable like all Lakeland models. Their speed, shallow draft, and easy handling caused sharpies to quickly spread to the Great Lakes. Lakeland Boatworks has created the Sharpie from traditional designs and draws upon the University of Michigan's School of Naval Architecture interns for design enhancements to classical styles. The result is boats that have a classic feel, but are more "retro" in their style and appeal. The Charlevoix recently made its public debut at the Annapolis Sailboat Show where it was featured as one of eight "featured boats you haven't seen".

Vessel Construction

Compared to traditional wooden boat construction, Lakeland manufactures their boats using 3 layers of African ocume ply, and a cold molded process with a wood/epoxy monocoque method. This renders a stronger and far more moisture resistant surface which requires less maintenance, and is less subject to corrosion than either traditional wooden boats or fiberglass. This dispells the myth that "wood is high maintenance" because wood covered with epoxy is not subject to shrinking or swelling, blistering or decay. It is also more impact resistant than fiberglass. Epoxy monocoque construction does not contribute to air pollution, unlike more common boat production and thus results in an environmentally friendly manufacturing process. Displacement is around 8,000 pounds. It can easily be transported with her own custom trailer. The boat is pushed with a Yanmar saildrive diesel. Electric and gas engine configurations are also available, and all Lakeland boats come with a 4 year hull warranty.

“Charlevoix” interior shot.

Interior: The interior is laid out for leisurely day-sailing or overnight camp-cruising. The Charlevoix has overnight accommodations for four, and features a starboard pull-out double-berth. The galley is appointed with a sink, cutting board and an ice chest, 2 burner alcohol stove, a microwave, a porta-potty and a fold-down navigation table. It also features four and a half feet of headroom, a little more than most shoal-draft boats. The lengthy cockpit invites relaxed lounging, and is easy to cover with boom tents while camping. An ideal crew is two to four adults, resulting in an excellent day-sailor or weekender for slightly longer cruises. The eight-foot beam allows you to trailer the boat to the nearest launch. Both masts are hollow Douglas fir, so stepping the main and mizzen masts can be accomplished easily.

The Charlevoix under sail

Lightweight and clean lines yield a boat capable of high average speeds, dinghy-like handling, and great pointing ability. The ketch rig is powerful, efficient and beautiful, and needs only light sheet handling when tacking: just put the helm over and you're about. The rigging is designed to be controlled from the cockpit, with easy access to adjustable sheets and lines. Extremely low wetted surface and a big rig mean the sharpie will whisper along in the lightest of air and the shallowest of bottoms. When whitecaps appear, tie in a reef and recline around the cockpit, or hike out if you feel like exploiting the sharpie's impressive hull speed. The sharpie uses a centerboard to get to windward. With the board raised, it's easy to sail the Charlevoix onto a beach or to anchor at the edge of an island. With the board halfway up, the boat will still point well, allowing you to sail in the shallowest water. "She's hungry for the wind", says Lakeland's captain and marketing VP Michael O'Brien, "she points up immediately in a headwind and as you round it down or simply hold your tack she takes off with impressive hull speed, anxious for the next blow. You can cover a lot of distance with this boat, and I've had her in a close reach at over 10-12 knots". Given her arc-bottom and shallow draft, she doesn't need much wind at all to make headway. This is a particular treat for the owner and an accolade to the design team. You can zip across a bay and pull up in a narrows or up to a beach in a shallow-draft location that other boats wouldn't think of approaching. "Her capabilities and handling characteristics are amazing and very special" he added. There just aren't many boats around with this set of capabilities". The Charlevoix Sharpie is truly unique and offers a lot of flexibility, speed and cruising comfort for the money" he added. The boat and accessories can be fitted out to your exacting specifications. Options include exotic hardwood trim, basic cabin modifications, paint schemes, several engine types, and its own custom trailer.

The Lakeland fleet. Now a few years into his dream, Joseph Rahn, president of Lakeland Boatworks has a personal commitment to the Quality Movement. That commitment combined with their internship program with the University of Michigan School of naval Architecture and marine Engineering help to assure a quality product. The Lakeland Boatworks product line now spans seven models, from 16 to 32 feet in length. A new 18,000 square foot manufacturing facility is in the planning stages for Spring of 2006, and it will also be located nearby in Middleville.

Lakeland Boatworks can be reached through their website at: