Derek Ellard was born in England, and did most of his early sailing off the East Coast. He emigrated to Australia in the 1980's, and soon afterwards designed the Scruffie 16, and founded Scruffie Marine to spread the word.
The 16 was a great success, with its long fixed ballasted keel, and simple rig
more for use than ornament, and this soon lead to a larger version - the 18' Stornaway, and a smaller one - the 12' Shimmy. The same concept was then developed into a real cruiser - the 24' Scintilla.
All of these designs were developed and improved, and the pride people put into building and finishing their boats led to more effort being put into the hardwood trim, the laminated beams, the techniques to get a really good finish, and the boats were "scruffy" no more.
Such is the reputation of these boats in Australia that outward-bound operators and schools use them extensively, and the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) use them for cadet training. It's also worth noting that at any one time over 25% of Scruffie Marine customers are professional seafarers. The boats rarely, if ever, come on the market and several customers have driven a thousand miles to acquire a good example.
In 2000, Derek brought all his experience to bear on a new project which became "Secret" - an entirely new design, which used the same build system, and shared the same "family values" as the rest of the range, but which melds together perfectly the English and the Australian - she looks like a miniature East Coast smack, and goes like a Sydney Harbour skiff.
In 2003 Max and Elaine Campbell bought the first Secret kit destined for the UK, and were so impressed with the design and the kit that they founded Whisper boats to promote the Scruffie Marine range in the UK.
Scruffie's designer, Derek Ellard, is an ex-East Coast sailor, who grew up tackling the strong tidal streams and uncertain breezes of the English coast. If you need to short tack up a river to get to your mooring before the light goes, you realise that sailing performance isn't only about winning races. Derek still loves sailing, and refuses to design a boat that doesn't sail well. All the Scruffie boats will at least keep up with other similar sized boats, and some (especially Secret) will get to that mooring with time to boil the kettle, settle down in the cockpit and watch the rest catch up in the dying breeze.
The materials and method of building result in a very tough, rigid and durable hull. The engineering of the design puts stresses through the substantial plywood components, which interlock in 3 planes. Beams, and some stringers, are laminated for extra strength.
All the boats are built on a ready-made keel. This adds strength to the hull, whereas a centreboard case is usually a weak point (frequently the source of leaks), and it makes building faster and easier. Compared to a lifting centreboard with its associated case there are many advantages when sailing.
The total area is greater than the average centreboard, so windward ability isn't compromised, and the ballast is as low as possible to maximise the righting moment.
The external hull surface is sheathed in glass cloth and epoxy, and every wooden surface is saturated with epoxy. The hardwood trim will need a fresh coat of varnish occasionally, but with this minimal maintenance the boats will literally last a lifetime (probably several!). Repairs are far more straightforward than with a GRP hull.
All the boats, except the 12' Shimmy, can carry sufficient ballast in the keel to be self-righting from knockdown. Combined with the form stability this gives exceptional comfort and confidence, especially for the less experienced crew.
Secret is designed for a gaff cutter rig, which gives plenty of sail area low down and allows all spars to be stowed in the length of the boat. The mast is mounted on a tabernacle to allow easy lowering for bridges, as it is on Stornaway and Scintilla.
Scintilla can also be rigged as a gaff cutter, but is more usually equipped with the Scruffie signature rig - a loose-footed standing lug. Scintilla and Stornaway have a small, unstayed, mizzen for manoeuvrability, enhanced flexibility and a host of useful advantages.
The loose-footed mains are obviously safer than a mainsail with a boom, especially when gybing, and combined with the wide mainsheet travellers allow the sail to take up a naturally efficient curve both to windward and off the wind. Perhaps their greatest advantage is that they allow brailing lines on the mainsail, an idea borrowed from the Thames Bawleys. These allow instant depowering and stowage of the main (up against the mast and yard - out of the way), simply by pulling a light untensioned line from the cockpit. In the yawls you are then left with a small sail at each end of the boat, giving the ultimate in controllability.
The smaller boats have single unstayed masts for the shortest possible set-up time.
The yard doesn't need to be dipped when tacking - although that is an option if standing a long beat.
Construction is described elsewhere, but anyone can build a seaworthy and good-looking boat which will be worth far more than the cost of the kit. You can buy a secondhand plastic boat, which will depreciate slowly, or you can buy a kit and make money!
All the wood is of the highest possible quality. Plywood is highly specified and closely controlled, and from sustainable sources. Other structural timber, mainly Oregon pine and Cedar, is also carefully selected. Customers choose the hardwood for the trim, from a range of beautiful Australian species, and it is that wood used for laminating structural beams, with Cedar for lightness.