I’m coming up to retirement, and around January this year I got rid of a couple of old 50s Herons. It didn’t take long for the ‘I’m boatless’ feeling to strike, and when it did, I suddenly realised I would soon have the time to build a boat instead of buying one, as I’d done in the past.
That revelation was quickly followed by the second even more interesting thought, and that was that I didn’t have to build a boat that had been built before, I could build whatever I liked.
Not long after I first subscribed to WB, there was that great Bill Schwicker article on the Egret replica he built (WB 56, Jan-Feb 1984), with a magic photo of it sailing across the Florida shallows.
That image has stuck in my brain for more 25 years, and the waters here in Queensland’s Great Sandy Straits, where I live part time and flyfish, are a close replica of the Florida flats. What I wanted was a twenty odd foot version of Bill’s boat.
For months I searched high and low, pretty much in vain, for plans of what I was after. Even Schwicker’s own 19’ Sharpie had a round stern and was not what I wanted. I must have collected a hundred or so shots of sharpies off the web, and a few plans, but all were flat or round sterned.
Then by chance I came across an article comparing the lines of a certain hull with those of Egret. If I had guessed where I might eventually find plans I would have said somewhere in the south eastern states of USA, but low and behold, the author of this article lived nearby, and was a boat designer. Strangely, he lived two hours inland from the coast, but near a large lake.
As the planets started to align, I remembered a friend from up at the Sandy Straits had built a lovely strip planked boat last year (I went for a sail in it over Christmas) and he mentioned the designer lived inland not far from us. After a quick check with my friend that this boat designer was an ‘ok’ bloke, I rang him. His name is Ross Lillistone, and it turns out he has quite a reputation as a small boat designer.
With a little trepidation, I gave him a ring, told him with little introduction (I thought it best just to launch into my dream) about my desire to build a twenty foot version of Egret, and to my great delight he confessed something. I can’t remember his exact words but they went something like this. ‘You know, as I sit here in my studio, I have two pictures of boats on the wall, one of which was going to be probably the last boat I will build for myself. The two pictures have stayed there because I can’t make up my mind. After talking to you, I realise I’ve harboured the same thoughts about designing a smaller Egret, and I think that’s what I’d really like to build’.
And so has started a magical journey. You can read Ross’s more pragmatic account of the beginning of this tale on his blog, and it’s an excellent and proper account of the design journey so far. http://www.baysidewoodenboats.com.au/
Last week I bought some Kokoda marine ply, and today I tried my hand at cutting the scarfs to make myself some 6 metre long 9mm sheets for the sides. Tomorrow I’ll have a go at the cutting the scarfs for the12mm bottom sheets. I guess this means that I’ve officially started, and can make my first rather long-winded post here. I promise from here on there’ll be more pics than words (once I learn how to post the pics).
Here’s a preview of the plans, and a pic of an early model I made from Ross’s drawings.