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Thread: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

  1. #1
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    Default Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Hi all. After lurking on this forum for a decade I've finally gotten around to starting a boat. Over the years I've been researching different designs by many designers, but it just didn't work out to start building. My wife and I recently bought a house after living in an apartment for a year, so now I have a garage again. I grew up canoeing and sailing a Sunfish in the Chesapeake so I wanted something small for the shallow water, but faster to row and drier to sail.


    Anyway, I finally settled on Ross Lillistone's First Mate stitch and glue dinghy. I've been living vicariously through WI-Tom and AJZimm's camp cruising threads which is something that really appeals to me and helped me pick this design. I had originally convinced myself on the lug rig, but I think I've changed my mind to the spritsail and jib. I'll probably end up trying both rigs at some point, but I don't see myself making the Bermuda rig.





    $650 of Okoume plywood. I have six sheets of 1/4" and one of 1/2".





    I originally drew everything in CAD to be cut out on a buddy's CNC router, but it's brand new and he hasn't got the software to read my files set up yet. I'm in a hurry to get this started, so I did it the old fashioned way with pencil and ruler. The quarter is for small radii like the limber holes. I used the base of a Coke can for the larger radii.





    Here's one of the bulkheads cut out. High dollar beam compass to mark out the ventilation and hatch plate holes.





    Before scarfing the 4x8 sheets together I wanted to get a bit of practice using epoxy. I primed both 1/2" centerboard pieces with neat epoxy, then slathered on a healthy layer of thickened epoxy and weighted it down. Two drywall screws preserve the alignment and were removed after the epoxy started to harden. Saran wrap keeps the whole thing from getting stuck to the bench.





    The next day I attacked with an angle grinder and flap disk to give it a bit of a foil shape. I intend to reinforce the edges with thickened epoxy when I get around to fiberglassing the outside.


    Last edited by The Jeff; 07-14-2018 at 09:16 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Armed with my epoxy practice I started in on scarfing the plywood sheets. These are 1/4" thick, so I set them back 2" for a 8:1 slope. Each layer is screwed to the one below at the edges.





    Then I started planing out the stair steps. Probably not the best plane for this job, but it was the one I keep in my tool bucket and the rest were 30 minutes away at my folk's house.





    It's a bit wavy in places, but a decent first attempt I guess. I'll make sure there's enough thickened epoxy to fill any gaps.





    Next I taped some plastic to the garage floor and glued it down.





    I snapped a chalk line near the edge to give me a good datum and marked out the points for one of the planks. I don't have a 16' batten so I used a piece of shoe moulding to mark out the curve.





    Eventually I got the bottom, side planks, and most of the other parts cut out. I still have one full sheet of 1/4" and a fair amount of the 16' panels to use for decking and laminating the rest of the parts (mast step, mast partner, rudder, cheek filler pieces, cleat pads, etc.) I also have the ubiquitous box of scrap that's too small to keep, but too big to throw out.



  3. #3
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Here's a shot of all the smaller parts.





    The heros of this part of the build.




    So far I've been at it for just over three weeks and I hope to have this boat done by the spring of next year.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Ross's boats are nice, and it looks like you know what you're doing. This will be enjoyable. Thank you for going to the trouble of posting.
    Last edited by Gib Etheridge; 07-14-2018 at 09:43 PM.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Will be following!
    I was born on a wooden boat that I built myself.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Good grief Jeff, my shoulders ache at the thought of using that tiny plane for the scarfs! Props for getting such good results; you definitely earned a cold one.

    Ross's designs have such a clean look to my eye, and his Periwinkle was on my short list before I decided on an Oughtred Fulmar. I'm looking forward to watching your progress and thanks also for sharing it with us.


    Mike
    "You may be orange, you may like hamburgers, and you may be a clown, but you sir are no Ronald McDonald" - John Stewart

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jeff View Post
    I had originally convinced myself on the lug rig, but I think I've changed my mind to the spritsail and jib. I'll probably end up trying both rigs at some point, but I don't see myself making the Bermuda rig.
    Great choice! I love cruising my Phoenix III.

    I started with the 76 sf balanced lug but added the little jib Ross drew last year. I now run the original sail as a standing lug with jib set flying, and it has dramatically improved the boat's performance. Now my first reef is dropping the jib, moving the downhaul, and resetting the main as the original balanced lug. It has been a handy, simple, effective upgrade.

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    WOW a new build to follow

    i'll be interested to see which rig you end up setting

    i kinda like the added method of reducing sail jon m mentioned above which w/ 3 rows of reef points would/shoud provide you with a much more manageable rig when Mother Nature spanks you(i didn't say IF)

    you mentioned camp cruising as part of your dream so... IMHO listening to WI-TOM and studying his travels and rig evolution would be time well spent

    please keep the pics coming

    sw
    "we are the people, our parents warned us about" (jb)

    steve

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Great to see another First Mate build. I'm going to share a list of things that I would have do different based on experiences with mine, and you can do with it what you will:

    I should have added a foot to the length of the mast shown in the plans. The boom is too low to see under without leaning over and I have to really duck down when tacking.
    A solid mast is fine weight wise, but a hollow spar for the balanced lug would help the sail hold it's shape better in light air and bumpy water. The spar could also be a little less thick. It is very stiff and makes it hard to flatten the sail with the down haul.
    I'd redesign the rudder and centerboard case attachment so I could lift the rudder.
    I'd use porch and patio latex rather than simple exterior latex as it is harder wearing. The easy touch-up of latex paint has been nice.
    I wouldn't have added weight to the centerboard. It should sink under its own weight and I ended up using a line and clam cleat system that makes that irrelevant anyway.

    One thing I did that has been really nice was to use a hole saw to cut a 1" hole in all of the side deck knees to use as tie down points.
    I spent time thinking about visual details and it was time well spent. Things like making a sweeping arc to the deck around the mast instead of a straight line and mirroring the varnished rub-rail on the inside of the cockpit to add a bit of contrast added time and complexity to the build but are things that I like seeing every time I sail.

  10. #10
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    I'm in. Thanks for sharing your project!

    Kevin
    There are two kinds of boaters: those who have run aground, and those who lie about it.

  11. #11
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Quote Originally Posted by cracked lid View Post
    One thing I did that has been really nice was to use a hole saw to cut a 1" hole in all of the side deck knees to use as tie down points.
    I spent time thinking about visual details and it was time well spent. Things like making a sweeping arc to the deck around the mast instead of a straight line and mirroring the varnished rub-rail on the inside of the cockpit to add a bit of contrast added time and complexity to the build but are things that I like seeing every time I sail.
    cracked lid gives good advice. I did both of these on TWO-HEARTED as well. I have lengths of thin shock cord running through the holes in the deck knees and they are great for stowing jackets, lights, charts, or whatever up under the protection of the side decks.

    Quote Originally Posted by cracked lid View Post
    I should have added a foot to the length of the mast shown in the plans. The boom is too low to see under without leaning over and I have to really duck down when tacking.

    Try moving the downhaul attachment forward on the boom to set the sail as a standing lug. It doesn't affect performance too much and raises the boom enough that I can actually sit on the thwart and row beneath it.

    I also just remembered that I made a measurement error which added about an inch to the gunwale; it's been quite useful because the wider gunwales help knock down the spray, and the wider decks are great for hiking out when things get sporty.

  12. #12
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Great start, keep those photos coming!

    Ken

  13. #13
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Quote Originally Posted by jon m View Post
    [/COLOR]Try moving the downhaul attachment forward on the boom to set the sail as a standing lug. It doesn't affect performance too much and raises the boom enough that I can actually sit on the thwart and row beneath it.
    I appreciate the advice, and I have played around with the downhaul attachment point as the block just has a cowhitch to attach it to the boom. I use the bleater setup on Storer's website that loops the line around to the boom and onto itself with taut-line hitch. I can go from balanced to standing lug configuration in very little time, but the issue I found with doing this is that it brings the front of the boom down even more, and at that point there isn't enough space between the top and bottom blocks of my downhaul set-up to fully tighten it, so I'd also have to redo my downhaul arrangment plus I still have the visibility issue looking over the bow, which is actually a bigger deal to me than ducking to tack. All in all, it isn't a huge deal, as if it was I'd just make a new mast. But considering I cut the mast down to make it the length in the plans, I figured I'd save someone else from the same issue.

  14. #14
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Thanks all for the comments! I'm glad to share my progress with the community, after all I've learned a ton browsing old build threads and hope mine can help someone in the future.


    Quote Originally Posted by jon m View Post
    Great choice! I love cruising my Phoenix III.


    I started with the 76 sf balanced lug but added the little jib Ross drew last year. I now run the original sail as a standing lug with jib set flying, and it has dramatically improved the boat's performance. Now my first reef is dropping the jib, moving the downhaul, and resetting the main as the original balanced lug. It has been a handy, simple, effective upgrade.

    I emailed Ross the other day and got a copy of that drawing, along with the gunter rig. I haven't studied the gunter very closely, but it appears to use the same mast as the spritsail and lug which might be interesting to experiment with someday.


    Quote Originally Posted by swoody126 View Post
    i kinda like the added method of reducing sail jon m mentioned above which w/ 3 rows of reef points would/shoud provide you with a much more manageable rig when Mother Nature spanks you(i didn't say IF)


    you mentioned camp cruising as part of your dream so... IMHO listening to WI-TOM and studying his travels and rig evolution would be time well spent

    I definitely agree that the spritsail rig is not conducive for quick reefing. I guess I should clarify my thought process. My day sailing area is in a pretty protected creek and small river so I think the spritsail might be the better option for that. However, once I get out into the Chesapeake I do think the adjustability of the lug setup will be ideal. Realistically, camp cruising will probably be less than 10% of what I do, so I think I'll make the spritsail first and then eventually make the lug and pick between them based on the conditions and what I plan to do.


    Cracked lid, thanks so much for your advice. I've read through your build thread multiple times to get an idea of what to do. Ross does say in his plans you can add a foot to the mast and I was leaning that way. The line/shock cord running through the interior was also high on my list of modifications. What exactly do you mean about the rudder and centerboard case attachment? I though the rudder does kick up?


    Quote Originally Posted by jon m View Post
    I also just remembered that I made a measurement error which added about an inch to the gunwale; it's been quite useful because the wider gunwales help knock down the spray, and the wider decks are great for hiking out when things get sporty.

    That's interesting. In Ross's plan update he mentioned making the gunwales stick out about 1.75" from the hull.




    So I started zip tying the planks to the bottom and I'm pretty stoked with how well they fit. The curves seem to match pretty well and the lines for the bulkheads are lining up.





    Whoo! After nearly 2 hours of work it's finally time for the whisky plank!!! haha





    Here's the hull tied together and most of the bulkheads positioned. I need to cut some stiffeners and glue them one before zip tying them in place next.



  15. #15
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Quote Originally Posted by cracked lid View Post
    I appreciate the advice, and I have played around with the downhaul attachment point as the block just has a cowhitch to attach it to the boom. I use the bleater setup on Storer's website that loops the line around to the boom and onto itself with taut-line hitch. I can go from balanced to standing lug configuration in very little time, but the issue I found with doing this is that it brings the front of the boom down even more, and at that point there isn't enough space between the top and bottom blocks of my downhaul set-up to fully tighten it, so I'd also have to redo my downhaul arrangment plus I still have the visibility issue looking over the bow, which is actually a bigger deal to me than ducking to tack. All in all, it isn't a huge deal, as if it was I'd just make a new mast. But considering I cut the mast down to make it the length in the plans, I figured I'd save someone else from the same issue.
    I agree, and when I eventually replace my birdsmouth mast with a carbon one, it will be 10-12" longer.

  16. #16
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    The rudder kicks up. The tiller cannot be lifted and there are times when it would be handy for it to be able to rotate vertically.

  17. #17
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Great choice of a boat--enjoy your build. Phoenix III (and First Mate, which Ross thinks might actually be a touch faster) is a wonderful design, and Ross is tops.

    Cheers,

    Tom
    You don't have to be prepared as long as you're willing to suffer the consequences.

    www.tompamperin.com

  18. #18
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    It's been a while since I updated this thread, but work has slowly been continuing. I got all the bulkheads ziptied in place and the first problem has popped up. The planks are quite a bit taller than the bulkheads! I'm pretty sure the problem is due to how I drew them. I put the nails for the batten right on the points I measured, and I doubt I cut right down to the line, so the planks grew a bit. Once I tape the inside of the hull I'll use a batten to draw a fair line to the tops of the bulkheads and then plane to shape.





    Next I taped the seams with 4" x 12oz biaxial fiberglass tape. First I put on a blob of thickened epoxy between the zipties as a sort of tack weld to hold the panels together. After it cured, I cut the zipties and brushed on neat epoxy along the seam. Then I put a fillet of thickened epoxy from a ziplock bag along the seam and the placed the fiberglass tape. Then I followed it up with more epoxy until the tape was wet through but not so much that it floated. I started up in the bow section to get some practice as this area will be covered by the deck.





    I positioned precut strips of fiberglass tape to save time. On the two largest sections it was a real struggle to get everything wet out before the epoxy started to set.





    Eventually I got all the seams glued together with epoxy and fiberglass tape. My technique was getting quite a bit better by two rearmost compartments, but unfortunately they'll never be seen. This picture doesn't show it, but I did trim the sides down to the tops of the bulkheads. Hopefully the gunnels and deck will come out looking fair.





    RIP zip ties. I had these spaced about 4" apart in the bow and 12" apart elsewhere which is way closer together than what's actually needed. But I have no experience building boats and thought it was better to be safe than sorry.





    Next I laminated a layer of 4oz fiberglass cloth to what will be the inside of the centerboard trunk. I followed this up with three coats of epoxy to fill out the weave of the cloth.


    Last edited by The Jeff; 10-17-2018 at 06:42 PM.

  19. #19
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Apparently you can't have more than 6 images in a build thread post........

    Then I epoxied on the bed logs for the centerboard trunk onto the other side. These are made from 3/4" pine. I cut off the excess with a bandsaw and planed to match the curve of the plywood.



    This brings the thread up to where I am now. Next I'll glue the end posts into the centerboard trunk and probably start working on the kingpost, framing, gunnels, and motor well. So far the project has been a series of doable steps, but it is a bit overwhelming skimming through the rest of the instructions and seeing just how much more there is.

  20. #20
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    Quote Originally Posted by The Jeff View Post
    ... it is a bit overwhelming skimming through the rest of the instructions and seeing just how much more there is.
    It all happens a little bit at a time. Things are looking fine.

  21. #21
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    That looks really good Jeff. Take it easy and enjoy.

  22. #22
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    I've been plugging away at it, but Thanksgiving and deer season have put a serious dent in my free time. I've made the motor well and laminated and cut out the rudder, although I haven't shaped that into a foil yet. But my main goal lately has been to get the gunwales on.


    I made the gunwales to the shape Ross specifies in his update to the First Mate plans. Once the two 3/4" wide layers are glued together, they'll have a slight slope on the underside. I originally cut these out of an 8' board and thought I'd scarf them together to make four 16' lengths, but scarfing didn't go well. No matter what angle I thought was right I seemed to make a gap somewhere else. I should have scarfed them when they were rectangular and then ripped them.





    So I cut them again out of a 16' board. And here's the ridiculous looking way I got them home from work





    Thank goodness for Harbor Freight clamps. I have a clamp about every 10" which seemed to close up all the gaps. I had enough squeeze out on the bottom to make a nice radius with a plastic squeegee.





    Clamping on the second layer. I wrapped packing tape around the fixed jaw of the clamp. Also, I've made a new discovery in boatbuilding which I'm sure will see significant productivity gains world wide! If you prop the boat up on some cardboard boxes, it puts it at a nicer working height!





    Here's a shot of the boat after trimming the ends off. I also have put in some of the interior framing and made the motor well.





    Then I began beveling the gunwales to accept the deck and hit a snag. The plans say "The upper edge of the gunwale should extend up past the top edge of the planking by about 4mm/5/32 to allow for beveling to accept the deck." My gunwales are pretty close to the shape specified in the plans, and they're positioned about 5/32" high, but there seems to be too sharp an angle for the deck to smoothly wrap onto the ends.





    Once the gunwales are beveled, the deck will still be a good 3/8" off at the end. It's not quite as bad at the bow and stern where the sides are more vertical, but in the middle of the boat it's pretty bad.


    Has anyone else had a similar problem? Will 1/4" Occume take that bend? The only ways I can think to fix it is to:
    A. Epoxy an oversize triangular strip and plane to shape.
    B. Leave a gap and fill with epoxy, although I imagine that'll take quite a bit.
    C. Plane down the angle of the deck. This should work fine for the frames, but I don't think the bulkheads will work so well.


    Any thoughts on what you'd do to fix this problem?

  23. #23
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    I would go with option A.....I doubt if a triangle piece of molding would be worth the effort...just a square piece at 3/8 that spans the width of the gunnel then plane everything in one shot......may want to upgrade to a bigger plainer.....GL

    Great job so far!!! Looks really good!!!

  24. #24
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    I agree with castnet. and yes, nice work!
    Simmons Sea Skiff build photos here:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/vxuQDZI0Dz7qjzAx1

  25. #25
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    Default Re: Building a Ross Lillistone First Mate

    I think your best option at this point is A. Make sure that the outside edge of the triangle is at least as high as the top edge of the ply and you'll be fine.

    I'm not sure I would trust the cardboard boxes. I used the OSB sheet and the boards that protected my plywood during shipping to make a couple of stands by cutting rectangles with slots to act as crossed half lap joints. I then ran the boards between the stands and set the boat on top. Worked when I flipped the boat to glass it and paint the exterior as well. I still use the OSB boards to make a quick outside worktable by setting them up and tossing a sheet of ply on top.
    all panels quarter profile.jpg

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