One of the big events of my life started when my mother came home from one of her infrequent shopping trips to our State Capital, Brisbane, with a new book in her basket. It was "Swallows and Amazons" by Arthur Ransome, and to this very day I continue to re-read the entire twelve book series. This set of stories changed me from being a racing person to a cruising person, although remnants of the racing-me still lurk within!
|Tom Dudgeon setting up for the night aboard Titmouse. (illustration by Arthur Ransome, from Coot Club, published by Jonathan Cape)
The Compleat Cruiser is essential reading for anybody interested cruising and wooden boats, but the section which had the most dramatic effect on me was the part where Goddard described a beachcruiser to his new friends Coridon and Briggs. The boat he was describing was a 13' x 4' 6" cruising dinghy with a standing lugsail of 76 sq.ft and equipped with leeboards.
|L. Francis Herreshoff's beachcruiser from the book, "The Compleat Cruiser" (published by Sheridan House)
"What do you mean by a beach cruiser?" inquired Briggs.
"It means a boat to cruise along beaches in shallow water," Goddard replied, "a boat to sleep aboard when hauled out on the beach, and I can tell you that this is an interesting and risky sort of cruising. It takes skill and experience to sail close to the shore if it is a rocky region and there is a sea running, but you can visit many unfrequented places in a beach cruiser. Of course, there are sheltered waters in rivers and marshes where there is no danger. A beach cruiser, emphatically does not mean a boat to hang around bathing beaches, or anything of the sort, but rather a boat for a naturalist who wants to study shore birds and animals. It is the best sort of craft for the poor man who has an urge for cruising. Even Conor O'Brien, whom most of us think of as a deep water man, wrote a chapter in his book, On Going to Sea in Yachts, that was called 'The Beach Cruiser'. (The Compleat Cruiser, by L. Francis Herreshoff published by Sheridan House)
Over the years I continued to go on beach cruising expeditions, varying in length between two hours late in the afternoon or night, to four-day trips covering long distances in isolated areas. Sometimes the boats used were kayaks and small sailing/rowing boats like Phil Bolger's Cartopper and an Oughtred Macgregor sailing canoe, while at other times we went in outboard-powered dinghies/tinnies. But most often the boat used was my dad's old design, Phoenix.
|Phoenix, showing just one of her many rigs
After a considerable time, I made a half-model of what I had in mind, and from the half-model I took off a set of lines using a pantograph arrangement of my own devising, based on priniples I had picked up from reading L. Francis Herreshoff's biography of his father, Nathanael Greene Herreshoff.
|The original half-model from which I took the lines
Phoenix III has proved to be a good design, and I'm particularly pleased with her size, being the same breadth as the Francis Herreshoff beach cruiser at 4' 6"/1372mm to the inside of the planking, but being longer at 15ft/4572mm LOA to the inside of the planking. The increased length has been achieved on a hull weight which is still slightly lower than the mythical Herreshoff boat.
My friend Ian Hamilton was very impressed by Phoenix III but was intimidated by the glued-lapstrake (clinker) construction. Having built several boats previously using the stitch-and-glue method, Ian asked me to produce a new design which would replicate Phoenix III's layout and proportions, but be constructed stitch-and-glue. The resulting design is First Mate, photos of which you can see here in First Mate Photos one, two and three.
|Cover sheet from the plans showing three of the rig options
|Construction plan drawing showing layout
|Dry fitting the deck
|Dry fitting the deck
|Ian looking over his boat at an early stage of construction.
It is great fun to build and use your own boat, but even better is to design her for yourself in the first place. Why not have a go at drawing your own design and getting exactly what you are after? It isn't all that difficult, and in the old days, people did it all the time. Then go and have some healthy fun on the water!