For as long as I can remember I’ve loved being on the water. My father did a lot for the local Kiwanis Club who gathered donated boats and sold them at an annual boat auction to raise money. As a kid I’d tag along on all the boat moving adventures which often involved leaks, groundings, engine problems, rotten trailer tires, burnt up bearings, non existent trailer lights, and other such calamities. At one of the auctions I asked dad for a book called “Men, Ships, and the Sea” which I read cover to cover for years. I’m pretty sure that book was a large part of my interest in all things nautical.
Sometime in middle school I read about coracles and I built my own out of split saplings, paracord lashings, and a blue plastic tarp with nothing more than a hatchet. I took it out in the creek twice before deciding it was just too tippy and ungainly. After that, I started saving money to buy an Old Town Osprey canoe which I still have and use regularly. As best as I can figure, I’ve probably got close to 200 miles on it. I’ve taken it on a 60 mile river trip in Quebec, countless gunkholing adventures in the Chesapeake Bay, and even some playing in the Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina.
In 9th grade I bought a 1977 Sunfish sailboat with my grass cutting money and spent a lot of summers sailing around. It was a fun boat and I did a number of long daysails in it, but it was a pretty wet and sometimes uncomfortable ride. A decade later and after getting married, I decided we needed a drier but still small and easily managed sailboat. I think there’s a lot of truth to the saying that small boats get used more.
After an exhaustive search through small boat plans, I decided on Ross Lillistone’s First Mate. It’s a plywood stitch and glue design that is covered in fiberglass. From reading other people’s adventures with this design (and its glued lapstrake sister Phoenix III), it will be quite a capable little boat. She’s 15′ long and weighs approximately 150 pounds. People have camp cruised these for weeks on the Great Lakes, or finished the Everglades Challenge and Texas 200. I’ve certainly got plans for some long range cruises.
The boat comes with a number of sail plans, but I intend to go with the sprit rig with jib set flying. It’ll be a little more work to build and handle than the balanced lug rig, but I think it looks a bit saltier. Plus the two sails will keep things interesting. I’ve even got a possibly crazy idea for a topsail to use in ghosting conditions. The Bermuda rig is definitely out as I don’t want to deal with the long mast and associated tackle.
I bought a stack of marine plywood in May of 2018, started work on June 23rd, and launched the boat on June 8th, 2019. I didn’t work too much during the winter as I was either hunting or it was cold, so I’d imagine it took me 8-9 months to build.