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 calamities. At one of the auctions I asked dad for a book I spotted in a decaying cardboard box 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.

Dad’s pickup and the Kiwanis Club’s universal boat moving trailer.

Dad towing two Rainbow 24’s from Antipoision Creek around to Yankee Point Marina for the start of another summer of youth sailing. I can remember a lot of great afternoons in that powerboat. We would launch in either Carter’s or Locklies Creek and meet my mom who worked as a post master on Gwynn’s Island at the greasy spoon by the public boat ramp for lunch.

Sometime in middle school I read about coracles and I built my own back in the woods 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 yard work 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 over 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. The boat comes with a number of sail plans, but I went with the sprit rig with jib set flying for the saltier look. 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.

In the sound off Ocracoke Island.

The First Mate has been a great boat, but after sailing her for four years and 500+ miles I realized my needs have changed. It’s an excellent one person dinghy, but my wife isn’t a sailor and it can get a little chaotic for her when the wind picks up. I also have a son now and I think I want something a tad bigger and more stable we can all take out. After another exhaustive search I settled on John Welsford’s new design, Long Steps. He’s a really accomplished designer and if this is what he is building himself to circumnavigate the north island of New Zealand, I’m pretty sure it’ll work for me.

I’m currently working on converting the hand drawn plans into a 3d CAD model and I plan to buy the wood in mid to late 2023. I’m hoping I can get it built in a year, but we’ll see. It’s not super pressing since I do have the First Mate to sail, but I definitely don’t want the build dragging out longer than necessary.

6 thoughts on “About

  1. Thanks for this site. I too have an exhaustive search seemingly never ending. Looked real close at the Phoenix but was intimidated as a first build. Have study plans for Navigator, entranced by scamp, have several plan/manual sets from CLC’s sailing fleet, Dix’s bigger boats are attractive and a beautiful Shellback in the garage I purchased last summer. But with the Shellback I did not build it, no internal flotation and a tad small for camp cruising. I’ve looked at the First Mate several times – a bit concerned that Ross’s main site went offline during the fires. I think it is down to the First Mate or a CLC Dory if I wish to sail/oar camp 2 up this summer. (taking advantage of sheltering in place)

    • I’m glad you enjoy my site!

      Analysis paralysis when it comes to boats is real! At some point I just decided I had to pick one and start building. I went with the First Mate mainly because it’s stitch and glue, has excellent instructions, lots of floatation, and wildly praised as a great sail and oar dinghy. I can wholeheartedly recommend the design to you. It’s ideal for one person and good with two, although sleeping two might be tight. I’d be interested in seeing whatever you build when it’s done!

      I think Ross might have retired. He closed his Facebook group page in September of 2019, but his blog is still up. I emailed him in January and he replied quickly, so as far as I can tell he’s still around.

  2. Nice write-up about sailing to the lighthouse. Hmmm. no motor? More importantly, where’s your sweetheart. Your beautiful boat looks even better when she’s in it…

    • I’ve got to get the boat registered before I start using the Seagull, although I tried it once and it pushed me along about 6mph. Hopefully my wife and I will take it out more this summer… the water is still pretty chilly right now. Maybe we can trailer it up to your area sometime and take your Mayfly out!

  3. Hey Jeff!
    I built a First Mate myself and was saved from a bunch of mistakes during the build because I followed along with your build on the woodenboat forum (thinking about the rub rails!). Really like seeing you push your boat through its paces on your journeys. Love your idea for the anchor. Wish the one you built was on the market, haha, My Danforth is too large and awkward. For the sail I purchased a RSS OzGoose sail (89sqf) and straightened up the mast to maintain the CE. She goes like the wind and I was saved from a lot of messing around with lines and reefing is a sinch! I have a bunch of build pics and final shots I could send you if interested, just send me an email. Finally, I think Long Steps is a great selection for what you have in mind. Just wondering what you thought about the Core Sound 17 series? Very similar in performance but a bit more straightforward to build.

    • I’m glad my build has helped you out and definitely send me some pictures, or even start a thread on the WBF.

      Yeah Danforths seem to be the main anchor around here but they’re so big and awkward. I can just imagine accidentally punching a hole in the hull with the ends of the pivot bar if you’re not careful. Maybe I could build you a copy of my anchor if you would pay for materials and shipping.

      I’ve looked at the Core Sound line a couple times. They’re fast and well designed, but I honestly don’t care for the looks of the cabin versions. And I think the dodger of Long Steps makes a lot of sense since it won’t partition off the cockpit area as much. I can see a passenger sitting up there out of the wind and spray but still being with the helmsman. A tradeoff for sure since it’ll require a boom tent to sleep under though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

The reCAPTCHA verification period has expired. Please reload the page.