In the last issue of AABB & KitBoats I wrote at length about the evolution of a series of beach-cruisers, starting with the first Phoenix which was designed and built by my father, Victor Lillistone. In that article I introduced the latest in this family line of boats – she is called Phoenix 15 and is being produced as a CNC-cut kit by Duck Flat Wooden Boats in South Australia. ROSS LILLISTONE continues discussion about a compact beachcruiser ...
Since the last magazine was published, I have been able to spend two weeks in the workshop at Duck Flat Wooden Boats where the prototype is under construction. For a CNC-cut kit, construction of a prototype is of exceptional importance so that the assembly process can be fine-tuned, and detailed instructions can be prepared. Writing instructions is an extremely labour-intensive process, but for inexperienced builders a good booklet is vital. Don’t imagine that it is an excuse for not doing your reading homework though – boatbuilding is an involved activity, and everybody should be well prepared before taking on the job of building a boat which will be carrying people across the waves.
Phoenix 15 prototype under construction at Duck Flat Wooden Boats.
There are all sorts of people in the world, and not everybody wants to build from a kit. Some find the building process to be the most enjoyable part of an obsession with small-craft, and for those people, starting from scratch with just sheets of plywood and lengths of timber is the path followed. For such builders full plans already exist for Phoenix III and before too long a complete set of plans will be available for Phoenix 15 through the Duck Flat Wooden Boats website. Duck Flat will also help out if you would like a bare hull, or a completed boat built.
Phoenix 15 differs from her immediate predecessor (the well-known Phoenix III) in that she is equipped with a narrow flat bottom of less than 489mm (19 inches) at its widest point. This, and her construction method make her, technically, a Dory Skiff. In the latter decades of the 19th Century dory production on the American north-east coast and in Nova Scotia (among other places) reached a level of mass production in order to supply the demands of the cod fishery on the Grand Banks and in-shore lobster harvesting. The narrow flat bottom of the various types of dory along with the strong demand resulted in rapid evolution of the construction methods, and amazing levels of efficiency in production. We hope that efficient construction will be evident in Phoenix 15 building projects as well!
A dory can be built up-side-down or right-side-up, but my understanding is that right-side-up construction was very common.
So when construction of the prototype Phoenix 15 was started, we looked at the option of building her right-side-up because of her flat (in one direction only) bottom, and in view of a number of advantages offered by the easy access to the inside of the hull. In addition, Pat Reece from Duck Flat Wooden Boats asked whether it would be possible to incorporate tenons (ie small tabs) on the edges of the frames and bulkheads which would fit into mortises (i.e. shallow notches) on the inside surfaces of the planks and the bottom panel. For a kit builder, this system offers a quicker assembly, with vastly reduced need for measurement during the set-up.
What Is the Assembly Sequence?
After much consideration we decided to put in the work required to produce drawings and cutting files to allow the boat to be built using the tab and notches. Here is how I see the process playing out:
Is Phoenix III Easy Enough For Me To Build?
If you are inexperienced in boatbuilding and are wondering whether a project such as Phoenix 15 is something which you can reasonably attempt, the answer is, “Yes!” – many others have done so with Phoenix III – but there are conditions ... Firstly, I strongly recommend you beg, borrow or steal several books about modern boatbuilding techniques and put some study in before starting on the real thing, or even build a scale model from plans. I understand that most of us are impatient to get started, but in this case, ‘The longest way around is the shortest way home.’ The time you put into preparation will end up saving you lots of time, heartache and money in the long-run.
There are so many excellent books around that I find it difficult to select a small number of recommendations, so don’t take my suggestions to be the only ones suitable. However, here are a few which I can recommend with confidence:
• Clinker Plywood Boatbuilding by Iain Oughtred;
• The Gougeon Brothers on Boat Construction by Meade Gougeon;
• Boatbuilding with Plywood by Glen L. Witt;
• Boatbuilding for Beginners (and beyond) by Jim Michalak;
• Stitch-and-Glue Boatbuilding by Chris Kulczycki;
• Devlin’s Boatbuilding by Sam Devlin;
• How to Build Glued-Lapstrake Wooden Boats by John Brooks and Ruth Ann Hill.
Learning about the correct way to use epoxy is absolutely vital for a good result. Almost all small amateur-built (and professionally-built) boats use epoxy as their primary adhesive and also as the resin when fibreglass work is required. Be serious in how you mix and apply epoxy because that is what is going to hold your boat together. Good-quality marine epoxy is readily available, and the manufacturers supply excellent instructional material and on-line support. Epoxy is quite forgiving in use, but as with all tools, treat it with the respect it deserves, and learn how to use it properly.
Lance Pamperin tends to his Phoenix in an idyllic Canadian setting. Image Tom Pamperin
Will It Be Fun?
My bet is that if you read some decent books on the subject – or if you are fortunate enough to attend a short course such as the ones run by Duck Flat Wooden Boats and others – you will discover that building and using your own boat is a wonderfully deep and satisfying experience. There is no end to the interesting paths which open up when you get into the rigging and sailing process, when you discover the joy of using a well-balanced set of oars in a boat with good rowing ergonomics designed-in from the start, and learn the excitement of sailing to a not-too-distant island for the first time.
In most states you should be able to locate a branch of the Wooden Boat Association. Members are sure to welcome you at regular meetings, and the Association organises frequent group outings in all sorts of boats. Such groups are a great source of inspiration and assistance for novice builders.
I’m very obviously biased, but my opinion is that this design, or another of similar size and proportion, will provide satisfaction out of all proportion to her cost and the effort required for her to be built.
This could be you – Lance Pamperin relaxes during an extenced beach-cruising adventure. Image Tom Pamperin
If you are interested in following the development of Phoenix 15 in her various forms – Plans, CNC-cut kits, professionally-built Bare Hulls, Rigging Kits, Finished Boats etc., check in on the website at https://duckflatwoodenboats.com or give Duck Flat Wooden Boats a call on 08 8391 3988.
And remember, the team at Duck Flat Wooden Boats can advise you about other boats in my range as well as those from a number of other designers.