The Francis Lee story is part love of craft and part love of sailing. The combination is simply the best of sailing and a showcase for the Pacific Northwest’s boatbuilding skills. (see complete list at end of article of those who contributed)
Love of Craft
It’s hard to find someone with greater love of craft that naval architect Bob Perry. At age 67 he continues to come up with elegant solutions for wide ranging clients. These particular clients, Kim and Susan Bottles, were already long time friends, which made the experience that much richer.
Perry and the Bottles shared an affinity for Bill Garden’s Oceanus design, which led to a close study of L. Francis Herreshoff’s drawings of the “Ultimate Sailing Machine.” The path started becoming clear, though Perry said “You want long waterline, I can do long waterline. But it will be mine, not his.” And so started the 4-year process that ended in January’s launch of the Francis Lee.
This was, from nearly the outset, to be a Pacific Northwest project to showcase the region’s boatbuilding expertise and give a shot in the arm to the local marine industry. But it became much more than that when the Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building was chosen for the construction. The School’s enthusiasm for the project spread and soon just about every skill and talent necessary to create this vessel came together around gthe boat.
Tim Nolan and Jim Franken, along with Russell Brown and Brandon Davis, were convincing the boat should be of wood composite. That was fine with Perry, who of course wanted keep the boat light, though he had initial reservations. “I was very nervous about the trip planked hull,” Bob explained. “I wanted all carbon fiber. I was concerned about weight. But I had a pretty good weight study started and when we plugged the numbers in for the strip planked hull it looked doable. But I was still concerned, skeptical. But the first time we weighed the hull I was very pleasantly surprised. It looked like we would hit our weight target. That has proven to be the case.”
Hull construction was a Western Red Cedar core sheathed in Triaxel VectorPly eGlass set in West System Epoxy. The cabin/deck/cockpit was built as one piece, as first suggested by Tom George, a Port Townsend boat builder. Foam core composite was utilized for all of the structural interior pieces.
And while Perry drew the striking lines, he had a lot of help behind the scenes from Franken in the aftermath of Perry’s son Spike’s death. “Jim stepped up and calmly worked to get the 3D model of the hull accurate to my drawings. Jim is one of those guys whose efforts are hidden, but critical,” Perry said.
A couple of important pieces were used at tremendous cost savings. Bob Pistay suggested a carbon Farr 40 rig had nearly the identical proportions as what Perry had drawn, and sure enough Bob Perry agreed it would work. A used one was available. A gorgeous carbon fiber rudder, virtually unused from Bob Perry’s Free Range Chicken project, was basically a perfect fit for Francis Lee.
Love of Sailing
Francis Lee is named after Kim’s father, who helped foster a love of sailing in the family, and a love of simple, good sailing wooden sailboats. He owned a Sea Bird yawl, a Folkboat and International Dragon. His son carried on the sailing tradition with a series of boats built in a variety of styles and materials.
This boat is really the distillation of a long family sailing history. A bit of Bruce King’s Nantucket Splinter, Herreshoff’s Rozinante and Istalana C. Raymond Hunt’s 210, Joel White’s Sakonnet 23, Ben Seaborn’s Twinkle and Alex Irving’s Sparkle are all in Francis Lee. But there’s clearly a lot of Knud Reimer’s Metre boats and a whole lot of Oceanus.
The Crew on the Sliver Project
Bob Perry – Robert H. Perry Yacht Design
Bruce Blatchley – Instructor NW School of Wooden Boatbuilding
Tim Nolan – Structural Engineering
Jim Franken – CAD Lofting and Project Management
Russell Brown – PT Watercraft Lamination Consultant and Project Management
Brandon Davis – Turn Point Design CNC Machining and Composite Panels
Carter Conklin – Turn Point Design CNC Machining and Composite Panels
Bill Campbell – Custom Metal Fabrication (Keel Floors)
David Means – Pacific Fisherman Keel Fin Fabrication
Scott Graham – Non Ferrous Metals Ballast Bulb
Tim Ryan – CSR Marine Paint and Assembly (Plus all of the Crew at CSR)
Jordan Primus – Shipwright
Fred Shwiller – Shipwright
Amos Howe – Shipwright
Cooper Parish – Shipwright
Kai Lorenz – Shipwright
Troy Craig – Shipwright
Ivan Erdevicki – Preliminary Engineering
Erik Bentzen – Surveyor
Frank & Axel Schattauer – Sailmakers
Derek & Brent Bottles – Collaborators
Students who Worked on the Project
James Saint George
Others who gave me advice, ideas or other help directly or indirectly
L. Francis Herreshoff
C. Raymond Hunt
(If I have forgotten someone please let me know so they can be added to the list.)