III plans include 16 sheets of A3-sized drawings, including oar drawings and a nesting sheet for the majority of 6mm parts plus a 62-page illustrated instruction booklet, including a section on oar construction. There are two separate editions of the
plans – Imperial and Metric – be sure to choose.
A fifteen foot Beachcruiser
for Sail, Oar, and Small Outboard
Phoenix III was designed for the builder of the
first boat, Paul Hernes. Paul came to me in search of plans
for a dinghy which could be sailed fast and far, rowed in
such a way as to be more pleasure than pain, and to be able
to accommodate a small outboard motor if the conditions
As it happened, I already had a design which I had been
working on for many years. She was to be the perfect beachcruiser
for my own use, incorporating my idea of the optimum physical
dimensions for solo and two-up cruising. The modeling was
done using a wooden half model laid out according to the
principal dimensions I had settled on after many years of
small boat sailing and rowing.
Once the modeling was complete, I made a pantograph which
allowed me to take off the sections, which I then drew up
as a standard set of lines on my drawing board. These lines
remained dormant for about six years until I was approached
by Paul Hernes, who was in search of such a design. At the
time I was moving workshop and house, so did not have free
access to my board. As the job needed to be done straight
away, I was forced to teach myself CAD – something
I had always said I would never do. Oh well, we live and
learn! It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, and it
has had cascading benefits.
In order to get the lines into CAD, I initially put my
hand-drawn dimensions into Greg Carlson’s Hulls program
to generate dxf files, and then transferred the dxf’s
into a conventional (i.e. nothing to do with boat design)
drafting program – Autocad’s entry-level program,
A major advantage of having taken the step of using a CAD
program is that the need for lofting has been removed. The
dimensions shown on the bulkheads and molds are accurate
enough for direct use, and have been tested by the builder
of the prototype.
She has been given a spritsail with a jib set flying (i.e.
a jib which is not attached to a separate stay). The spritsail
sloop is one of the few sloop rigs which can carry a jib
effectively without stays, shrouds or backstays of any type.
This is because the sprit places the head of the mainsail
in tension, which is in turn translated into tension in
the luff of the jib. Therefore, there are no stays on this
boat at all – just place the mast into the step and
partner, and off you go!
Considerable thought went into centreboard placement and
design, as I really wanted the boat to balance under mainsail
alone as well as under full sail. This she does quite well.
In heavy conditions, raising the centerboard a bit eases
the boat and moves the centre-of-lateral resistance aft.
I’ve sailed her in thirty knot winds under reefed
mainsail alone, and was quite comfortable (although I am
battle hardened, as I also sail a wooden International Finn!).
The centerboard is of generous area, and the centerboard
case extends under the main thwart. With a centerboard shape
reminiscent of that seen in Swampscott Dories, PhoenixIII’s
centerboard provides plenty of ‘bury’ in the
case when fully lowered, while not interfering with the
correct positioning of the rowing thwart.
The forward end of the centerboard case has been angled
back so that it doesn’t interfere with the mast stepping
process. There is no need to lift the mast to put it through
a hole in the deck – just place the foot of the mast
in the step and push it forward into the mast partner. The
whole process is a one-handed affair, which takes about
I’ve long held the view that the smaller a boat is,
the more she will be used, and with this in mind, Phoenix
III has been kept to modest dimensions: -
Length Over All
|15ft 1-1/2ins / 4610mm
|4ft 9in / 1457mm
|6in / 153mm
|approximately 132lbs / 60kg
|595lbs / 270 kg
|104sq.ft. / 9.64sq.m.
The shape of the hull is a compromise, as is the case
with all boats. The breadth has been kept reasonably small
so that she can be rowed efficiently with easy-to-stow seven
foot oars. A case could be made for a wider hull in order
to increase initial stability and sail-carrying power, but
I kept my nerve and stayed with a narrow boat. In addition
to helping make the boat a pleasure to row, the slender
breadth reduces weight, and results in a fine entry angle
at the bow. The fine bow angle reduces pounding and helps
to make her a dry boat.
The hull structure of Phoenix III is unusually
open and free of clutter, relying on built-in components
such as watertight bulkheads, rowing thwart and centerboard
case to add rigidity to the glued-lapstrake (clinker/plywood)
skin. The glued-lapstrake construction method produces a
stressed-skin hull with a very good stiffness-to-weight
ratio. Bonding of major components like the bulkheads adds
greatly to the strength with little added weight.
I’ve put plenty of sail onto this boat, and for her
to be able to stand up to it the rig needs to be kept low.
The whole rig can easily be stowed within the length of
the boat, making for hassle-free trailering.
Boomless sails are nice and simple, but they only drive
a boat well if the sheeting geometry is correct. Phoenix
III has been carefully designed from the outset to
be able to operate without a boom on the mainsail. For those
who prefer a boom (to ease sheeting loads, or to free up
the choice of sheeting points), details for an optional
boom are included with the plans package.
She supports the weight of a 90kg (200lb)
person on the gunwale!
There are buoyancy tanks built-in under the fore and aft
decks, as well as under the aft thwart. A small, self-draining
outboard motor splash well is also built into the aft deck
as can be seen in the next photo.
If you want to row, the proportions of the rowing position
must be correct, and the oars must be of the proper length.
Also, the freeboard (i.e. the height of the sides of the
boat above the waterline) needs to be quite low. Phoenix
III has been designed to fit in with all the old rules-of-thumb,
and she rows very easily. Below is a photo of Paul Hernes
rowing on the day of the very first launching. The centerboard
case is shaped so as to allow the oarsman to lean back at
the end of the stroke.
The hull is built upside-down on a normal strongback, details
of which are in the plans. There are four permanent bulkheads
and a number of temporary station molds made from MDF or
All major components of the boat are made from 6mm (1/4”)
marine plywood, with small amounts of 12mm (1/2”)
for things such as the centerboard and rudder laminations.
Paul Hernes used five sheets of 6mm (1/4”) and part
of a sheet of 12mm (1/2”). While she is not an ‘instant
boat’, a determined first time builder should be able
to make a good job of construction as long as he or she
does some homework first. I strongly recommend Iain Oughtred’s
excellent book, “Clinker
Plywood Boatbuilding Manual” as well
as John Brooks and Ruth Anne Hill’s book, “How
To Build Glued-Lapstrake Wooden Boats”.
As was so often advised by William Atkin and L. Francis
Herreshoff, do not make changes to the design without consulting
the designer. Everything in the design has been carefully
thought through, and alterations could have serious consequences.
The plans consist of twenty-five A3 sheets of drawings,
a small selection of photos, and an illustrated instruction
manual of forty-odd pages. There are two separate editions
of the plans – Imperial and Metric – your choice
Just received Ross Lillistone's plans for the Phoenix
III...and I honestly think I ripped him off. The plans
are spectacular in their clarity and detail---but then
there's the bound build book that's gotta be worth $30.
all by itself.
The photos throughout both the plans and the book are
also amazing. My cat could build this boat (damn, I probably
just blew my excuse if I screw this up, eh?)
You gotta tell more people about this guy, especially
the newer builders. Just don't tell Ross yet--no sense
having him raise his prices until I buy the rest of his