I have known Kim for over 20 years. In that time we have discussed our mutual interest in the history of yacht design and various boats that appealed to both of us. Kim has an amazing library of things yachting with an emphasis on design. Kim also has a history of owning skinny boats. He just prefers narrow boats and can trace this preference back to cruising with his parents on their Dragon Class sloop.
So I wasn’t totally surprised when Kim finally called and suggested we get together to discuss a new boat. During that initial meeting we discussed our mutual love of double enders and our preference for narrow boats. For me narrow is a performance issue. Narrow boats sail well and are generally very well behaved. We like double enders because we just like the look. It’s an aesthetic element that clearly defines the boat. After about an hour I began to sketch and in short time Kim and I were in agreement on how to proceed. The boat evolved way beyond that initial sketch but the seed was planted and the formal part of the design process was initiated.
Drawings were emailed back and forth and soon we were honed in on a type with minimal overhangs, deep draft, narrow beam and a very modest interior layout. The boat was to be by design an “old man’s day sailer”. After some severe arm twisting I convinced Kim that the boat needed a comfortable interior if for nothing else than to satisfy his wife and his two sailing sons, Derek and Brent. The deck layout was to be fine tuned for one man’s operation of all sailing functions.
Kim and I put together a team of experts to contribute to the various elements required to bring the design to life. These included Ivan Erdevicki, my engineer who designed the keel, Tim Nolan from Port Townsend who did all the structural engineering. Jim Franken, Tim’s associate was hired to do all the 3D modeling to allow close tolerance CNC pattern cutting. This is the short list. I won’t even try to list al the contributors to the effort here but rest assured Kim tapped into the wealth of knowledge and experience in the PNW to bring this boat to life. Fact is I had a lot of skilled help in the design process.
FRANCIS LEE aka The Sliver Project was built at the Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding in Hadlock Washington and finished at the CSR yard in Ballard. The hull is red cedar strip planking sheathed in glass. The deck is composite out of a female mold made from CNC cut patterns. The interior is also all CNC cut composite panels and masterfully designed to be all assembled outside of the hull and dropped intact into the finished hull. I thank Jim Franken for his work on this part of the project. Jim always amazed us with his cavalier attitude that “It has to fit. It’s all from the same computer file.”
FRANCIS LEE has now been sailing for about three months. The boat’s performance has delighted us from the very first day under sail. The boat is stiff, has great directional stability, perfect docile manners and above all is very fast. So fast in fact, that Kim after winning the first race he entered has seldom missed a race since. The “old man’s daysailer” has turned into Kim’s race boat for now. I have thoroughly enjoyed myself racing the boat. We push the boat hard with a crew of five or six and that’s all we need to beat boats crewed by a dozen or more. Excuse me if I sound smug but it’s because I fell a bit smug about the performance of FRANCIS LEE. The boat is just plain very fast. The feel on the tiller is delicious. We regularly fight over who gets to, drive. I usually win.
Yes, this is an unusual design. No it’s not the boat for everyone. I only wish more people could sail “FRANKIE” to get a feel for the personality of a long, skinny boat. The boat simply has no bad manners.
I struggle when asked what is my favorite design. I don’t struggle anymore. For now my favorite is FRANKIE. It is both an aesthetic and a performance statement of excellence. I am most proud of this design.