The Return of the Lyra
It was the summer of 2001, and I was anxiously awaiting the arrival of Gary and Nancy Fredrick. They were trailering their 20' gaff-rigged sloop, the LYRA, up from Santa Cruz, California to my boat shop near Port Townsend, Washington. I had designed and built their boat in Santa Cruz in 1973, and had not seen it for twenty-five years. I've always had a soft spot in my heart for the LYRA, as she was my first design commission and was successful beyond my wildest dreams.
Back in 1972 Gary had walked into my small boat shop, then located in the local co-op hardware and feed store right between the dog food and alfalfa, and asked if I would be interested in building a small cruising boat from a 1930's design. I was amazed at my good luck at being asked to build a new boat, but promptly refused on the grounds that said design was too ugly to build. Much to my surprise, the result was the creation of LYRA, and a life long friendship with Gary and Nancy. They wanted a small wood boat with a "traditional" appearance that was trailerable, so that they could sail in Puget Sound and the San Juan Islands without bashing up and down the rugged West Coast.
I decided on a simple single chine plywood hull for ease and quickness of construction and to eliminate any problems with opening seams while on the trailer. She is 20'6" on deck, but 26'7" from the end of the bowsprit to the end of the barn door rudder. With a beam of 7'11" she is easily legal on the road, and with a shallow draft of 19' she's fairly easy to launch. She draws 5' 6' with the 500 lb centerboard down. There are also 500 pounds of lead ballast in the bilge. LYRA displaces 3700 pounds loaded, so a 3/4 ton pickup or van is a good idea for trailering. The mast is stepped on deck in a substantial tabernacle, so it's easy to raise and lower. When the mast is lowered, it barely sticks out beyond the rudder, which is not only handy for trailering, but you can stand on the rudder and work on the mast head if ever needed.
The construction of the hull was simple and straightforward. First, I built the 6 frames, the transom, and the stem. These were arranged upside down on a grid of two 4 x 6's running fore and aft. Then the keelson was laminated with three 1 x 12's bent over notches in the frames. After the chines, stringers, and sheer stringer were fastened to the frames, I bolted the centerboard trunk to the keelson. The 1/2" plywood bottom and 3/8" sides went on easily. The plywood skeg was bolted on, and the hull was glassed with fiberglass cloth and epoxy resin. We rolled the whole thing out the door, unfastened the hull from the grid, and rolled it over.
The plywood deck was covered with fiberglass cloth and Arabol, a latex lagging compound that looks like white glue. It's held up well, but I would use epoxy now. The round catboat style cabin was built with two layers of 1/8" plywood laminated together, then 3/8" mahogany vertical staves were glued to each side. This was a lot of work, but is strong, waterproof and good looking. The cabin top is a layer of 1.4" and 1/8" plywood laminated together over mahogany beams. The bulwarks are mahogany planks wrapped around the hull and strengthened with oak knees bolted to blocking under the deck.
Down below, we have a wood stove and counter (since changed to a seat) to port, and a folding seat to starboard. Forward of this are two berths split down the middle by the centerboard trunk which has a folding table on it. There is a chain locker right up in the bow. We have storage under the berths, under the cockpit seats, and in the lazarette. One possible change to the interior would be to add a quarterberth. To do this the cockpit seats would need to be raised up to the deck level, as they are about 4' below deck level now, not leaving enough room underneath for a quarter berth.
A change since launching involves the engine. Originally, being primarily sailors, and lacking money for an inboard anyway, we decided to hang an outboard off the transom. This did not work well due to height of the transom, and the barn door rudder. So Gary found a used 6 ? horsepower Vire gas engine, which I installed with an off-center prop. This motor drove the boat at 5 to 6 knots, but had the bad habit of quitting without warning, usually when you needed it the most.
I was a bit nervous when we first launched the new boat, wondering how she would perform, especially after spending most of Gary and Nancy's money on my idea of a boat. Luckily, she sailed great! LYRA was fast and responsive; the cockpit was dry and comfortable, she had this wonderful shippy feel and was a pleasure to look at.
The summer after the boat was launched, the Fredricks took her to Klamath Lake, Oregon, where they cruised around for a month. The next summer they towed the boat to Anacortes, Washington and cruised the San Juan Islands for a month. A friend and I picked up the boat at the end of August in Friday Harbor and sailed up through the Gulf Islands, across the straights of Georgia, and up to Desolation Sound. On the way south we sailed up Jervis Inlet to Princess Louisa Inlet, visited Islands on both sides of the Straight of Georgia, and sailed through the San Juans to Anacortes. It was a month of sailing, hundreds of miles in some of the most beautiful places on earth. What amazed me was the attention the LYRA attracted. We'd sail in somewhere, drop the hook, and before long someone would row over to see the boat, frequently inviting us ashore to their place. It was a great way to meet people and get to know the local area.
Gary and Nancy sold the LYRA in 1978 to buy a larger cruising boat to raise their growing family on. The new owner, Dale Goff, sailed the LYRA hard for a number of years on the Pacific Coast and the inland waters of the Northwest, then put the boat in storage until Gary and Nancy bought her back in 2001.
Last year the Fredricks took the LYRA for a cruise south from Port Townsend, around Whidby Island and then north to Lummi Island near Bellingham. I thought they might not enjoy cruising in a small boat again, now that they were thirty years older. Gary said it was the most fun they ever had! So, despite that she's stored in one of my boat sheds for the winter, the LYRA sails on!
Over the years I've sold many sets of plans for the LYRA, and boats have been built as far away as Australia. I even helped build a keel version in Alaska once. LYRA plans, consisting of the lines, offsets, accommodation plan, sail plan, construction drawings and twelve pages of specifications are available for a fee of $175.00.
Finished boats are also available on a custom built basis. For information or to order plans, contact Tom Tucker at::
Tucker Yacht Design and Boatbuilding
P.O. Box 328
Port Townsend, WA 98368