Lionel Jefcoat – Boatbuilder & Wood Craftsman

The Flirt


Lionel Jefcoat – Boatbuilder & Wood Craftsman

details ex Nelson Mail, Radio NZ & Gary Drummond

Lionel Jefcoat works out of a ‘shed’ in Havelock, where he built the historic replica steam launch Flirt – an incarnation of an 1894 British-built mail launch of the same name which plied Canadian waters. Flint is a regular attendee at the antique and classic boat show at Nelson’s Lake Rotoiti.

The project emerged from Flint’s owner Rob Hamlett’s ambition to own a classic steam launch. He went to Canada to find a steamboat, found Flirt and shipped it to New Zealand then found it was beyond restoration. The steam engine however, was in good-enough order and was installed in the new Flirt.

The 26′ launch, according to Lionel, has been modified slightly by Wellington naval architect Bruce Askew. Its teak decks and deckhouse, kauri stem and pressure-treated kahikatea carvel planked and caulked hull pay homage to a traditional design and construction, and a faded trade of wooden boat building.

Lionel’s own boat is the 30′ wooden sloop Saffron, built to his own design, taking three years to construct. It was launched in late 2010.

Lionel’s love of boats was formed in the “back blocks” of a Southland farm, he never wanted to be anything other than a boat builder. The Jefcoate family moved to Governor’s Bay near Lyttelton when Lionel was 17 and he began a boat building apprenticeship with Miller Brothers soon after.

His boat building career extended to the cruising yachts he built to take his own family sailing, and the boat shed he worked in from for others. “I once had a big shed in Governor’s Bay but sold it when there was no more boat building being done.” His 12-metre cutter Encore, which is now in Wellington, was to have been the ultimate “retirement” cruiser, but by the time he finished building Encore he was 60, had no money, no house so Lionel moved to the 100+ year old villa & workshop in Havelock that today is home to this wooden craftsman.

Below is a link to a photo gallery of images from Radio NZ ‘Nine to Noon’ that showcase Lionel – in his early days, family life & some of many craft he built. Enjoy

14-05-2016 Input from Ian Miller

A while back Rosalind discovered Lionel on her family tree (albeit way out at the end of a remote branch) and as a result of that we called on him earlier this year when we were in the Marlborough Sounds. He was not particularly interested in discovering another relative (sentiments similar to my own) but when he learned of our interest in old wooden boats his whole demeanour changed and we spent a most enjoyable three hours with him.

The workmanship in his sea chests and turned bowls was out of this world and the experience of looking at his stuff and talking to him about it, as well as his boats, was something I will never forget.

His book “57 Boats Later” is a fascinating chronicle of his life as a wooden boat builder  and he was persuaded to sell me his second to last copy, although I understand a third reprint is on its way. (I must get a copy. AH)

Lionel Jefcoate RIP

Sadly, I have to advise that Lionel passed away on 17th July 2018. His funeral is scheduled for – Springlands Chapel, Cloudy Bay Funeral Home, 1:30pm – Saturday 28th July.

I was sent the photos below & copy by Russell Ward ex Rob Hamlett.

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 11.53.41 am

Screen Shot 2018-07-23 at 12.05.10 pm.png

9 thoughts on “Lionel Jefcoat – Boatbuilder & Wood Craftsman

  1. Hello you all, who knew or admired Lionel
    We met him during his voyage to Tahiti, in the 70’s, and sadly discovered, today, where we are in Christchurch to pay him a visit, that he passed away…
    Can anyone put us in relation with his friend and partner, whith whom he sailed to Tahiti and Polynesia ? Thanks to this friend, a memorable horseback journey from Christchurch to West Coast, in 6 months, could be organized and we would like to meet him again to evoke all these memories…


  2. Neroli, try “Bow to Stern” in Havelock. That’s where my copy came from. Contact details on their website.


  3. If anyone can please assist in where I can please purchase a copy of Lionel’s book “57 Boats Later”. I would love to get a copy to pass on to my family. Thank you.


  4. Lionel and family were friends and great neighbours in Governors Bay. Lionel also built our boats. “The Galaxy” was a beautiful trawler/crayfish boat, which I believe may have been the first large boat built in the Governors Bay shed? We watched in awe, as Lionel the master craftsman, did his magic. Wonderful memories of days gone by. Lionel later built the “Anita Joy”, named after my daughter. Lionel will be greatly missed but his gentle spirit and amazing craftmanship and his awesome boats will be around and remembered forever. My deepest condolences to Lionel’s Family.


  5. I have just stumbled on this page. If this reaches Jan Mitchell, do get in touch and I can tell you about Encore. We have been proud to own her for 15 years – the second Cox/Jefcoate boat in my family.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Eric Cox was my Father. I remember my Mother having the honour of launching Encore over at Governors Bay. Lionel also made gave my Mother a beautiful wooden box with stunning inlaid patterns of which I have now and will always treasure.
    He built a lot of Dads boats and I remember going over to the big boat building shed in Governors Bay with Dad to see his latest build.
    I would love to know the whereabouts of Encore and also Red Feather.
    Perhaps some one may be able to tell me

    Liked by 1 person

  7. An extremely talented boatbuilder. I have had the pleasure of visiting his workshop in Havelock and the sea chests etc that he has made need to be seen to be believed. He makes everything for his boats himself including making the patterns for all of the bronze castings. One of the last remaining great traditionalists. He has also published a book called “57 Boats Later” which is a very interesting pictorial record of every boat he has built. Available from Lionel himself and a few selected local chandleries I think.


  8. One of the unsung greats, a Canterbury legend. In my mind he’s also associated with Eric Cox; though I’m not at all sure how many boats he built to Cox’s designs.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s