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)