March 2015 – Paul Fisher

Paul Fisher has the sea in his blood. At the age of 9 he attempted to run away to sea, showing better judgement in packing sandwiches and “pop” (his term), than in his choice of vessel – which failed to depart before food and drink was exhausted. He slunk home.

But before long, as a teenager, he and a friend acquired a starter boat and with a library copy of “Teach Yourself Sailing” they taught themselves to sail on the Thames, progressing through numerous boats including a rotten Norfolk Wherry bought for £50 quid, at which price it was clearly no bargain. Paul designed his first boat at the age of 15, read Naval Architecture and Shipbuilding at Newcastle University and after graduating joined the Royal Institute of Naval Architects.


He cut his designer teeth with McGruers and Silvers Marine (later to become DM Russell Ltd.). This family company, with its enormous loft for full-size layout, foundry, and construction shed was one of the UK’s premier yards. Here Paul learnt about the reality of design – of things that could be built as well as drawn. He learnt about mast-making, about (extremely) dirty racing on the Clyde, and about handling clients….

In 1982 Paul moved to Devon to start Selway Fisher Design, going on to produce some 400 designs covering an amazingly wide range of craft – canoes, dinghies, day boats, yachts, junks, slipper launches, steam vessels… building up a well-deserved reputation for producing good boats for modest budgets. He was a pioneer of and champions modern wood/composite construction (e.g. clinker ply, stitch and tape, “egg-box”, strip planking).

In addition to his real-world designs Paul runs a line in replicas and models for the film industry, which needs a steady flow of historic craft from galleons to U-boats. Not in any way to downplay the long hard work that Paul has put into his craft (in both meanings of the word) but one has to admire and envy a man who turned a lifelong hobby into a career – one in which he has excelled.