Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • plywood Romany 34

  • lightweight 14ft Zeta mainhull

  • Strike 15 trimaran at speed

  • 28ft Skoota in British Columbia

  • 10ft 2 sheet ply Duo dinghy

  • 24ft Strider sailing fast

  • 36ft Mirage open deck catamaran

Last September, we put Tryst, our 10 foot nesting trimaran, into our pickup and left Port Townsend, Washington for Eufala, Oklahoma, by way of Nebraska, Kansas, Kentucky and Louisiana. For 6,000 miles, we stopped at lakes, reservoirs and rivers and had fun sailing in some strange places. All across the country we saw marinas full of large, expensive cabin cruisers, small fishing boats, skiboats, boats meant to be sailed single-handed with little room for friends, and pontoon boats for large parties but with no accommodation. Which got me thinking about a design that would be perfect for a small family to build and then sail in the sheltered, sometimes shallow, waters of the thousands of lakes and waterways in the US. It would be small but would still have an aft sleeping cabin, a forward cabin, a center cockpit, a simple rig and be easily trailable. Additionally, it would be quick and inexpensive to build. The Saylon catamaran is the result.

At 20 feet, it is a very small catamaran - some beachcats are longer – and is designed to appeal to those who want to gently cruise for the weekend with a young family (or maybe with grandchildren!) in sheltered sailing waters. It is not intended as an offshore boat, nor for those who want to race. Saylon may seem a small boat, but it's huge compared to a 20ft monohull. In part that's because it is basically a rectangular shape. But also because the whole deck is usable space, while on a monohull you're generally restricted to the windward side.

The whole deck area is maximized, with the bridgedeck taken as far aft as possible, just leaving room for the rudders and outboard. Transom steps are built into each hull. There are watertight compartments for safety in case of collision or damage when grounding, but there is still plenty of storage space both above and below deck.

The center cockpit of the Saylon is a major feature which offers two advantages. First, it affords privacy by separating the double aft sleeping cabin and the forward cabin with galley and two single bunks. Second, the center cockpit keeps the crew's weight out of the ends and also makes sail handling easy.

Another feature that makes Saylon easy to handle is the simple rigging. The mast is stepped on the cockpit floor so that it is easy to raise. Hoisting the mainsail and reefing can be done safely from the front of the cockpit. The furling jib means there is no need to go on the foredeck when underway. The rig is small to assure stability because of the narrow 8 foot beam and no winches are required. The steering is "monohull friendly" with a central tiller and cockpit seats as on a monohull.

"Pop tops" are common on camper-vans and small boats alike, and one is used on the Saylon. A variation of that idea, also used on Saylon, is the "pop-bottom.” The forward part of the bridgedeck is lowered when at rest, giving extra sitting space and standing headroom, and is raised when underway. A waterproof "bag" surrounding the pop-bottom keeps you dry. That gives Saylon nearly 10sqft of standing area in the saloon.

Trailability is another important feature. Saylon is small and light enough to be towed behind a small family car on a simple flat bed trailer. The shallow flat-bottomed hulls make loading simply a matter of floating the boat onto the trailer and securing it. Much easier than a deep keel or even a centreboarded boat. And, with no assembly required - apart from raising the mast - you'll spend no longer at the slipway than you would launching a monohull.

The hull shape is based on a combination of my very successful Strike trimarans and Skoota powercats. It is basically a flat bottomed dory hull but V'eed near the bow to reduce slamming. The topside chine increases space below without changing the beam, which obviously is limited by the trailerability requirements. The side decks allow easy boarding and walking forward when coming alongside.

Finally, construction is fast and inexpensive. It is a flat panel ply/epoxy boat that is very easy to build single-handed in a regular garage. Allow 500 building hours ready to paint.

During the last fifty years I have designed and enjoyed sailing fast boats that handled well in rough seas and windy weather. And I still do, but as I've grown older I've also come to realize there is much to be said for a leisurely, comfortable afternoon sail with friends and family. Or an overnight trip to a secluded bay to enjoy the sunset, picnic ashore and then settle in for a night on the water. I believe Saylon is the boat that will deliver just that.