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

Boats mentioned: Merlin, Sango, Gypsy, Saturn, Transit

As many people know, 2006 started disastrously for us as we lost our 32ft catamaran Eclipse. You can see more on the Eclipse Log Book pages and on the Review of 2006 page. As a final, final update we recently received the following email:

"We met on USS FORD last January, where I was the Executive Officer at the time. I saw your sight and am sorry for the fate of ECLIPSE, but it is a tribute that she is still floating. I am writing to share with you that AW2 Christopher Gotelli was named as the Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific Enlisted Aircrewman of the Year. Of all the young men and women we have flying as aircrew, only one from each coast is chosen for this honor. Petty Officer Gotelli is about to deploy again on one of the ships in my squadron. " (Chris was our rescue swimmer.)

By coincidence the day we lost Eclipse was also the day we completed the purchase of a house on Saturna Island, in the Gulf Islands of British Columbia. We had sailed in the area in 2005, (CLICK HERE) which was enough to convince us to come back to live and sail in the Strait of Georgia, at least during the summer!

When sailing in BC we met up with Garret and Carllie Hennigan who have built a beautiful Gypsy, "Lightwave". Indeed it looks like a high quality professionally built boat - but in fact it was the first boat they had ever built! After about 8 years cruising BC they have now sailed south. You can read about their adventures and much, much more on their web site, CLICK HERE

I took this photo, above, from our Merlin and we had a hard job staying ahead of Lightwave and its powerful screecher. This photo has since graced the front cover of Multihulls magazine, the second time Lightwave has featured there.

British Columbia and the Strait of Georgia are still new cruising grounds for us. You can read about our new summer house in the Gulf Islands HERE and the story of our first years cruising on our new boat, a Merlin "Tucanu" HERE. As a result of that experience I have decided to make some changes to our Merlin, changes that could also be made to a Janus or Strider. CLICK HERE to see more.

In late November 2006 I went ocean sailing again. Aussie Alan sailed his Crowther 33 ft catamaran Rush to the UK about 10 years ago. As a boatbuilder he helped build the prototype Savannah 26 and later a Sagitta. But now he has decided it is time to sail home. So I joined him in the Canaries and sailed on Rush until late February, by which time we had arrived in Panama. You can see more on this trip if you CLICK HERE.

We had Christmas in Tobago. Writing that made me think where I had spent last Christmas. Looking back I realised I had spent the last 5 Christmases on board Eclipse. Not only that, but each Christmas was in a different country! The Scilly Islands, UK, in 2001, Barbados in 2002, Bahamas in 2003, Panama in 2004 and Costa Rica in 2005.

After returning to Canada in late March we spent some time refitting Tucanu with its new mast beam and cuddy. Photos will be posted on the Plan Updates pages. But as a taster, here are a couple.

The first shows the best test of catamaran strength you can have. I jacked the boat up with a support under each bow and each stern. Then I took one of the chocks away. You can see the hull is well clear of the aft trailer chock. It's only being held up by a chock under the bow and by the aft crossbeam, yet the boat didn't noticeably deflect. It looks scary, and is certainly a load that you wouldn't get at sea, but it does give one a lot of reassurance.

The second photo shows Tucanu just after launching. The cuddy is hardly noticeable, while, with the drifter hoisted, we had gps recorded speeds of over 6 knots in only 5 knots of breeze.

A month later we had already spent two weeks on board and won our first race.

CLICK HERE for more details

I have often written that designers should sail on other peoples designs as much as they can. I always take any opportunity offered.

The major offshore race in British Columbia is the VanIsle 360. Held every two years this is a fully crewed race in 10 legs that takes competitors right round Vancouver Island. Although it's not a long race (the longest leg is only 130 miles) the tidal currents, potential gales in the north and remoteness of the west coast make it a challenging event. (Driving north to join my boat we saw a bear by the side of the road.) It is also much colder and wetter than further south, it rained non stop in Winter Harbour.

I was invited to crew on a F31R (an all carbon Farrier 31ft trimaran) "Blue Lightning" to race from Port Hardy in the north down the west coast of Vancouver Island to Victoria in the south. In 2005 we had sailed from Port Hardy to Victoria using the inside passage, so this trip meant that I would circumnavigate Vancouver Island, admittedly in two different boats.

Part of the fleet moored in Winter Harbour

You can see more about the race and the results at www.vanisle360.com. But in brief the race was dogged by light winds (the leg to Victoria was abandoned as only 6 boats finished in the time limit (we were 6th). A 60ft monohull had the shortest elapsed time, while the smallest boat in the fleet, a F25C was third fastest round the island.

Owner Mark at the helm, note small cockpit

That's what I like about these races that are open to monohulls and multihulls. The monohulls learn that some multihulls do sail well. For my part I learnt that although modern trimarans are fast they are very uncomfortable, small and wet to sail compared to a catamaran. I also didn't like the fact that the only dry part of the boat is the windward outrigger, but to get there involved a leap over the aft beam with nothing except sea under one. Potentially very dangerous. Finally, I found that the flat bottomed main hull slammed far more than Eclipse ever did when sailing to windward.

As I say, sailing other people's designs is something all designers should do.

The new Mustang is the ideal boat for races like this. Built by a Far Eastern boatyard a Mustang can be sailing in the USA or Europe for under USD100,000, which is a very tempting price. Please contact me if you are interested.

The photo below shows a tent awning on Lindsay Henderson's Sango, which is very similar to the one we have on Tucanu. Very useful as a "porch" when it rains.

Lindsay writes " Thanks for the info on Mustang. Certainly a very tasty cat, lean and purposeful. The ideal combination of speed and comfort in a manageable package. I've started saving already.

I sail my Sango around Scotland. Mostly on the west coast but presently in the Firth of Forth (I live in Edinburgh), weekending and doing a bit of racing. I've "circumnavigated" Scotland a couple of times. Up the east coast to Orkney, down the west and back through the Forth-Clyde Canal. I really need to sort myself out with a trailer since I've done the F-C Canal seven times now and it would be a lot quicker trailering when I'm trying to get out to the Western Isles. " Lindsay (a very happy Sango owner)

The Sango is proving a very popular design, but some people are put off by the fact that the hulls are built in strip cedar. I am drawing extra plan sheets for those who want to build in foam sandwich. I am also drawing a modified version using a hard chine hull instead of round bilge hull. This version is suitable for those who want an easy build Sango and are not too worried about ultimate performance. You can see more on the Sango design page.

Although I have been working hard on new designs and magazine articles (see below) this summer we have also taken time out to go sailing. Sadly this year we didn't manage to get as far north as Desolation Sound as we did last year, but we did race in the BCMS September regatta, and we won again, just as we did in May. Fortunately this time it didn't rain, but there was once again very little wind.

The Transit 38's and Saturns are both progressing well. The first Transit should be launched early in 2008 in Virginia USA, see photo below

The first hull of the two Canadian Saturns currently building is now complete. Launch date will be sometime in 2008.