Review of 2010
Boats mentioned: Romany, Shadow, Gypsy, Sango, Strider, Saturn, Banshee, Transit, Strike 16, Strike 18, Skoota, Sagitta
Jan - March 2010
As always, things are pretty quiet at the beginning of the year with few boat launchings or builders reports.
Rajen keeps me updated regularly with his Romany (below) being professionally built in India. It's taking a bit longer than he hoped, but then all boats do.
In Italy Mariana Sanchez Penino has been sailing his Shadow, the wooden version of the Strider Club
Also recently launched, but not yet rigged, is Isaac's Gypsy in Vigo, Spain
I like getting photos of boats in build as well as sailing but it doesn't actually happen very often. In fact neither of the two above builders ever contacted me after buying the plans until now. The up side is that it shows that my plans are detailed enough for home builders to finish their boat without help.
We spent November 2009 to March 2010 sailing our Romany in Florida and the Bahamas. Although we spent some time in the Abacos, as we had done the year before, we also sailed south through the Exumas to the tropic line at Georgetown. You can see more on the 2009 year review page.
This was our fourth visit to the Bahamas and unfortunately, due probably to a combination of El Nino, solar activity and climate change, the weather there was the worst ever recorded, with almost constant gales and lots of rain. On the few nice days there was usually little wind (the calm before the next storm). If this weather pattern continues then the Bahamas will no longer be such an attractive cruising ground for "snowbirds".
So we spent a lot of time at anchor or on a mooring. As a result I talked boats to lots of fellow cruisers, many of whom (especially those older sailors no longer as fit as they once were) said they should have bought a smaller, simpler boat.
We had a busy March. After a couple of months with just Jetti for company, my sister flew out from the UK for her annual sailing trip. Sadly most of the time the weather kept us at anchor, but she still managed to swim everyday, something she doesn't do at home in Liverpool!
Then no sooner had she left than Jeff and Heather, Romany builders from Minneapolis, USA flew in to sail Romany back to Florida with us. We had never met before so this was one time when Romany's split accommodation layout really proved its worth. We all had privacy and in fact didn't really notice they were on board.
Neither Jeff nor Heather (above) had ever sailed a catamaran before (so I thought they were quite brave to start building one) and became excited on their first day when in light winds we sailed at a steady 8 knots. Later, after Jeff had helmed across the Gulf Stream and touched 12 knots under double reefed main and the genoa rolled away, 8 knots seemed really passe. You can read more of their view of the trip here
Regulars to the site will know we have had Romany on the market for a couple of months. It has now been sold to Chris and Carol, plus Kelly and Shane, who will be live-aboard cruisers following a similar route to us, sailing up to Annapolis for the summer and then south to the Florida Keys, the Bahamas and beyond. We wish them safe, enjoyable sailing.
Of course selling Romany doesn't mean we are boatless! Indeed it just means I can soon start (yet) another project.
But first I have to finish our Skoota power cat. This has had an embarrassing long gestation time, so to speed it's completion we had Andrew Slow build its second hull. It was a bit of a surprise to see how he delivered it, but at least he proved it's light and strong and, with both hulls and the cuddy now complete, we should be motoring around this summer.
Of course one reason for the delay in completing Skoota is that the Strike 18 distracted me. Plans were finished late last year and sales are now going well, and just as important, we will soon be sailing our own Strike again. We now have a newer mainsail (from a Trac 16) which not only is much fuller than the original but also has a square top giving more area. We also bought a used screecher, plus furling gear, so sailing performance should be much improved, maybe we'll even race it. More news and videos will no doubt appear through the year.
I have also been working on the Strike 16 plans. This uses a 14ft beach cat (eg Pixie, Quattro 14) for outriggers and, like the 18, has a windscreen to raise the boom. Plans should be available by mid summer.
The Strike 15 is the smallest in my trimaran range. Maybe it's simplest to say it is a "home builders Weta" or a "Stealth with training wheels". But, however you like to think of it, I consider it a "geriatric dinghy". My concept all along has been to design a boat that is as fast and fun as a modern skiff, yet easy for less agile sailors to sail, maybe even for those who are disabled. The Strike 15 has a bigger rig than the Weta, so should be faster and, with the outriggers mounted further forward, be less prone to nose diving.
I had just finished building the prototype for the Strike 18 design when I heard from Joe Farinaccio. He writes about small tris at SmallTrimarans.com and asked if he could interview me about the Strike 18
So you might also like to look here http://www.smalltrimarans.com/book/More-Small-Trimarans-Book.html as it features a chapter on the Strike 18 and more photos than seen on this site.
After returning to our summer house in Canada we spent a week refitting our Strike 18. A new mainsail and bowsprit for the screecher were top of the list, while we also fitted the much-needed trampolines and a bracket for a 2hp outboard. We launched on May 12th.
Unfolding and bolting the outriggers in place took literally a couple of minutes (no need to touch the trampolines). Then it is as easy to rig as a beach cat, so two men could be sailing in 1/2 hour. We take a bit longer, as we use the boom to raise the mast, that way it can be done easily by one person. Even so we were afloat and sailing in less than an hour, and on only our second go at rigging the boat. If we trailed regularly we'd get better and faster.
A 2hp outboard is all you need, using it our GPS showed a cruising speed of 5.1 knots, so clearly it has ample horsepower. More videos and photos from the recent BCMS meeting (see below, sailing at a steady 9-11 knots) will be posted shortly. The video was taken by Tim Poustie from Flying Kiwi, a 35ft open deck racing catamaran, sailing only a little bit faster than Strike
Flying Kiwi, below just after overtaking Strike.
The video below was taken on two earlier sails. The first sail in light winds shows the screecher in use. When unfurled our speed increased from 2.5 to 4.5 knots, not bad, because as you can see there was hardly any wind. Oh, and spot the seal!
The second sequence was just before the BCMS race, 11.6 knots was our highest speed with two on board. The wind slowly moderated during the race, allowing Flying Kiwi to pull ahead. But we still overtook a Beneteau 36 to windward. Of course once we had done so it rolled up its sails and started motoring, but we find most monohulls do that after being overtaken to windward by a smaller multihull.
June - July 2010
I flew back to the UK for a few weeks, partly to work, partly for family commitments. The first time I have been in the UK during the summer for 8 years. I had forgotten how nice it is in warm, not to say hot, weather! While there I sailed on Backlash, a 25year old Banshee, from Plymouth to the Scillies, 100 miles away. Backlash is a veteran of two Round Britain races, an Azores race and is the first catamaran ever to complete the famous Fastnet race.
Sadly there was little wind and most of the trip was motor sailing. A complete contrast from the year before when over 19 knots was recorded on Backlash's gps.
The Scillies were great as always. I last visited for Christmas 2001, see my Articles page. Back then of course I was the only yacht. In midsummer it is very different, and a real bun fight ensures every evening as moorings are in short supply and the holding often poor if one tries to anchor.
The Scillies comprise dozens of small islands, some with attractive cottages and white sand beaches, so just like the Bahamas - only the rocks and tidal range were different.
While in the UK I received an email from Captain Wong, currently building a Gypsy, see his excellent web site (link on my Owners Web page). It contained the log of a 450 mile trip by the new owners of his old Strider, Phil Tinker and his wife KC. I have posted it in the Cruising section of my Articles pages. The trip was made noteworthy because the combined age of the crew was 126, see below.
Meantime, on the other side of the world, the Dutch Sagitta Glatisant is busy cruising the Azores. Although Marc's blog is in Dutch (see the Owners Websites page for the link) using the translation feature of Google I read this:
"And that was already the fifth day at sea. Tonight I saw that we were halfway. We have logged a total of 825 miles in 104 hours!"
An 8 knot average speed is not bad for a 30ft cruising catamaran crossing an ocean. It may not sound much, but in fact is a higher speed than Phil Weld averaged when he won the 1980 OSTAR on his 50ft Newick trimaran Moxie.
Another long cabin version Sagitta, Midnight Rambler, has recently been launched. It has had a somewhat chequered history, so it was great to hear that it is now sailing.
Ghita writes "It's been an adventure this week.... Midnight Rambler brought me and crew (Graham Burton) safely to Brighton. 38 hours from Ramsgate to Brighton - atrocious weather with all the winds and tides against us. Thank you so much to Peter with whom I built her... shes an amazing boat and the thought and work he has put in has really paid off. I have had such a lovely time on her even if it was force 6 and wind over tide... I STILL didnt spill my coffee!!!!!!! woohoo!!!"
Check Ghita Thomas's Facebook page, or the link on my Owners Websites page for photos and more details.
In late September we raced our Strike again. This time in the BCMS Saturna regatta. As always there was little wind, but that didn't stop us having a great race against a Reynolds 21 catamaran. In a 2 1/2hr race they beat us by a boat-length. My fault, we were ahead until just before the finish. The photo shows us both after the start, the wind did get up to about 10 knots later in the race
However, the big event this month is the launch of my first powercat design, the trailable Skoota 20 (although I'm afraid to say it is still cosmetically unfinished)
It uses a central 25hp Yamaha outboard and features a small central cabin (with double berth and galley) so could also be used as a basic cruising boat.
You can see some videos here
With one person on board it will do 15 knots, or 14 knots with three on board. The Skoota hull is a semi-displacement hull, so unsuitable for higher speeds. I actually designed it to run at 12 knots, so 15 was a very pleasant surprise.
The overall beam of Skoota is 14ft, but it folds, like my similar length sailing catamaran Wizard, to 8ft on the trailer. Which is one reason for using a central engine as two would make the steering and throttles harder to organise.
Note, the Skoota design actually has transom steps even though the prototype has decked over transoms.
However before motoring far I will be fitting a small (4hp) get-me-home outboard on a transom bracket. To be honest I am very nervous about the Skoota as I have never before owned a boat that I couldn't sail home. But I know that for many, if not the majority, of boaters a single outboard is all they have.
As I just said, I am a sailor, not a motor boat man. So I have been using a very experienced outboard motor/small craft expert as a consultant, although, to be honest, after the first few minutes he tends to lose me during our discussions. But then, why use a consultant if you know as much as they do? His advice seems to work though, for after seeing the videos (above) he wrote:
"Your latest videos show proper trim , no wake between the hulls, no rooster tail. Very impressive actually. I think you are getting her dialled in now. 15 knots on 20 foot hulls ! That is unbelievable. And there is no visible bow wave! I think it's in there somewhere, right under your cg. You can't possibly be displacement at that speed. Bravo! I am very impressed."
And then later, after I emailed him my final outboard nacelle drawings he wrote:
"That looks very good. You are adding about 15 degrees of driveshaft angle and 5 inches of depth simultaneously. So when the going is tough you can tuck your bows in and slog it out, and when the conditions allow you can let her run her bows higher. Users can experiment with trim pin positions to fine tune the system. The result is a completely tune-able boat. A 'completely tune-able, semi planing, single engined power catamaran' Brilliant."
And my consultant is not alone in his praise. These two recent emails about Skoota are typical:
"I want one" CL,
I just finished watching the Skoota 20 launch videos. As I watched the video, I kept on saying to myself over and over again was "THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I'VE BEEN LOOKING FOR!!!". ED.
"I have watched the video footage....and I've only got two words to say... VERY IMPRESSIVE Those lovely slender hulls look very efficient. My ultimate goal is to travel in that elusive 12-16 knot range regardless of chop. Skoota looks to be just what the doctor ordered. " NJ
The photo above was taken as we were moving the Skoota to its winter storage behind our house. You can see how stiff the boat is, one hull is only supported at the transom, the beams hold the rest of the hull up in the air. (The other hull has supports at bow and stern of course). I think you'll agree this is a pretty extreme test compared to what a boat endures when at sea.
Although not a Skoota, the photo below (of the much bigger Savannah 26) shows the trailer to water principle. As the trailer backs into the water the buoyancy of the hulls opens it out automatically. On retrieval gravity folds it up. Two bolts hold it all together when afloat, strong enough as the photo above shows. So no lifting or winching needed - nature does the work in seconds.
John M, a prospective customer wrote recently: " I have been sailing on Lindsay Henderson's Sango. What an impressive boat! She is the first of your designs I have actually seen in the flesh. She sailed like a witch, both under all plain sail and under screecher and spinnaker.
That was a very enjoyable day, doing 9 knots by gps on a true windspeed not much more than that, and all without any fuss whatsoever - and that was with me on the helm with my decided lack of recent catamaran experience. Lindsay could make her sing. It has answered my question as to what Richard Woods' designs are like - I would not go wrong with any of them."
The Romany being built in India is nearing completion, and very smart it looks too.
I have now sold a few Strike 16 plans, and over 20 Strike 18 plans. Below is a Strike 16 a few days into the build.
We are now approaching the end of our time in Canada for the year, our 6 months is up. We will be back next May, but before then we have plenty of sailing ahead. In mid November we fly to the east coast USA (again!) but this time we will be sailing on Tom Garetson's Transit 38.
We are still not quite sure where to, but definitely "south" and "Bahamas" have been mentioned. Fortunately this is a complete, finished boat, so we won't have any repairing/filling/sanding/painting to do as we have for the last couple of seasons. That will mean on our in-port days I'll be able to draw, write and of course answer emails. We have an Iphone and found we could get a signal pretty much everywhere we sailed last year. So I will be rarely incommunicado - a far cry from even a couple of years ago.
We then have made tentative plans to sail in the eastern Mediterranean next spring on a friends 36ft catamaran, but that trip is still in the early planning stage. More when we know it ourselves.
We left Canada in late October, sadly three days before Andrew Slow launched his beautifully built Saturn in Victoria. We won't be able to see it in the water until next June, but Andrew has promised to send photos of his trial sails.
He wrote: "she's beautiful, more bouyant aft than I had hoped for,tracks and steers well and I think she is going to be fast. Feels heavy but sits 2ins above waterline so can't be. Just a bigger boat than Tucanu by far. Lots to learn and play with. I'm very happy, thank you very much Richard. I'll give you a better up date when we have finished our cruise to Hornby this week"
A few days later Andrew wrote:
"Arrived at Ford Cove 6.30pm in the dark last night after some fantastic sailing up from Victoria in very good weather. On the way up the Haro Strait we hit 14knots with with ease, perfectly balanced on the helm and absolutely bone dry on deck, no spray at all.
The last leg of the sail from Nanaimo was in South East 15- 20 knts and the typical Georgia strait chop that Tucanu sometimes struggled in. We flew along averaging 9knts and again made a 14knts high. She is so easy to handle in these difficult conditions and again was astonishingly dry and comfortable. The great thing about surfing down those 4ft swells is that the forward chines give great dynamic lift to keep you moving and in control.
There was occasional slop and drag on the aft end of the nacelle but no slamming or spray at all which all adds up to a very confidence inspiring stress free boat to cruise on.
So thanks so much for designing such a "Sweet Heart" of a boat, I couldn't wish for anything better. I hope the weather picks up enough for you to get South and East safely and soon, take care, Andrew. PS She tacks flawlessly, even from a broad reach."
On Nov 5th Jetti, Slater (Jetti's son) and I we went on board the Transit 38 "Crystal" in Reedsville Ma, and a few days later we started sailing south to Norfolk and then the ICW. We are taking Crystal south for owner Tom and will sail it until sold (see the Preowned Boats pages). This is our seventh ICW trip, so we are getting to know the routine.
The video, below, shows our first days sail across Mobjack Bay and south to Norfolk. Easy comfortable sailing with the boat steering itself at 8-9 knots, occassionally surfing to 11-12.
The photo below shows Crystal at Great Bridge Lock at ICW mile 12, all loaded for cruising. (Note: 6 weeks after taking this photo I saw the BBC used a photo of a boat moored in this very spot to illustrate just how much snow fell on the east coast USA - glad we got south!)
We had only been moored there a few hours when there was a knock on the hull "Is this a Woods catamaran?" A long boat design chat and meal followed.
A quick update. We have now sailed the Transit about 300 miles. It is proving a very comfortable and fast boat. Our best sail to date was sailing to windward at 9.5 knots in 28 knots apparent wind under full sail and overtaking a motoring monohull. HE was heeling more than we were and he had no sails up!
More to come in the weeks ahead!
Thanksgiving Day USA
We are celebrating Thanksgiving day in St Augustine. We had a good sail, at sea for once, from Charleston. In late afternoon we had a visit from some dolphins who played round the bows for maybe 20 minutes.
We had hoped to see the Shuttle launch while anchored at Titusville (as we did last year) on the 3rd but unfortunately it has been delayed till the 12th so we will miss it.
The shuttle launch was delayed again until at least February), so it was good we didn't wait for it. We have sailed south down the Indian River to Stuart Fl where we are currently waiting for good weather to cross to the Bahamas. The sailing itself was fast (up to 11 knots), very fast given the narrow waterway, but we tried to avoid sailing when it was cold. Most people think of Florida as an ideal warm winters destination and don't realise it can often be very cold.
The video below shows what 75F water does in an air temperature of 40F - it steams. This was on a day when we had to scrape ice off the decks before raising sail, something you don't expect in Florida.
I wrote earlier about the Strike 16 that had just started being built in the UK. Incredibly it is now almost finished after just a few weeks. Hopefully the snow won't stop further progress too much. See more photos on the Strike 16 pages
I had another email from Andrew Slow, the first Saturn builder, who sails in British Columbia
"Went round Hornby Island in two and half hours last week. deep reef in main and a couple of wraps in the jib, just flying but very comfortable. OK, it was a little wet going to windward at 10kts but dry going downwind at 15kts. I'm liking her more and more. Andrew "
The next time I update this page it will be from the Bahamas, probably next year, so I'll leave you with wishing you all the best for this festive season.
The short clip, below, was taken on board the Transit 38 to show just how easily the mainsail drops, even when sailing downwind, when using modern rig hardware. OK, we were sailing in only about 15 knots of true wind, but we have lowered sail just as easily in more. You cannot drop a sleeved sail as fast as this!! Nor one on a roller boom or when using in-mast furling.
Rajen launched his Romany in India on December 25th and wrote "Yesterday, we made a maiden voyage on Romany-Golden Cat from the boat yard to her home town 20 miles away. Initially we motored as there was no wind through a winding shallow river for 8 miles. By mid afternoon the sea breeze picked up to about force 3. We sailed at 7 kts average sog for 15 nm dist and touched max sog 9 kts.
She sailed beautifully - far better than my expectation. We could prepare a hot lunch and eat it as well while sailing, which would have been impossible on a mono hull. She sailed about 2 inches above water line with 5 people onboard.
Finally I'm very satisfied and happy man with your design and our boat builder's construction."
On December 28th Andrew Slow wrote again from British Columbia (where of course it was mid winter) to say:
"I've been sailing quite a bit though and like the boat more and more as I get to know her. The day after Boxing Day I took my kids and their partners out for a windy sail in relatively flat water. With a reef in and a few rolls in the jib I guess we got up to 17kts or more very easily going to windward with no fuss at all. They were very impressed and said they could water ski behind if they had the nerve and a very thick wet suit."