Review of 2013
As always the winter is a time for design work so I have been busy finishing off the Vardo plans - three now building - and the Skoota 28 and Strike 15 - twelve now building.
We have been going over to Sequim every week to admire Josh's workmanship on our own Skoota 28. I must say I really like to watch craftsmen at work. A pity I cannot afford to employ them full time. Note, this photo does not show the removable forward anchor locker unit. Its made but not fitted. The bridgedeck front isn't really that vertical!
As always the pace is slower than we had hoped, but that's normal, so no real surprise. By the end of January the structural work had been done, "just" sanding/painting and fitting deck gear left to do
One Friday in late January we left Port Townsend and drove south to San Francisco. On the way south I thought "I wonder if there is any multihull sailing this weekend?" I checked online and found that indeed there was, in fact the years biggest race in the Bay area was to be held the following day. The 2-handed Three Bridge Fiasco already had over 350 entries, including 35 multihulls.
While in the UK I got this photo from Josh and learnt that the whole boat has now been primed and the hull bottoms have four layers of Coppercoat. So launching is imminent! (The anchor locker is being made and painted separately)
I also received the following email from Rajen Shah of India who had his Romany professionally built a couple of years ago
"Golden Cat (Romany) and I were on front page of Times of India, Amdavad edition for state of Gujarat - a major English newspaper. We were also in news in local papers all on front pages. This was a first sailing voyage to lakshadweep from Gujarat. There may be a couple from Mumbai, but all were on larger imported production yachts with professional crew on board. On our Golden Cat I was the only one RYA qualified, rest were all trained by me.
This was big and unheardof news in this part of the world. The Romany superb design and my builder quality work has helped me to complete my dream. We sailed at least for two days in 23 kts wind with 2 reefs. Romany sailed smoothly in a rough sea of 1.5 to 2 meter waves. We also had about 18 kts wind while crossing my longest offshore passage of 150 nm two ways.
Both time the sea was fully built with tall waves, most inter island Lakshadweep ships cancelled their trips but we sailed without problem - in fact the wind helped us to cross faster. We didn't see a single sailing yacht during our 40 days voyage. Regards, Rajen P. Shah
I sold a set of Vardo plans to the Philippines on January 9th. On Feb 23rd I got this photo. Fast work!
Also from the Philippines
"My SKOOTA 24 was launched last Saturday Feb 16, 2013. It is powered with a Yamaha 50 hp 2 stroke using a 11-3/4" x 10" pitch propeller which gave it 5000 rpm at WOT and a top speed of 28 kilometers per hour. It will probably go faster as the boat was heavily loaded with the sea trial crew of 8 adults"
We are very pleased with our Skoota 28. Comfortable, fast and economic. Even at 16 knots we use less than 3 gal an hour with our twin 20hp outboards. I was amused recently to see an advert for a similar powercat that said "Worlds most efficient! 4.9gph at 16 knots"
Recently we motored from Port Townsend, Wa where the boat was launched to Sidney, BC via a "drive past" of Friday Harbor. A distance of 49.3 miles. We left 8.30 am, arrived 1.45pm, and used 7 gallons of fuel. No photos as it poured with rain all day. The Skoota was very heavy as not only did we have all the tools and spare epoxy/glass etc aboard, but also I had the outriggers and complete rig for my new Strike 15. Plus lots of gear/clothes for 5 months in Canada.
Meantime other builders have also been active. I was recently sent this photo of a Saturn building in Florida. Getting close!
Also in Florida, Jeff is making good progress on his Vardo, despite the cramped working conditions. He has now reached the assembly stage, you can see more on his detailed blog
you can also see why photographing his boat is difficult!
So we now have a boat to motor, and the sailing season is on us, so our Strike 18 will be going back in the water shortly.
However my next major project is to finish off my Strike 15. I now have the complete rig and foils, the outrigger panels are cut out, so as soon as the rain stops we will be back at work and hope to launch in May/June
Summer arrived in British Columbia on May 1st. No rain, no clouds, temperature in the high 60's - mid 70's. Definitely T shirts and shorts weather
So we took off for the weekend in our Skoota 28. We motored up through the Gulf Islands about 20 miles to one of our favourite spots, Wallace Island, for the night. The small harbour is well protected, but it means we have to "med moor" - ie take a stern line to the shore while anchoring from the bow. That's a bit tricky with no dinghy and a rocky shoreline, but we managed it.
The newly fitted convertible bed works really well. We had a night "in" and watched movies on the computer
Next morning we were off at 7.30am to catch the tidal gate at Porlier Pass. At its peak the tide runs through the pass at 9 knots so getting slack water is essential. From there it was a 20 mile crossing of the Strait of Georgia to Vancouver. Unfortunately we had to "bash to windward", yes you do that even in motor boats, for about 10 miles before we began to get into the lee of the Whistler mountains. One reason why Jetti stayed below and in her pajamas until we got to Vancouver.
Despite the wind we still tied up at the free dock at Granville Island at 11am. Granville Island is a big market with fresh produce, restaurants and buskers. So something like London's Covent Garden but by the water.
Lots of people, including a very experienced cruising couple who were interested in building their own Skoota. They have visited us several times but after trialing our Skoota and spending time on board they decided to build a Skoota 36 as a liveaboard cruiser in the PNW. They will start work July 1st
We wanted to get back to Saturna before dark so left at 2.30pm. 38 miles later at 5.50pm we tied up to our dock and were at home by 6.30pm. A good weekend, lets hope for more like that one
We are still experimenting with speed/fuel economy. The windward bash obviously didn't help, but the run back was mainly in flat water. On our return we averaged 11 knots and used 5gals of fuel. 7mpg is pretty good for a motorboat where many only do 1-2mpg.
Between rain showers work has been progressing well on the Strike 15. One outrigger is ready to deck and one set of beams made. A mock up photo of the assembly is below
It's been a busy few weeks, currently we are both working 12 hour days, yet not much seems to have been finished. We are still working on the Strike 15 and finishing off the last few jobs on the Skoota 28. But then, boats are never finished.
In part it was the normal wet spring weather that slowed us down. Hopefully that will change now that summer is here. It's been very frustrating at times, obviously the Skoota work is very weather dependent as the boat is in the water, while the Strike 15 has got to the final assembly stage and really needs to be outside.
As the photo below shows, it is possible to have the rig up without the outriggers attached. Useful for land storage in a dinghy park or possibly going down narrow slipways. The mainsail is from my Stealth, so is a bit small, the jib from the Trac 16 rig that we got for the Strike 18 (we only use the Trac mainsail)
The photo below was taken July 19 and shows the Strike almost complete. Jobs left: Trampolines to make/fit. Beam fairings to glue on and general tidy up. Plus some more painting and sort out the deck gear (the mainsheet for sure is just temporary)! However we hope to launch in early August after out return from our Skoota cruise. You can see a report on that trip on our cruising blog, see left hand menu
The bad weather and boatbuilding, not to mention drawing, has meant that so far we have only sailed our Strike 18 a couple of times this year
We have the Skoota booked into the Vancouver Wooden Boatshow August 22-25 and the Port Townsend Wooden Boat Festival Sept 6-9. The PT show will be a busy time as we will possibly also have the Strike 15 on display and I will be giving a couple of one hour talks. One on the Saturday and another on the Sunday, different subjects, but, of course, both multihull related. I hope to see some friendly faces in the audience
After the PT festival we will be living on board and cruising our Skoota 28 in the US San Juan islands. Then we fly to Greece to join my family for a two week charter on a Athena 38 catamaran. It will be the first time I have ever chartered a boat, and the first time sailing a Fountaine Pajot. So an interesting trip in store.
I recently heard from John that he had launched his Sango. He wrote " In the two weeks we put our Sango in the water, motored a lot, put the mast up, took delivery on new sails, figured out how to attach them, added much in the way of hardware, and had one very low wind trial. Yesterday, with the local sailing guru aboard, we did 12.5 knots in 12 to 15 knots of wind. The rig was way too loose, the sails weren't all the way up, no outhaul... terribly shaped sails: and this boat was flying! And so far it handles like a dream. The local guru was amazed! Thanks Richard for a great design."
The last few weeks have been particularly busy. Not only am I trying to sail the newly launched Strike 15 as much as possible, but also we had two boat shows to attend (Vancouver and Port Townsend WBF). The former was a small affair, even so we were very pleased when our Skoota won the "Most Interesting Boat" prize.
The Port Townsend Festival is huge with over 300 boats on display and lots of talks and demonstrations. Apart from having the Skoota on display I also gave two hour long presentations.
One was a variation of the "Multihull Sailors Have More fun" talk that I gave at the HPCC last year and which you can read HERE. The HPCC talk was naturally aimed at small trailable boats, while the WBF talk featured bigger boats. Even so there seems little point in uploading both versions.
However you can now see my other talk HERE (although regular visitors to this site will have seen some of it already). Titled "The Ideal Pacific North West Cruiser" it explains why we now have a Skoota 28 for cruising.
The Festival culminates with a "sail by" of most of the boats. We took the builders family out to see the show. With 10 people on board (over 1/2T in weight) our top speed was only 12 knots, however "a good time was had by all"
Although we are now living on our Skoota and will do so until early October we aren't cruising the PNW as much as we want to. That's because the weather has basically been horrible since the WBF. Either foggy, very wet or thundery all coupled with no wind. A complete contrast to last year when we suffered from 49 continuous days without rain. So we are tucked into a marina and working away on computers (me) and sewing machine (Jetti)
Our winter plans have now changed slightly. We are still going to Greece in October to charter a catamaran with my extended family. Then in November I do "business stuff" in the UK. Then we fly to the Bahamas again to sail on the Transit "Crystal". The same boat we sailed south a couple of years ago. However it has now been sold, so we are only going for a couple of weeks to show the new owner how to sail it
Four Vardos have been sold, with two now well under way, one in the US, one in the Philippines. Both are right side up and being decked.
A slightly modified Skoota 36 is being built in ply in Vancouver, Canada. It will be a live aboard boat for a very experienced cruising couple, see photo, showing it is a MUCH bigger boat than the Skoota 28
You can see more about our sailing and travels on our cruising blog, see link on the left menu, which includes sailing in Greece, UK, Bahamas and USA.
Others have also been busy building and sailing. A home built Gypsy has just launched in New Zealand, it's owner reported "Well I am on the water after 18 months. Mast is stepped, but I am still waiting for the sails.
It sat high on its lines. I will need to add a touch of weight to the stern just to make it right but I will wait until we have all our stuff on before I do that. It motored very well the 12 nautical miles back to its mooring from the lift-in point. Using an old 9.9 Yamaha into a 3/4m chop and 15-20 kn wind and against tide Gypsy cruised 5.7-6.2 Once it flattened out we were 6.8 – 7.2 measured on GPS."
A Swiss Flica 34 was recently seen in the Canaries prior to crossing the Atlantic, while this one, below,
has just been relaunched in Berlin. Nice to see them both floating high on their marks. So many multihulls are overweight.
I don't often get news from my larger home built boats, but this Nimbus, built in the UK is seen here in the Caribbean.
In June 2006 she left England with her husband and wife crew and sailed to the Mediterranean via the coasts of France, northern Spain and Portugal. Her owners lived aboard for two years in Spain, the Balearic Islands and Morocco before crossing the Atlantic Ocean via Tenerife in the Canary Islands to Tobago at the beginning of 2009.
Meanwhile the owner of a modified production version, the Ocean Spirit 40 from S Africa reports "14 years old and still looking good",
while a Sagitta is currently mid Atlantic on a singlehanded crossing to the Caribbean
Builders have also been working hard. Dinis is getting on well with his Skoota 36 build, currently preparing to plank the hulls (he is building the two hulls and bridgedeck in one piece)
When in Florida I had a chance to look at a Vardo being built in an amazing small, low headroom, garage in the middle of a residential area. The neighbours must have had a shock when they saw the first hull appear on the front lawn! It has bigger hulls and saloon than the 32ft Eclipse, while the side decks are much wider, making access forward easier. So just as I had planned. Like builder Jeff I cannot wait to see how it sails.
Rajan sent me a long article about cruising the length of the west coast of India in his Romany to the Lakshadweep islands off SW India (see his brief posting above). You can see his pdf logbook HERE
It really showed how difficult it is to have a cruising boat in developing countries that don't even understand the concept of recreational sailing, never mind the lack of facilities like marinas, or even the "freedom of the seas"
Coming from a frugal sailing background as I do I am continually amazed by how much fuel powerboaters expect to use.
I read recently the press release of a production 28' powercat that proudly claimed it does 3.5mpg and then I saw this headline in a magazine "If a 28 foot power boat, capable of cruising at 12knots while getting 2.6 miles per gallon is of interest, read on". The designers won three innovation awards for this "gas guzzler". For they say "This level of fuel economy is unmatched in the world! ... best ever" .
Not so sure about that! The Skoota 28 is half the weight and cruises at 12 knots at least 5mpg. Indeed we are still using the 3gal tanks that came with the outboards sometime this winter I will fit our "big" - 16gal - tanks.
Skoota is also wider, so has less wave interference, and you can get under the bridgedeck in a dinghy, whereas most powercats have very low bridgedecks which are often carried well forward. The resulting slamming when underway must be frightful. Skoota's cockpit is bigger, as is the shower compartment. Mind you we don't have a coffin, sorry, single berth for a guest.
The modern sailing catamarans are not much better. Look at the stern view of this Lagoon 39 - it just cannot sail well and why is it twice the weight of the Transit 38?
Especially when it has an almost identical interior layout (except it's galley up not down) and has the same sized engines and tank capacity. I doubt if it will ever reach flat water speeds in the mid teens as the Transit does easily. But nevertheless I know it will be a commercial success
My cruising blog concentrated on the sailing we did in Greece, so now I have time to write about the problems we had with Fountaine Pajot Athena 38. Although the deck layout and cockpit worked well the boat didn't sail very well - 130deg between tacks in 15 knots wind was typical.
The interior was very uncomfortable and with a galley up there was a lot of wasted space in the hulls - cheap to build though. And of course we only had one bag each and tried to eat ashore whenever possible. So we didn't need the dedicated storage space that cruisers need.
Midway through the charter I sent an email to the agents listing 21 things wrong with the boat itself (not with the design). Major problems were a blown out headsail, no legal navigation lights, old and thus always flat batteries (we couldn't use the fridge and once had to jumpstart an engine) and most scary, a very dangerous propane system (the bottle was in an unvented stern locker, just regular rubber hose, and with warps and fenders thrown on top) Moral: although it will be cheap, don't charter an old boat at the end of the season.