Copyright 2024 - Woods Designs, 16 King St, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL11 2AT UK
  • production Strider 24

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  • 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

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LOA 6.1m 20ft LWL 5.9m 19ft4in
BOA 2.5m 8ft2in
Sail Area Mainsail 13sqm 140sqft Jib 7sqm 75sqft
Mast height 8.8m 28ft9in
Empty weight 680kgs 1500lbs
Displacement to WL 920kgs 2030lbs
Draft 285 11in (1000 3ft3in boards down)
2 single berths in hulls 1 double in aft cabin
Headroom 1.85m (6ft) moored 1.35m (4ft6in) sailing

Owner reports "Saylon is very nice and is a like a rockstar to the Danube River, both sides (Romania and Serbia). Very comfortable"

Scroll down to see a great sequence of build photos for the boat above

I have resisted designing a small bridgedeck cabin catamaran until now because I was brought up sailing in the generally rough and windy English Channel and so have always designed boats that would suit those conditions. However as I travelled the world I began to realise that many areas have much more benign conditions than we do in the UK, particularly in the USA and Australia. Both places where people may live a long way from the sea and sailing on lakes is their only option.

Which is probably why the small trailable bridgedeck cabined catamarans are popular in those areas.

Saylon is my version of the concept. It will 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. Please check out my other trailable designs if that is what you want to do.

It is a very small boat - some beachcats are longer - so at most it is really only suitable for two adults and two small children. Most small boats trim by the stern when the crew sit in the cockpit. Furthermore, with a single forward cabin the parents get no privacy.

So the major difference between Saylon and other similar boats is that there is a centre cockpit and an aft double cabin. That helps keep the weight out of the ends, it also makes sail handling easy and separates the living and sleeping areas.

I call Saylon a "motorsailer" because it will not be as fast a boat as my Acorn or Janus designs, for example. The hulls are simply too fat and too close together. The rig is small because the narrow beam means that stability is limited. That's also the main reason why I call it a "Sheltered Water" only boat (Category D under Europe's RCD).

The rig can come from a beach cat eg Hobie 16. The mast is stepped on the cockpit floor so that it is easy to raise. It would be a real struggle stepping the mast from the cabin top. Hoisting the mainsail and reefing can be done safely from the front of the cockpit. With a furling jib there is no need to go on the foredeck when underway.

The sails are small enough that no winches are required, the jib has a 2:1 purchase. The mainsail has a good downhaul and a "gnav" (an upside down kicking strap as seen on many racing dinghies) to control sail twist, yet not intrude into the cockpit. So the sails can still be set efficiently.

The steering is "monohull friendly" with a central tiller and cockpit seats as on a monohull. However extending "wings" can be used for more crew righting moment for keener crews.

Saylon may be a small boat, but it's huge compared to a 20ft monohull. In part that's because it is basically a rectangular shape, there's no "pointy bit" at the front! but also because the whole deck is usable space, on a monohull you're generally restricted to the windward side.

The whole deck area is maximised, there is no forward trampoline, and the bridgedeck is taken as far aft as possible, leaving room for the rudders and outboard. Transom steps are built into each hull. Watertight compartments are built in for safety in case of collision or damage when grounding, but there is still plenty of storage space both above and below deck.

The Saylon is small and light enough to be towed behind a small family car on a simple flat bed trailer. And, with no assembly required - apart from raising mast - you'll spend no longer at the slipway than you would launching a monohull. If you wish to make your own wood spars, or regularly go under low bridges then a gunter rig is an option with a reduced roach mainsail.

One unusual feature of the Saylon is also seen on my Wizard and Sango designs - the "pop-bottom". "Pop tops" are common on camper-vans and small boats alike, indeed one is used on the Saylon. The pop-bottom is a similar concept, but in reverse.

The forward part of the bridgedeck is lowered when at rest, giving extra sitting space and standing headroom, and raised when underway. A waterproof "bag" surrounding the pop-bottom keeps you dry! That gives Saylon nearly 1sqm (10sqft) of standing area in the saloon. A table can fold against the aft bulkhead to port, but probably a better solution wold be a cheap picnic table, as that could also be used in the cockpit.

The interior layout shown suits a couple with young children. However other layouts are feasible providing the main bulkheads are not moved. For example the toilet could be fixed in one hull forward

The hull shape is based on a combination of my very successful Strike trimarans and my Skoota designs. It is basically a flat bottomed dory hull but V'eed near the bow to reduce slamming. The topside chine, as used on the Skootas, increases space below without changing the overall beam, which obviously is limited by the trailerability requirements.

The side decks allow easy boarding and walking forward when coming alongside (remember there is no need to go forward when sailing as everything is controlled from the cockpit.)

It is a flat panel ply/epoxy boat that is very easy to build singlehanded in a regular garage. Allow 500 building hours ready to paint.

Boat weights are notoriously difficult to predict, the 680kg I give is probably pessimistic, but is based on known weights of similar boats ready to sail, ex crew. For example, our slightly longer Wizard was weighed at 700kgs ready to race. Other designers may well give the weight of a bare shell, so be careful when comparing designs!

You can see more details in the provisional study plan HERE

This article, which is based on the talk I gave at the "Sail Havasu" pocket cruisers meeting in Arizona in 2012, should help you decide whether a small multihull is the right boat for you.

Photo shows a Saylon being built in Romania. Great building frame! Then a few days later

Photo from February 2017, build started at Christmas 2016

Planking dry fitted March 2017. Note slots for daggerboard cases and cutout for "Pop bottom"

and then this from the end of March

and then just a few days later

and not long after that (Apr 19th)

and just a week later!


4mm plywood 3 sheets or 13 sheets (depending on hull planking thickness)
6mm plywood 25 sheets or 13
9mm plywood 3 sheets

11/2in x 1in (finished size 35 x 20mm approx) 150m
2in x 1in (finished size 45 x20mm approx) 35m
1in x 1in (finished size 20 x 20mm approx) 50m
3in x 1in (finished size 70 x 20mm approx) 10m
4in x 11/2in (finished size 95 x 35mm approx) 3m

Epoxy approx 40kgs plus fillers as reqd
400g biaxial glass 5kgs
200g glass cloth for sheathing 8kgs (can be 300g, 12kgs)
3000 18mm (3/4in)  #6 st steel screws

paint, filler etc as reqd

All plywood to be best quality marine grade Gaboon/okoume ply.
Sheet sizes are 8' x 4' (2440 x 1220)

All timber to be "Joinery Quality" or better softwood. Use Douglas Fir, Yellow Cedar, Sitka Spruce or similar. Sizes given are nominal "PAR" (Planed all Round) ie 2" x 1" has a "real" size of approx 45mm x 20mm