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

  • 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: Wizard, Gypsy, Mirage, Romany, Sagitta, Banshee, Saturn, Merlin, Sango, Strike, Eclipse, Pixie, Janus, Transit

December 2007- February 2008

So far this century I have managed to be on board a boat every Christmas. Not only that, but each year I have been in a different country. 2007 was no exception, and saw us in San Diego, USA, preparing to sail south to Mexico's Baja Peninsula on a Maple Leaf 48. Yes I know, it is a monohull, but as I always say, designers have to sail as much as they can if they are to design the best boats.

Driving south to join Sabbatical we met Ralph Maggio who, as I have reported before, has been building a beautiful Wizard, certainly the nicest I have ever seen. He launched the week following our visit and reported:

"Today was the big day… Put the boat in the water and had a sail. Every thing went off without a hitch. To start with she was right on her lines. First thing to try was how she motored - no problem, powered about for 10 minutes, all was well. Next was motor off and sail under mainsail only - tacked well never got stuck. Was able to do 5 knots (on gps) in about 9 knots of wind. Then main and jib.... what can I say - a dream. Wind was light but we did see 8 knots in a puff. With some wind 10 knots and better is going to be easy."

Later he wrote after his third sail

"It was perfect sailing. The wind was not more than 13knot (no white caps), we were flat and relaxed as we did a cool 10.5 to 11 knots (11.8 was our max). At this point the mono’s had their leeward rails down and their crews on the weather rails; we were flat and smooth."

You can see a youtube video of this boat on the Wizard page.

Meanwhile, back in Mexico:

Although the sunsets were often spectacular we didn't really enjoy our time on board Sabbatical. Partly because we had forgotten how uncomfortable and uncivilized sailing a monohull can be. It was a heavy displacement 48ft motor sailer and the rolling at anchor and hard-to-handle, heavy gear wore us out. Mind you, the motion on a smaller light displacement monohull would be even worse.

While we were in the Baja we met up again with Garret and Carllie of the Gypsy Lightwave; we had last seen them the day they left British Columbia on their way south. See the Owners Websites Page for the link to their excellent website and to read more news about their two year cruise. Unfortunately we weren't able to sail their newly extended boat but we did spend a couple of fun evenings on board.

In mid January we cut our Mexico cruise short and flew to S America. First to the lovely old Spanish colonial city of Cartagena.

Rahula, a Banshee catamaran currently sailing round the world, arrived in Cartagena a few days after we left. Bad timing on our part! Again you can read about Rahula's cruise by visiting the link on the Owners Websites Page.

After a week in Cartagena we flew south to Ecuador. In part so that we could say we'd been to the Equator - and you can't get any closer than this!

But mainly because we wanted to cruise in the Amazon basin. What we hadn't realised when we booked our trip was that our "flotel" was a 98ft trimaran, and that we'd be the only passengers! The things I do in the name of R and D.

We spent a week on board, mainly travelling by motorised canoe, but occasionally paddling our own. We all know the Amazon basin is huge, but it wasn't until we got there that we appreciated just how big an area it covers. We were over 2000 miles from the sea on a minor Amazon tributary, yet the river was wider than the Thames at London, or the Sacramento at San Francisco.

Nature programmes on TV are very misleading; in real life not only are animals rare sightings, but it is also really hard to photograph them. So although we saw fresh water dolphins, caimen, turtles, as well as lots of birds and butterflies it was much easier taking pictures of trees - and some are pretty impressive!

And of course we had to fish for (and later eat) piranhas

Obviously it is all very remote, even so, Amazonian chiefs know that dressing up is good for business.

We had hoped to continue on to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, but unfortunately Peruvian politics and transport strikes prevented us from getting anywhere, so we flew home; but not before we got rather too close to an erupting volcano. The photo below was taken from our hotel, fortunately the wind was blowing the ash away from us.

You can read more about this trip HERE. It's Jetti's somewhat tongue-in-cheek diary that she sent to friends.

On our way home we stopped off in Miami to have a look at Ric Caselli's Mirage. He's doing an excellent job and is currently fitting out the interior while using Libe as a motor boat. Sailing is planned for later this year. Even I was surprised by the room inside, the bunks are large and airy, while the heads compartment is bigger than on an Eclipse.

Libe on her mooring in Miami

Ric showing off the large forward bunk

and, with Jetti, in what will become the heads compartment

March 2008

We are now back in Canada for the summer where, apart from sailing on our Merlin Tucanu and working on new designs, I am also busy writing articles. Two have recently appeared in Sail magazine, while we can now be seen regularly in "Latitudes and Attitudes" magazine in the USA and Practical Boat Owner magazine in the UK. I have also written a number of articles for a new UK based multihull magazine, The Multihull Review and for the Australian Multihull World magazine.

April - May 2008

Although we really enjoy our summers in Canada, we are not Canadians and cannot stay on Saturna year round. Furthermore we miss the cruising lifestyle, so since losing Eclipse we have been on the look out for a replacement.

On May 1st we became the new owners of Bombay Duck, the first Romany to be launched (back in 2005). I went to view it at Norfolk, Va, USA, in April but we won't sail it until September when we leave Canada. The plan this year is to spend the winter working on the boat (as it has been a bit neglected since returning from a successful cruise to the Bahamas) and then to sail down the east coast of the USA to the Bahamas. So look out for us!

While in Virginia I spent a day looking over Tom's Transit. He has done an amazing amount of work since the last time I saw his boat back in October. Launching will be sometime this year, but already one can see that it will be a huge comfortable boat.

The aft cabins are simply enormous. Each has a King size bed with room for a 40in flat screen TV at its foot, should the scenery outside pall. Plus lots of storage and dressing space. The full size chart table over the heads will work well and frees up more space in the saloon. Of course there is comfortable standing headroom throughout, while maintaining full all round vision from the helm and saloon.

As you will have already read, we met Carllie and Garret of the Gypsy Lightwave in La Paz, Mexico in January. They are now sailing back home to Vancouver and on March 29th we heard that they had successfully sailed to Hawaii. I gather it was a bit of a bumpy crossing, and by sheer chance they met Sabbatical in mid ocean. I'll say no more as you can read all about the trip on their website. See the Owners Websites Page for the link.

Also crossing oceans at the same time was Bill Corcoran on his Sagitta Mandu. This was the second Sagitta built (we supplied the mouldings in 1992 and original owner Bob Smith fitted them out). Bill left Millbrook in August 2007 and slowly cruised down to the Canaries before crossing the Atlantic to the Caribbean. He arrived in St. Lucia on April 7 after 23 days at sea and emailed "I wouldn't describe it as a "Milk Run", so I guess he had a bumpy crossing as well. Not really surprising as the trades build steadily over the winter and March is probably the roughest and windiest time of year in the Atlantic tradewind belt.

Meantime the Banshee Rahula is now in the Galapagos midway through a world cruise.

Andrew Slow is building a beautiful Saturn - see above. Currently one hull is finished and the other is being decked. As some of you know, Tucanu is the Merlin that Andrew built 18 years ago. We are very lucky indeed to own a boat built by such a good boatbuilder.

May - June 2008

The weather is slowly warming up so it's sailing time again.

May was a busy racing month for us. First was the BCMS regatta on the adjacent island of Pender. Last year we had miserable weather, pouring rain and little wind. This year was a complete contrast with bright sun, 15 knots of wind and flat water. Perfect! Close reaching we were recording a steady 14-15 knots on the gps, we sailed faster still once we had borne off and hoisted the spinnaker. And just like last year we won the race in Tucanu. Second to finish was Bad Kitty, see below for more, third a 36ft wing masted Tennant cat and fourth a F9A.

The Swiftsure Race, held at the end of May, (see is to the Pacific NW what the Fastnet is to UK racers or the Sydney Hobart to Australians. Although much shorter (only 100 miles or so) it can be a tough race out to Cape Flattery at the west end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

For most of this year's race, however, it lived up to it's nickname of the Driftsure. I was invited to crew on Bad Kitty, above, a 25 year old home designed and built 35ft catamaran. Despite appearances it is a well sorted boat and the rest of the crew know how to sail it to its full potential, so usually it will beat the fastest Farrier trimarans.

We had a long slow beat west, and then around midnight the wind slowly built for the run home. Our highest speed was 22 knots when racing through the narrow gap between two sets of unlit rocks only 100 ft apart on a pitch black night. However the best bit was earlier in the day when we overtook the big monohulls to windward in light airs (including a 75ft ULDB, a couple of SC52 etc). We even have a video to prove it!

The photo below shows us finishing just ahead of the F40 Dragonfly to be first boat home. Third to finish was a F25C which beat us on corrected time by 1 minute. But since the race took over 20 hours I reckon that was a dead heat! Then came the monohulls, about 150 of them....

I wrote this just after we came back from shopping. As we live on an island that meant a 3 hour sail to the nearest big supermarket and another 3 hours back again. Beats taking the ferry (which is expensive and anyway still takes 2 hours) every way you look at it!

Before going shopping we took this short video. Unfortunately our marina is in a very sheltered inlet so there is never much wind. Despite the lack of spray Tucanu is deceptively fast. I will video Tucanu sailing with its cuddy fitted in a couple of weeks when we are in cruising mode again.

Of course we race Tucanu as an open deck boat. Before the Cow Bay regatta we expect to have a few weeks in cruising mode, complete with cuddy, sailing once again to Desolation Sound.

From a recent email:

"This is The Russian Sango at the Black Sea in May. There are 20 people on the board!

Good nautical qualities. Maximum conditions in which the boat was tested are: 2 m wave, 15 m/s wind, 12 knots speed. We sailed two times, 100 miles each time. Good livability. There were 3 of us. We are taking it out on the coast to make more accurate regulations. We'll send more pics and reports on the speed of the wind and the boat

We are glad that didn't make a mistake with the choice of the project. Thanks a lot. "

Strike 18

Despite just a small note about this new trimaran design on my New Designs page I am currently getting 1 - 2 enquiries a week for it. Clearly there is a large demand for a simple to build boat that uses a beach cat for the rig and outriggers. Currently the drawings are half complete and will be available sometime in 2008. A provisional study plan is now available on this website (see the New Designs page).

Thus building the prototype has rapidly moved up my "must do' list. So much so that I recently bought a USD600 (GBP300) beach cat to use as the rig and outriggers shown above, together with the plywood to build the main hull.

The photo below shows the Strike after 25 hours work. All the bulkheads have been setup, stringers and gunwales fitted and glued in place. All hull side and keel panels fitted ready for glueing.

The photo below shows the results of another 50 hours work. As you can see, the hull is now the right way up and, apart from the beam boxes, almost structurally complete. Plans are nearly finished as is the building manual.

Strike plan price, including a set of Quattro 16 plans, is GBP150. If you already have a Quattro 16 or other beach cat then the price for the main hull plans alone is GBP100. Plans are available only as pdf files and can be printed on any printer. (I am using A4 or 81/2in x 11in paper to print the ones I use as I build.)

Please keep checking back for updates as the Strike evolves.

Last winter I sold set of Eclipse plans to a builder in Lebanon. I understood the idea was to build an open deck version and to fit big engines, as was done on Banshee Express 20 years ago. With no deck saloon there would naturally be quite a saving in build time. Even so I was both surprised and amazed to get an email in mid June saying the boat was finished. Excerpts and two photos below.

Dear Richard, I have completed in five months this fiberglass version of Eclipse . I haven't yet installed any mast since I wanted to test the boat for a while first. I have installed two 60hp outboards on the transoms. A maximum speed of 14 knots is reached when on full throttle.

Thanks , I am very fond of my boat and of the clarity of the plans that made the building a piece of cake.

July 2008

Earlier in the year I promised you a video of Tucanu sailing with it's cuddy fitted. Well here it is, below.

When we aren't sailing it's good to have the boat in a well-sheltered marina, but when sailing, and especially when filming a boat sailing, it would be nice to have more wind! Incidentally, a cuddy looks better with clear windows. We have tinted ones because it's darker so we don't wake up at dawn.

There are hundreds of islands off the SE coast of Vancouver Island, each with several safe anchorages. This is only our third summer in BC and so we still have many places to visit. We took a couple of weeks off and cruised north to visit Hornby Island, where Tucanu was born 16 years ago. A great trip, enlivened by the story below.

Whale watching is big business here in the PNW and it is easy to see where the whales are, just follow the trip boats. So we did.

Clearly one male got bored with the company and headed off, straight for us.

Fortunately he passed just astern, we assume he knew we were there.

Wild life viewing is sometimes more stressful than it looks. As I always say, "the only time I want to see a lion is in a cage". To give a sense of scale the fin is about 5ft high Heart stopping on a small boat. Maybe I prefer English wild animals like bunny rabbits.

So a cuddly photo to finish with. Part of a family of 10 otters that live in our marina and wake us up at dawn.

The big news this month is the successful completion of Garett and Carllie Hennigan's two year cruise in their Gypsy from Vancouver to Mexico, Hawaii and back. See more on their truely excellent website

We will be leaving Canada in mid August and going to our new Romany on 1st October. We will be sailing down the ICW from Norfolk, Va to West Palm Beach, Fl by the end of November and then across to the Bahamas for the winter. So if anyone wants to met us on the east coast of the USA please email me.

We had a few tense days as TS Hanna made her way north up the east coast of the USA. We had deliberately left Romany just SW of the Langley AF Base, in the Southern Chesapeake area, to be north of the hurricane belt. It was not to be, as Hanna's eye passed directly over the boat, fortunately without causing any damage.

September 2008

Martin P recently emailed me to say " I have just completed the construction of my Pixie catamaran, and have been sailing it this last few weekends.

Can I just say how pleased I am with the design and performance of the craft. I have always sailed monohull dinghies and was a bit concerned about the ability of the catamaran to tack through the wind. I need not have worried, after using a bit of jib backing, it tacked wonderfully and turned on a dime (and that was in a 3 MPH wind).

The cat is fitted out with a racing rig and when sailed on a windier day the performance was breathtaking, but felt very safe and the controls very responsive. After several runs on a reach my fifteen year old son and I were whooping with joy at the boats phenomenal acceleration produced during gusts. Thanks again for a great design."

David, building a Saturn, is getting on well with a planned launching in 2009. He emailed to say "Both hulls are over here and painted (the second hull I had to raise on a couple of saw horses to paint - you were correct, it is easier to do before turning.) This week I will begin installing the dagger board cases before doing the cabin sections of the hulls. "

Looking through my old files I found the photo below, taken in 1988 and showing a 35ft Banshee towing a waterskier at 22 knots. I had earlier sailed the same boat at 19 knots.

I have drawn removable hull cabins for the Wizard and Sango. A sketch is below. The cabins are removed for trailing and fit one inside the other on the cockpit. The new cabins give more light and ventilation and increase headroom to 1.5m (5ft). Although designed for the hard chine version they can also be fitted to the original strip plank boat. You can see basic drawings HERE. I am sure once you have got this far with building your boat this will be enough for you.

October 2008

After a 3 year hiatus we are once again in cruising mode, this time aboard our 34ft Romany catamaran.

CLICK HERE for more details of our 2008-9 cruise down the east coast USA and the Bahamas

As always when I sail I am working on new designs. Currently the big project is some consultancy and basic design work for a 55ft catamaran, more on that to come later. We have a lot to do to Romany to bring it up to the standard I want, but even so I hope to have time to finish the Strike and Skoota plans before too long.

December 2008

John Hartzenburg has been building his Janus in Australia for some years, but it is now launched, as the following photos show

He wrote:

"We had an average wind of about 7 knots and my GPS showed our boat speed about 5 knots on a close reach. Very happy with the helm. I could let the helm go when trimmed and she would maintain course. And, by the way, we were four adults and four children on board weighing approximately 420kg. I also have a ply decks to the mast, and, as you can see, an icebox and gas storage box in the centre"

Looks like they are having fun!!

Also recently launched is the first Transit. Built over 18 months by Tom Garetson in Virginia it still waits for sails, but is currently motoring around. A huge comfortable boat, I look forward to sailing it early next year.


I write this last update of 2008 anchored in an idyllic bay in the Abacos, Bahamas, a flat calm and a lovely sunset. It's all about to change tomorrow though, as another cold front comes through.

As I mention on the Romany cruising pages, the Abaco chain of islands in the northern Bahamas are really a great cruising area. Most of the time we have been working on the boat and drawing, but at weekends, we, like everyone else, take time out to go sailing.

As you know, I have spent the last 7 Christmases on board, and until this year each time it had been in a different country. My record was spoilt this year as I was also in the Bahamas in 2003. However in consolation, we did go out for a sail on Christmas Day and, looking back through my life, I realised that it was the first time I have ever actually sailed on Christmas Day.

There are a number of charter cats in the Abacos and we have fun overtaking them. We have found our homebuilt 34ft Romany is easily faster than a Lagoon 38 and surprisingly is also slightly faster than a Lagoon 42.

Friends with a well equipped and well sailed Bristol 40, (a Ted Hood design, so a good sailer) joined us recently for a photo shoot as it isn't often that we can get photos of our own boats sailing. It was an ideal morning for sailing; bright sun, 15-20 knots of true wind and flat water. We both reefed to make the close quarters manouvering easier. As expected we were much quicker off wind, but even I was a bit surprised to find we were also quite a bit quicker to windward.

Here is a photo of Pearl.

And here is one of Romany at about 7 knots hard on the wind.

We find that in these 15-20 knot conditions and loaded for live aboard cruising, we can do 7-8 knots to windward with full sail, and a much more comfortable 6-7 knots with a reef tucked in. There are a couple more Romany sailing photos on the Romany cruising pages.

More next year!!