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: Romany, Wizard, Mirage, Flica, Saturn, Merlin, Sango, Strike, Ondina, Transit, Bee

Jan - March 2009

We spent October 2008 to March 2009 sailing our Romany catamaran down the east coast of the USA, across to the Bahamas and back to Florida. You can see more about this trip on the Review of 2008 page and also in the Useful Articles pages. We left Romany for the summer in the St Johns River, about 20 miles south of Jacksonville, Florida, and flew/drove back to our house on Saturna, BC, Canada where we arrived on April 1st, ready for another six months of boatbuilding, drawing and sailing.

The video below is of Romany sailing through the Bahamas at around 8 knots


Although the following reports are on races from some time ago, I have not been able to add them to the website until now.

Ralph Maggio built a beautiful Wizard in S California and, as an expert sailor, enjoys racing against, and beating, much larger monohulls.

In September he wrote:

"We joined a fleet of 15 boats to do a 23 mile race. 14 mono hulls between 25 and 36ft and one 22ft catamaran. We came in about a minute late to the start but to weather of most of the fleet. The 1st mark was about a quarter mile out on a broad reach we slipped over most of the the other boats to be third around behind a J109 and a J105.

The next mark was 8 miles away dead down wind. As we have a screecher/reacher and not a spinnaker this is a bad point of sail for us, and means we have to sail hot and tack down wind and in light wind this is very bad. The monos set their chutes and go right to the mark! By the time we get to the mark we are ten boats back and to the next mark is 4 miles up wind.

The wind is still light about 5 to 6knots and the big monos are going well. We suffer our way to weather and round the mark now very behind the leaders. The next mark is a very, very close reach - almost a beat to weather to lay it. We unroll the reacher and go a for speed by sailing low of the mark. Slowly the wind builds and moves a little aft so our heading and speed improve. We end up laying the mark, and passing almost the entire fleet doing 13knots at times(GPS) and averaging 9.5 to 10 in about 11+knots of wind. Its not to bad to catch a J80 on a reach with his asymmetric spinnaker up and sail though his lee to beat him by over 10 minutes. We were third to finish less than a minute behind a J109 and an X36, and third corrected. "

And then in January I got this report:

"Last weekend (1-10-09) we did another race on Sea Monkey our Wizard catamaran. It was from Marina Del Rey to Ship Rock (Santa Catalina Island) and back, for a total of 48 miles. The day started very light beating to weather by mid day we were in the middle of the fleet and the wind had started to fill. As it did we were able to crack off and still hold the lay line. We unrolled the screecher at about 40 to 45 apparent and we were off!

We reeled them in one by one and about a mile from the mark we sailed through the J109's lee doing 10knots. After rounding the mark we found the the lay line for the return trip was a close reach and that suited us just fine for sailing home.

We ended up 4th to finish doing it in 8hrs 25 minutes and got 2nd place corrected, the F31 trimaran beat us by an hour but we corrected in front of him by 7 seconds.

The three boats that beat us were a Beneteau 44.7, Corsair F31, and J 120. Some of the boats we beat boat for boat were the Jeanneau 49DS, Tartan 10, J 109, Jeaneau SF37, and C&C 40T. It was a great day on the water - we had dolphins and whales, a killer sunset and got a trophy."

Ralph has also made a great youtube video of his Wizard using a camera on a kite.


You can see photos of Ric Caselli's Mirage in motorboat trim on the 2008 pages. We were very pleased to get the following email from him in February

"What a day! We had our first sail on Libe. It wasn't probably the best day because it was blowing pretty hard. We left with a reef in the main. Jib is hanked on so no reefing there. Out of Port Everglades we headed south for about 10 miles and on the handheld GPS we got 10 knots top going into pretty steep 4-5 footers. When we turned around going north the GPS showed 14.5 max so we must have done around 11.5-12 really considering the Gulf Stream. Seas were growing a little, maybe 6 ft, I was on autopilot and then the portable GPS battery ran out

The video above shows Libe sailing later in the year

It was pretty exciting and the boat felt light and responsive with no bad behaviour in the gusts. I kinda stopped pushing her hard and tried to get a feel of the motion to get comfortable, maybe going around 8 kts with sheets rather loose. After about another hour or two we were back towards Port Everglades nearer shore and out of the Gulf Stream. The water was much flatter and so we put her in the groove and SHE TOOK OFF! The gusts came and she started moving, leaving the water behind like a powerboat. I'm sure we were doing over 15 but I don't really know. She felt in control though and it was AWESOME.

All in all she feels like the Arabian horses I used to jump back in Italy, definitely kept me on my toes. Now I have a list of things to set correctly for the running rigging and I can't wait to go out again next weekend. I would love for you to come and sail her sometimes to show me how is really done.

Thank you very much for designing such an awesome boat. "

May - June 2009

Whiskers, a Flica 37, was built in the UK and sailed to New Zealand some years ago. Nice to see one floating so high. Current owner Brian reports "I have just been out for the 115th time in two years - not bad eh!"

I have been able to work a few hours a day on the prototype Strike trimaran and hope to have it ready for painting by the end of June. We'll see, like all builders I'm optimistic.

Also working hard on his boat is Mutlu Keceli from Turkey who is building one of the first hard chine Sangos. He has already finished the cuddy (under the green sheet) so I hope to have some sailing photos soon.

In November the first Transit 38 was launched (on the east coast USA),

then in May the second (a Millbrook based boat) was also launched. After a brief sail the builder reported

"Bill and I sailed his boat in the Hamoaze; about 5 knots wind, it sails fine; like a giant Strider but tacks faster, we did about 5 knot to windward with apparent wind at 9 something so probably approaching windspeed. Boat steers fine etc." (Photo below is from a later sail)

Mike drove down for a test sail and reported:

"Bill's boat is very impressive. Wonderful space and comfort and goes through the sea with a silence and lack of fuss which is astonishing for such a big ship. Spins on a sixpence (as used to be said, perhaps a dime would be better). Bill and Jane are going to the Scillies and back for a test run and then across the Bay to Spain and home to the Med."

The interior is very different from the US Transit. Although the basic layout is the same, Bills boat has been finished conventionally in wood and vinyl linings. Whereas the US boat has a sprayed interior. The latter is lighter and quicker to do.

Another potential customer who viewed this boat wrote:

"It is an incredibly roomy boat, but also very light, I was impressed by the layout, on the way up from Plymouth in about 20-26 knots of wind she was merrily going along at 12-14 knots very comfortably."

July 2009

Fortunately it hasn't all been work. We've also been out sailing Tucanu, our Merlin. Racing in local events we've had a first, 3rd and 4th. As I raced in three events with three different crew, two of whom had never sailed any catamaran before I'm reasonably happy and look forward to doing better later in the year.

Before then we will revert to cruising mode and refit the cuddy (a 1/2 hour job) and sail north again towards Desolation Sound. So if you don't get a quick reply to your emails, you know where I am!

We really like sailing Tucanu, but now that we own four boats one will have to go. So if any one wants a fully fitted, excellently built Merlin with lots of gear (8 sails!) please email me.

This site is all about catamarans, but I also have a small line of dinghy plans that don't often get mentioned here. However I recently received the following email:

"I wanted to thank you and share with you all the enjoyment that building Bee brought me. They were certainly some of the most enjoyable hours I have spent in a long time. Unfortunately my time spent on Bee was quite unexpectedly cut short.

The very day that I launched Bee, as I was about to recover her from the launching site at our local reservoir I was approached by a father and his young son. He complemented me on the boat and inquired where it was purchased. Telling him that I had built myself was very satisfying indeed and I offered the use of the boat to them.

The sheer joy and excitement that young boy expressed took me back to my own youthful days, what a great reminder! After about an hour or so, they returned and the father asked if I would sell them the boat.

One glance at the son and I knew I could not refuse. Thank you for the opportunity to give another generation a lifetime of memories that like my own, richly provided me. "

In between other projects I have at last been able to get more work done on the prototype Strike.

On July 1st we moved it outside for the initial final assembly, see photo below. Still quite a bit of work to do, mainly on tidying up the beach cat we had bought to act as the Strike outriggers and rig. And now it is outside of course the first rain in weeks is forecast.

August 2009

What a difference a coat of paint makes! The Strike is still not sailing, in part because we have been sailing (what, again?) but also because of visitors that prevented work.

We sailed Tucanu to Vancouver, where there is a free day dock at Granville Island, the main tourist water front area of Vancouver.

We aren't the only ones boatbuilding: I recently received these photos of a Romany being built in India.

While this a Brazilian Gypsy.

And this is the Saturn cuddy.

Others are "lucky" enough to be sailing. (Once you've read the report you see the reason for the inverted commas)

The second Transit launched has a home base in the Mediterranean, here is the owners first report of their trip south from the UK.

"Our proper sea trials with Duo started on the 25th July with a ‘shake down’ trip to the Exe and up to Topsham to see friends. There was a good wind (force 5+) a moderate sea (a bit rough to start) and we were delighted with the speed (hit 13.9 knots - Bill took photo as evidence) and the way the boat rides the waves. We reefed and continued to make good speed and sailed comfortably especially as the sea settled in the shelter of headlands. We also stayed offshore to avoid the rainstorms over the coast.

The Exe was harder - bouys in places different to those marked on our 2009 almanac and then grinding to a halt on a shingle bank in the marked channel just before Topsham quay. Once afloat further difficulty making it to a mooring on the quay. Once achieved we licked our wounds and had a lovely couple of days with family and friends with some reasonable weather.

Monday was wet and windy and getting worse and we needed to get out of the Exe so we left and headed west. Windy and rough so we made it round to Brixham, two reefs in and the jib reefed, again the boat was good but we were unimpressed by bashing into the wind in sheets of rain! Salcombe was reached the next day where we stayed while the gale forecasts loomed. Some terrible weather but also a nice day spent with Pip and Debbie from the Multihull Centre.

Friday we were back in Plymouth and getting ready for departure on Sunday when Nikki and Nigel arrived as crew for our first leg across the Channel and round Brittany. The trials were a bit brief but we felt that both the boat and ourselves had been well tested and we needed to get started on the voyage south. In June we secured a marina berth at Canet (just off Perpignan) so had a ‘home’ to go to.

Sunday 2nd August we left the quay for Cawsand in the evening to be ready for a morning getaway. Bill had his first climb up the mast as the mainsail halyard wrapped itself around the radar reflector - another achievement! Again wet and windy and a rolling night at anchor.

We made an early start and had a pretty uncomfortable sail around to Fowey - again the boat was fine but it was a rough sea. Waited for the weather to improve and the wind to be helpful and made a 5.30 start on Weds 5th August. Overcast start but winds predicted to be okay so we headed south for L’Aber Wrac’ on the Brittany coast. Sun shone from mid afternoon and wind was okay but a little light so a lot of motoring, sea had big swell from the Atlantic but it was comfortable. Saw porpoises and avoided huge ships and finally rolled our way into port as the sun set.

Onwards and southwards we left Nigel (heading for the Roscoff ferry) then went around to Audierne to southern Brittany and stayed a night. Next day down to Ile de Groix - we decided on island hopping - in sunshine, light winds and with the spinnaker up. Dolphins came and swam around us but moved on quickly, the fish were more important. Bill also caught a mackeral. A slow day but we relaxed into it. Port Tudy was busy but they squeezed us in, literally, we were rafted with about twelve others and the port then declared full! A bumpy night as in addition to the swell and proximity of the boats, ferries whizzed in and out!

Next day we escaped early not wishing to be caught in the mad scramble to extricate the knit of boats and ropes. Another spinnaker run down to Belle Ile - and it is. First call Sauzon, described in the almanac as peaceful, not so, it was a festival of the sea day - processions, live music food etc.

Unfortunately our purpose was to dry out, check all the underneath bits and paint a stripe around the waterline. The harbour master said we should not go into the inner harbour as it was drying out and by the time we had explained ourselves we had settled on the bottom anyway!

Jobs all done and back out and round to the main port of Palais. Again crazy - full up and with ferries in and out at high speed. We anchored outside and rolled and banged all night! It is high season and every where is very busy and we are a bit wide, also the wind (little that there is of it)and tide seems to create swell.

Nikki took the ferry from Palais on Monday the 10th and we shopped for food and then set off for Ile de Yeu - a longer trip. Spinnaker up again we made good time but then spent time looking for somewhere to stop. Eventually settled in a cove behind the lighthouse. This is another pretty island with lovely little beaches and good rock formations.

Today we left Ile de Yeu for the mainland - Les Sables de L’Onne - in rain and fog but made it by mid afternoon when the weather cleared. So one week on we are half way down the French coast, have found the sun and made some miles even in light winds.

The boat continues to please and is good to live on. We are doing okay but could with better nights sleep! We will restock, sort out any niggles and plan our passage to the Spanish coast. "

September 2009

The prototype Strike was launched on September 2nd. Unfortunately as is often the case in BC in the summer winds for the first sail were very light. Even so the boat sailed really well and was extremely comfortable to sail. We look forward to some more wind, when I will make a more detailed report of the sailing performance, but in the meantime here are some photos.

The Strike is available as both an open deck boat, as we have built, and also one with a removable cuddy for a basic one/two person micro cruiser. One reason why I build prototypes is to refine the design. Even before launching our Strike I decided to raise the wing bottoms slightly and to lower the front windscreen. Even with the raised wing and lowered windscreen there will still be plenty of room below with the cuddy fitted.

I am experimenting with a boomless mainsail, early days yet. On the prototype the outriggers are cut down 18ft singlehander hulls. The mainsail a cut down 18sqm and the mast a shortened Tornado mast. The jib is also from a Tornado, but 35 years old. So, as you can see, with a bit of time spent modifying things, you can use parts from most beach cats.

The Strike is not intended as a fast, "hairy" boat to sail. Instead it is for those who may be new to boatbuilding and multihulls and want to start with a quick and easy project. And it is also perfect for those who already have a beach cat and enjoy it, but who also want to be able to take the whole family out on gentle sails.

October 2009

I spent a very busy few weeks in the UK and also managed to get in a quick trip to Berlin. There I saw three builders, one who has a very nice Flica that had been launched as a shell, then motored 300 miles down canals to be hauled out for final finishing

Also a beautifully built ply Ondina. A huge boat being built with great care

and finally a Strider owner. Mind you I didn't see the boat, but I did see the 5th floor apartment where his Strider was built. Once finished it was "launched" by lowering it out of the window to the street below.



I also found time to do some monohull sailing on an east coast (UK) river with my brother and nephew. I remembered that monohulls heel over in gusts rather than accelerate, but I completely forgot that if you let go of the tiller the boat will round up immediately. Funny things monohulls!

While on the east coast I helped with the writing of parts of the new RCC Atlantic Crossing guide, due to be published next year. Look out for it, it will be THE authority on making an Atlantic circuit for years to come.

I also toured an Oyster 57. My guide showed me the aft cabin. "Why its the same size as the one on the Transit" I said. We took out a tape measure to check, and to be honest the Oyster cabin was 12in wider. But then I said "Of course the Transit has two aft cabins like this"

November 2009

In late October we returned to Florida and began sailing south and east again. This year we plan to sail in the Florida Keys and then cross the Gulf Stream to some of the Bahamian islands that we have not yet visited, and finally back to Ft Pierce, Florida in April where we will leave the boat for the 2010 hurricane season.

Don't worry, we have a Blackberry phone so can read emails regularly, thus you should be able to contact me most days

The video, above, shows our Romany sailing an hour before we left the St Johns river to sail south.

A quick explanation: We had left the boat for 7 months in Florida and returned Nov 1st. We spent a few days shopping and tidying the boat before sailing away. But we didn't get a chance to clean the bottom, which, as it has been in warm water for over a year, is covered with very large barnacles. Furthermore we hadn't stowed any of the gear, just thrown it on board. So the boat was bow down.

Despite these handicaps, and the fact that I was sailing it singlehanded as Jetti filmed me, you can still see that the boat sails well (over 7 knots in this clip) and tacks fast. The mainsail luff appears short, but that is because we still have to fit a rigid bimini, when we do that we will raise the boom. Later we beached the boat and removed some of the barnacles. New antifouling paint will have to wait until next year, even so our cruising speed under power went from 4.8 knots to 5.4, a significant increase!

One reason for the rush south was because we wanted to see the Space Shuttle launch on Nov 16th. One of man's major achievements, and an incredible sight when seen in real life rather than on a TV screen. Amazing to think that there were people actually inside it, especially when considering the speed it accelerated and the size of the flames coming out the back end. By way of complete contrast, later the same day I stroked the back of a curious manatee. I know, totally illegal, but so tempting when it surfaced next to my dinghy as I rowed along.

The Indian River is one of the nicer sections of the ICW, better still, it is wide enough to allow some real sailing. We stopped off to visit friends and also to meet up with David of Boatsmith in Jupiter. A master boatbuilder, expert in wood and grp work. Well worth considering if you want a boat built professionally in S Florida.

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We spent the last two weeks of November in Ft Lauderdale staying at the home of Ric Caselli, the Mirage owner (see February news, above). His house is some 2 miles inland from the sea where the canals get narrower and narrower. Romany is over 20ft wide, the narrowest section is 22ft, and with no room to turn round we had to go out backwards. A good thing Romany handles so reliably when under power!

During our stay we were able to do many of the Romany projects we had planned for the winter. Like, for example, finishing off the new stack pack sail cover Jetti had started when in Canada. Jetti had brought her sewing machine to the boat as hand luggage on the plane. Yes it is legal to take one through security!!

We also refitted the hull windows and raised the saloon floor and seating area (something, as I suggest on the Plan Updates page, all Romany builders should do).

We also found time to sail on Ric's Mirage in Biscayne Bay. A great place to sail! The Mirage sailed really well, despite the prevailing light winds.

With two 9.9hp Yamaha outboards we could motor at 8.5 knots. We met friends on a Shuttleworth Spectrum 45, keen racers and a well fitted-out boat with nice sails. We left the anchorage together but the Spectrum took a short cut over some shallows so was a mile ahead when when started to sail home. Two hours later they were only just ahead. I was really surprised that we caught them up on a cruising boat that was 9 feet shorter, especially since some of the crew were more interested in playing checkers than sailing! The Mirage is a great party boat for warmer climes with lots of deck space, yet four adults and two children still had plenty of room and privacy below decks.

Ric is a keen sailor and likes to drive his boat hard, but usually his family dictate permissable boat speeds. For example, in the video, above, Ric's crew were a nursing mother and three 11 year old girls out for a birthday treat. The girls aren't feeling seasick, they are counting the starfish we sailed over (Biscayne Bay is only about 6ft deep)

A few days later Ric sailed his boat singlehanded for the first time. As the photo shows, he was able to push a bit harder, and (as he reported) he was sailing in only 15 knots of wind. We were actually sailing our Romany nearby so can confirm that winds were under 15 knots.