Copyright 2017 - Woods Designs, Foss Quay, Millbrook, Torpoint, Cornwall, PL10 1EN, UK
  • home built Flica 37

  • 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

On our (monohull) sail south from Alaska in 2005 we had quickly realised that the Gulf Islands and the Strait of Georgia were a great sailing area - which is why we decided to buy a summer house there. Despite still trying to sort our lives out after losing Eclipse we moved to Saturna in March.

We were of course boatless, so were resigned to sailing with friends. For example, I raced, for the first time in 4 years, with a couple who had just bought a Farrier F31 trimaran. (I've written before that sailing other people's designs is something all designers should do). A fleet of 17 multihulls at a big regatta just north of Victoria showed the monohulls that we were both competitive and serious. It was ideal sailing - flat water, bright sunshine and 15 knots of wind. The Farriers are fast boats that sail well, but I found that their interiors were not so successful (I prefer the Dragonflies) and this, together with their small cockpits and limited load carrying, made them (to my eyes) unsuitable for cruising. I was also surprised to find that no Farrier owner ever folded his boat, even in crowded marinas.

But then in late June we had a stroke of luck!

Local Merlin owner Andrew Slow had launched Tucanu in 1992 but after cruising it extensively for 14 years he decided he needed a bigger boat so that he could venture further afield. So in mid July we became Tucanu's proud new owners.

We first spent a couple of weeks gently cruising, just to get used to the boat - after all it is considerably smaller and more basic than Eclipse!

One of the great attractions of the Gulf Islands is that you sail in flat water and it's rarely more than few miles from one anchorage to another. So we could drift along (the main drawback is the frequent calms) yet know that if the wind didn't materialize we could always motor for an hour to make port before dark. These were usually quiet, safe anchorages in one of the many islands that are designated as a national park.

We quickly learnt to "Med Moor", that is, to stern tie to the shore with an anchor off the bow to reduce the swinging area. Apart from the lack of wind another major problem is that the water is VERY deep, even close to shore. Depths of 1500 ft (500m) are quite common, we had to get used to anchoring in 70-90 ft of water. (As a comparison, in 5 years cruising we had never anchored Eclipse in over 40ft.)

We heard that the Seattle based NWMA were going to sail in company to Desolation Sound. Although this was further north than we had planned for our first year's cruise we decided to join them - if nothing else it would be a great opportunity to meet the local multihull sailors. We made contact and learnt that 7 Farrier trimarans would sail in a loose convoy north from Nanaimo.

Sailing to Nanaimo means passing through Dodd Narrows which is a 100ft wide passage between two islands and where the tide can run at 15 knots. We had clearly become more confident as we sailed through the gap - most people motor. We stayed a day in Nanaimo during a rare gale and then left to sail across the Strait of Georgia to Pender Harbour. Although it was the least pleasant sail in our 6 weeks cruise it didn't seem too bad to me, certainly not as bad as sailing in the Solent in 20 knots of wind, so I was surprised to learn that both a F28 and F36 turned back.

A couple of gentle day sails later we arrived at the entrance to Desolation Sound. Dramatic high peaked mountains (over 9000ft) rose up all around us, the tallest were still snowcapped, even in August.

The tides flowing north and south round Vancouver Island meet at Desolation Sound, thus there is little current. One day, during a total calm we spent 4 hours completely motionless, admiring the view (above). Then the wind returned and we had a great sail to our chosen anchorage for the night.

Although light winds and flat seas make powerboat cruising very popular we could always find a quiet anchorage, like this one in the Harmony Islands, only a couple of miles off the beaten track.

This is a more significant photo than appears at first glance, for it was taken as we passed over the deepest point of the North American continental coastline. It was an incredible 2400 ft deep (that's 1/2 mile!) In comparison the English Channel is 150ft. If it wasn't for the fact that the water is green because of the glacial run off the water would have been a deep ocean blue.

On our final night together we at last found room for us all to raft up and enjoy a meal together.

By now we had got confidence in both the boat and ourselves. However our engine was unreliable (a new 6hp 4 stroke Tohatsu has been ordered) which encouraged us to sail as much as possible! For example we beat through the narrow gap leading to Squirrel Cove, and out again the next day. The photo shows us leaving, as you can see there's NO prop wash in the photo! Tacking in through the entrance the day before had been a bit more challenging, and certainly surprised a few motor boat owners!

All good things must come to an end. Regretfully in early September we took Tucanu out of water. We have two launching trollies and a flat bed trailer (with a good winch), so despite the shingle beach it didn't take long to have the boat dismantled and ready to tow home for the winter. We left Canada the day before our visas expired, but we will be back in March 2007!

We learnt a lot this summer, not least that what one does in ones 20's is hard when you are now in your 50's! So we decided that for 2007 we would make Tucanu a more comfortable boat.
The plan update pages show some of the changes we made. Changes you may wish to make to your own Janus, Strider or Merlin