VOYAGE BOAT: The Fastwater 44

The day after viewing the Amazon 39 saw me early aboard the Clipper Ferry for Victoria. Rain and heavy wind in Puget Sound. The purser urged us to expect “strong motion” as we entered the Straits of Juan de Fuca. “Sea sickness tablets are available at the counter,” she said, “25 cents a packet.” For me these waters have never been anything but a lake. I looked forward to a pounding hull and water over the bow, but our powerful cat outran the gale in an hour. We entered the strait to find warm sun and flat water.

This day’s target, a Fastwater 44, sat in Oak Bay, just blocks from the stately Empress Hotel.IMG_5681 (1280x960)

It should be noted that I had expected what was advertised, an Amazon 44, but what I got was a Fastwater. Prior to the trip I reached out to the designer, Graham Shannon, with some questions about his boat’s appropriateness for the Figure 8. He responded, “I don’t know why they’re calling it an Amazon.” All the Amazons, he stated, were built of steel at the SP Metalcraft yard and were round bilged. This aluminum, hard chined hull was done by Fastwater Marine. “I did design it though,” wrote Shannon, “It’s a well-made origami hull, and it should be suitable for your voyage.”

Once on the dock, first impressions of this boat went something like this: “Big boat, wow, great hull paint, nice open decks, new treadmaster nonskid, BIG!, looks brand new, BIG, beefy, strong, wow–BIG boat.” From stem to stern her size and sense of strength were most impressive.

Basic Stats

Aluminum, cutter-rigged sloop, pilot house, hard chine below the waterline, extended fin keel with skeg-hung rudder.

Head sails on Harken furlers; Leisure boom-furling, fully battened main.

LOA: 44; LWL: 36.75; Beam: 13.66; Draft: 6.

Displacement: 27,000lb; Ballast: 9300. Sail Area: 899.

Displacement to Length Ratio: 243.  Ballast to Displacement: 34% .  Sail Area to Displacement Ratio: 16. Capsize Ratio: 1.82.

Hull Plating: 1/4 inch aluminum for the “bottom, topsides and superstructure,” per the survey. 3/16ths inch on deck.

Tankage: 100 gallons fuel in 1 tank; 120 gallons water in 2 tanks. All aluminum and integrated into the hull.

Engine: 77 hp.

Steering: hydraulic


Joining me on this inspection was my friend Chris Bennet, an experienced sailor who, with his wife Rani, has cruised a Coast 34 named Ladybug from BC to New Zealand via all the beautiful spots in between. Neither of us are big boat sailors, so it took us several minutes to get the lay of the land. And while I gravitated toward the fancy furling boom and the great forward locker, Chris stood to ponder the vast pilothouse windows. “Think inverted in the Southern Ocean,” he kept saying. I would point to the bull-nosing ready made for storm windows, but he just shook his head.

Positives from the Figure 8 perspective:

On Deck

  • There was a huge locker under the starboard settee and another purpose-built for two propane tanks. Lifting a seat cover behind the wheel gave easy access to the rudder post in case of emergency.The large cockpit felt exposed aft but had the advantage of draining well if pooped.
  • The boat sported a watertight companionway hatch made of aluminum and complete with inside/outside dogs.
  • New sails on quality furlers and the first boat I’ve seen with the inner headsail already rigged.
  • Large forward anchor locker with bulkhead aft.
  • Large windows bull nosed with aluminum ready for storm windows.
  • Beefy anchor roller and chock integrated into the hull.
  • Well installed nonskid everywhere on deck.

Below Decks

  • Upper salon complete with galley, pilot station, and berth meant all major functions were as near as possible to the cockpit.
  • For a guy used to low boats with no forward-facing windows, the view from the salon/pilot station was extraordinary. One could look straight out without any sense of straining to see over the bow.
  • Ample insulation had been sprayed on and well below waterline.
  • Engine could be easily accessed below salon sole, and the area was still fairly roomy.IMG_5689 (960x1280)IMG_5691 (1280x960)IMG_5724 (1280x960)IMG_5706 (960x1280)IMG_5733 (1280x960)fastwaterhatchIMG_5716 (1280x960)IMG_5769IMG_5789 (1)IMG_5801 (1280x960)IMG_5763 (1280x960)fastwater salonaluminum amazonDigging around inside lockers and bilges revealed a boat of immense strength. That combined with her very light use, new rig, simple layout, and well protected pilot house suggested her fitness for the Figure 8 voyage. My concerns included a lack of familiarity with in-boom furling and its fitness for long distance cruising (granted this device could likely be removed and replaced with a standard hank on sail), worry regarding the safety of such large windows, even with storm protection, and a general discomfort with the interior design, the quality of carpentry and system installation.