FINDING A FIGURE 8 VOYAGE BOAT: Progress in the Pacific Northwest

Last week I flew north to inspect potential Figure 8 boats. Over four days I saw five steel and aluminum boats in yards that took me to Seattle, Poulsbo, Port Townsend, Victoria and Friday Harbor.

If I’d had the good sense to live nearer the Netherlands, I could have conducted this entire search without ever leaving the sales docks of De Valk, and fortune would have smiled similarly if I lived in France. But on the west coast of North America, metal boats are downright rare, except for one tiny pocket of manufacturing madness near Victoria, British Columbia. Here are (or were) the shops of Waterline Yachts, SP Metal Craft and Fastwater Marine, and all the boats I saw could be traced to one of these.

The next few posts will contain a quick review of the boats seen this trip, their basic specifications, brief thoughts on their suitability for the Figure 8 Voyage and some photos.

By way of reminder, in the previous post I defined the characteristics of “the right boat” as:

  • Bullet-proof hull (i.e. steel or aluminum).
  • About 40 feet in length.
  • Capacious enough for a year’s supplies.
  • Simply laid out and rigged for singlehanding (or easily made so).

One could argue that these parameters are so general as to be unhelpful. So, to be a little more specific, I was also looking for boats with:

  • Good sailing characteristics (sensible sail area to displacement ratios).
  • A pilot house or some kind of raised cabin that would allow for standing watch from below.
  • Watertight bulkheads forward.
  • Ample hull insulation above the waterline. (One metal boat owner friend of mine argues for it below waterline as well. Still thinking that one through).
  • A strong power plant.
  • Tankage for 200 gallons of fuel or room to add that in tankage below-deck.
  • Serviceable electrical wiring and switchboxes.
  • A history of (or evidence of) good upkeep such that a total, tear-it-to-the-bone refit is not required.

Simple as it may sound, the above represents a tall order when the field is so sparsely populated, and in the end my target boats for this trip comprised what was available rather than what fit the criteria.

The first boat inspected, the SK-42, was in Bainbridge, a pleasant 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.


SK Custom

SK-42. Custom designed and built by Stoyan Kirilov in 2004. As the story goes, Kirilov worked for Waterline Yachts before striking out on his own.

Basic Stats

Steel pilot-house sloop, nearly flush deck, extended fin keel with skeg hung rudder.

LOA: 42; LWL: 36; Beam: 12.5; Draft: 6.5.

Displacement: 26,000lb; Ballast: 8,000lbs. Sail Area: 900 sq ft.

Displacement to Length Ratio: 250.  Ballast to Displacement (after personal increment of 5,500lbs): 25%.  Sail Area to Displacement Ratio: 16. Capsize Ratio: 1.69.

Tankage: 115 gallons fuel; 105 water.

Engine: 70 hp.


Neither in photos nor in person does this boat impress as being a high latitude work-horse. This is largely due to her deeply transverse transom and overlarge cockpit, which give her a racey feel. That said, her lower freeboard and robust construction suggest a boat that can charge on in may weathers. Add to this her newness and, upon inspection, immaculate upkeep–cleaner bilges I have never seen–made her a boat worth consideration.

Positives where the Figure 8 are concerned:

On Deck

  • Big wheel in the big cockpit allowed easy access to winches while steering.
  • Open, uncluttered foredeck.
  • Ample storage locker forward with watertight bulkhead
  • Stainless chainplates and standing rigging in good condition.
  • Fairly low profile house for added safety at sea.
  • Inner forestay could easily be rigged.


  • A well designed chart table and bench allowed for good, all-around view while seated, even though the windows were narrow. Bench hooked around for comfort in rougher weather.
  • Super-well maintained systems if cleanliness is an indicator, and her electronics, though not new, were all appropriate to my needs.
  • High quality hardware. Stainless Steel through-hull valves, for example.
  • Her lower house and freeboard also reduced the boat’s internal volume, but this made her cozy for a singlehander and safe (handholds were always but an arm’s length away).

Clean open decks. A doghouse not overly high.

IMG_5402 (1280x960)

View inside ample anchor locker, accessible from on deck and backed by a watertight bulkhead.


A raised chart table/station. Visibility is limited due to the narrowness of the windows, but line-of-sight is clear all around. Older but serviceable electronics with Blue Sea switchboard. Galley is one step down but neatly laid out. All surfaces are beautifully done in Maple.


Well-reinforced rudder post for powerful hydraulic steering arm.

Clean engine room. Engine, transmission, shaft and stuffing box accessible from front and back (not sides).


Though a solid contender, concerns included a lack of below decks storage for such a long passage as the Figure 8 and no obvious locker-space for additional diesel tankage. The boat also felt too lightly ballasted and too powerfully rigged for a circuit of the Southern Ocean. Still, she showed extremely well, was strongly built and clearly blue-water able, having made two transits to Hilo and back with her current owner.

Next up, a Waterline 38…


5 Comments on “FINDING A FIGURE 8 VOYAGE BOAT: Progress in the Pacific Northwest

  1. Randall, I’m enjoying watching the process of your boat selection. Wrt the SK 42;
    -do you know the plating thickness?
    – with the length range you have specified, a windvane would be a good thing I think, but it might be a bit of an installation project on a stern design such as this.
    – I had insulation well below the waterline on Silas Crosby, but excluding the bilges of course. It worked out well, and we stayed warm and dry.

    • Hey Steve, thanks for following and the great questions.

      Re the plate thickness–should have put that in the review. Will include in upcoming posts, though I did not get this data for all boats.

      From what I learned, the hull was 3/16ths and the deck 10 gauge; both A36 mild steel. The boat is round-bilged. That’s all I know for this boat.

      Re the windvane, I intend to have one on whatever boat. I’ve used a Monitor extensively and so feel a sense of (irrational but strong) loyalty. However, many of the boats I’m seeing have hydraulic steering, on which Monitor people say Monitor does not function (too many turns, stop to stop). Yes, the transom on the SK would make a vane challenging; a center mount would render the steps unusable (not a huge loss), and an off center mount on such beam would make it difficult for the vane to bite on some points of sail. Either way, the intallation would be weaker than on a boat with a flatter bum.

      Re insulation, go it. Must admit I’m playing a bit of catch up re metal hulls. Not a material I’m familiar with. Have now seen insulation below *water* line on several boats, but to your point, not in the bilge. Makes sense to me: one wants to reduce condensation in all areas where can *but* not have insulation in areas where water could stand.

      One nice design element on this boat I failed to mention: the tanks were all stainless, two for water and two for fuel, and they were laid low in the hull, athwartships, just aft of midpoint. Very sensible.

      Thanks for the comments. More welcome.

  2. QUESTION: The hulls of all boats I’ve chosen to see are insulated. Most insulation has been sprayed on and is usually in the 2″ range. Two boats have had dry-install insulation (comes on a roll) held in place by battens and paneling. It is typically as thick as the spray-on, but clearly can’t adhere to the hull as the spray-on would. IYO, should I be wary of dry-install insulation?

    • Randall, I only have experience with the spray-foam insulation, but if I were to build another steel boat I think I would probably use the dry-install insulation. No worries about hidden corrosion, unlike under spray foam, and simpler to inspect under the insulation. Of course, regardless of insulation type, the interior in a steel boat needs a good epoxy finish.
      A friend is nearly finished his 54′ alum. cruiser near where I live and he has installed the dry stuff, and it looks great. Steve

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