A grey, stormy day aboard the Victoria Clipper out of Seattle.

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)

Jacara, an aluminum Fastwater 44 designed by Graham Shannon and built in 1997.

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

  • The large cockpit felt exposed aft but had the advantage of draining well if pooped. 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 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 windows bull nosed with aluminum ready for storm windows.
  • Large forward anchor locker with bulkhead aft.
  • 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)

Jacara’s transom; note barn door rudder.


IMG_5691 (1280x960)

Large storage locker in the bows; full bulkhead aft of it. Interestingly, the chain locker is forward of this and separated from this locker by a bulkhead.


IMG_5724 (1280x960)

Chris and broker in cockpit. Aft rack sports 500 watts of solar power plus  … shade.


IMG_5706 (960x1280)

Chris contemplates the pilothouse windows. “What happens when…?” His voice trails away.

IMG_5733 (1280x960)

New, in-boom furling with electric halyard winch.


Super-secure companionway hatch–actually a door with its own dogs inside and out. Also note a distinctive Graham Shannon design feature: the passage to the companionway provides a little protection for crew entering/exiting the cockpit in a seaway.


IMG_5716 (1280x960)

Vast open foredecks. Lots of room to work, but no reason to go there as all lines are run aft.



Secure battery packs, but a bus bar would uncrowd the terminals.


IMG_5789 (1)

A forward berth that could sleep three. Hmm. Square hole forward, which is usually fastened shut, is the only access to the chain locker. Double hmm.


IMG_5801 (1280x960)

Plugs from the 1/4 inch hull and 3/16ths inch deck. The thickest of these was more like 3/8ths inch but from an unknown location.


IMG_5763 (1280x960)

Engine access under main salon sole–nice and roomy.


fastwater salon

To call the main salon open and airy is like calling Texas big. Note full pilot station, galley and table all on this level, a plus for singlehanding.


aluminum amazon

An underbody that inspires confidence, at least in my view.

Digging 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.

2 Comments on “FINDING A FIGURE 8 VOYAGE BOAT: The Fastwater 44

  1. Randall, I am enjoying your process, and it is much easier doing it vicariously, for sure! Here are some more random and free thoughts (which may be what they are worth).
    I’ve heard very good things about the in-boom Leisure Furl, as opposed to an in-mast furler, for offshore.
    I have seen a few boats with such large pilothouse windows doing epic voyages, with aluminum or even plywood storm shutters that do not entirely cover the window, leaving a central ‘sub port’ for visibility.
    Does the quality of joinery matter, other than for resale consideration?
    I would think that the chances of inverting this boat are very small, especially once you weld on the series drogue chainplates on the quarters.
    100 gals might be a bit small for a fuel tank with 77hp , but that’s easy to augment. Steve

  2. Hey Steve,

    I’ve only begun to look into in-boom furling (vs in mast furling). The one negative that’s stuck in my head is that the sail luff binds when running downwind, for example, and can be difficult to raise/lower, and that sail “kinks” at the gooseneck where it feeds back into the boom. I’ve not confirmed either complaint.

    More salient was Chris’s remark: “You can’t go to the southern ocean or the arctic with a piece of kit called *Leisure* Furl. That’s just wrong.”

    Re the joinery, guess not, though it was disappointing and except that some of the build-out was so light as to be dangerous to grab onto in a seaway (IMHO).

    I like your idea re storm windows–had thought that a good approach.

    Yes, didn’t mention in the review, but adding fuel would, I think, be feasible; the boat had logs of internal volume unused.


Leave a Reply