Tiki 31 - Lookfar's first big trip

Lookfar is a slightly modified Tiki 31. In most ways the hulls and rig are standard but the cabin tops have been extended right through in each hull to give more interior space and make her a more practical cruising boat for a rainy climate. I started building her in September of 1992 launched her in August of 1997 - about twice as long as I originally expected but given the limited time I had available to work on her I wasn't unhappy.

She is built from 3/8 Okoume marine ply with West System resin and painted with 2 part linear polyurethane paint. The masts are aluminium tubes two feet longer than the design (26 feet), sails are standard from Jeckells. There are various smaller modifications I have made to the original design and I will describe those later on.

For 1997 and 1998 we kept her near where we lived in Vancouver and then after we moved to Tofino on the west coast of Vancouver Island we sailed her out of the straits of Juan de Fuca and have kept her in Tofino since. The sail round was rather rushed because of other commitments and we didn't have a lot of time to experiment. Our trip this summer (1999) was our first chance to really learn the boat, see how she behaved in different situations and how some of the modifications worked. This article is mostly about the boat and how she performed rather than the trip itself.

The Trip

In the past we spent many weeks exploring the northern coast of British Columbia by kayak. This is a remote and beautiful area. It includes some areas that are regularly visited - along the inside passage to Alaska - but off the beaten track there are many spots that are rarely visited and which still have the feel of true wilderness. We decided to take two months to sail Lookfar up the outside of Vancouver Island from Tofino, round Cape Scott, head up through Queen Charlotte Sound and then cruise the central and northern coast, revisiting areas we had been in kayaks and exploring new areas.

We left at the end of May. The weather was cold and wet through most of June with some good chances to check her out sailing upwind into 25 to 30 knots and good sized swells around some of the capes. We also had some good downwind runs along some of the north coast inlets. July had much better weather with good sailing winds and more sun. We arrived back in Tofino at the end of July just in time for the start of the fog season which we had mostly missed, thank goodness.

Modifications and how various things performed

The biggest modification to the boat is the cabin tops and the associated hatches and washboards. These worked really well. We had a week of non stop rain including winds gusting up to 45 knots at one point on our trip. During this whole time we were able to keep things relatively dry and not go too stir crazy. It was nice to have a stand up galley and a head we could get to without having to go outside. There is still the problem of having to go between the hulls - we have the head, nav station, and main bunk on one side and the galley and "lounge" on the other. A good deck tent would solve this but heavy rain tends to be associated with high winds and we don't have anything that wind firm yet. To be any use for us a deck tent would have to be easy to put up and down, not be too bulky when down and be wind firm to at least 25 knots - a future project perhaps.

Because the cabins were more enclosed than the original design I built dorade vents forward of beam 1 and aft of beam 4 on both hulls. These consisted of a baffled plywood enclosure with an upstand made of 4" ABS pipe and fittings from the hardware store and a hinged lexan lid. These vents work well and are really essential in the battle against condensation when it is cold and damp, they also supply light into the ends of the hulls. Since I used sewer fittings I have threaded plugs with O ring seals that cost a few dollars each. In most weather the dorades keep out water but when we started getting green water over the decks fairly regularly beating up into 25 to 30 knot winds we definitely needed the plugs (as we discovered to our cost).

The original design has just netting between the hulls in front of beam 1. Last winter I put in an aluminium netting beam right at the stem posts and built a foredeck on one side and a landing/swimming ramp on the other. The priority for this was because we wanted to be able to carry two 17' 6" kayaks while cruising and be able to get in and out of them easily. The end result has really transformed the boat however. It is now much easier to do foresail changes, we anchor right off the bow so we only need to put bridles on the anchor rope when it is very windy, and we can easily and comfortably station a watch right up in the bow when we are creeping into unknown anchorages. You would expect the downside of all this structure so far forward to be the way waves break under and over it but we didn't experience any problems. Waves that broke over it quickly disappeared and when the bow plunged down into a big "hole" in the water it rarely touched - though I had built it strongly with this in mind.

The original plans have the cockpit area constructed out of separate floor panels and deck boxes. I wanted to have wheel steering so I made the cockpit as a single unit that sits on the middle two beams. This has built in deck boxes for two small propane tanks, fuel tanks and general storage. I also have the battery for the outboard stowed there.

The steering setup consists of a largish wheel driving a sprocket and chain driving 7x19 cables that go back in the normal way and are lashed to the tillers. This works really well and has a nice positive feel in big seas. The wheel is a bit on the large side but it makes it a nice height while standing at the helm without having to make the console it sits on too high. We can easily steer sitting on the deck boxes on either side. We also discovered that when it is rough or we are surfing the wheel is located at the quietist part (the pivot point) of the boat making it a good place to sit. To either side or forward or aft you get significantly more movement.

As I mentioned above the masts are 2 feet longer than the original design. I think this is still too short for the main and would add at least a couple more feet to give additional clearance at deck level. This would allow room for a more practical pod. It would raise the centre of effort a bit but I don't think that would be significant given how stable she feels right now.

When we first sailed Lookfar around from Vancouver we had the main loose footed with the mizzen poled out with a wishbone as per the plans. I really didn't like this setup. I found the wishbone a hassle to put up and take down and a real disincentive to rapid sail changes. The main with no wishbone or boom had a very hooked shape unless we pulled it out with barber haulers etc. and these made it harder to adjust and tack. Because we couldn't pull the sail very flat it had a greater tendency to backwind the mizzen. Last fall I put booms on both sails. These are simply aluminium tubes with Ronstan fittings riveted to the mast. I also put on lazy jacks and lines and blocks/cleats for slab reefing. This may seem to be getting away from the "soft wingsail" concept a bit but I think the combination works really well. The sails are very quick to put up and down now, they stow easily, are easy to reef and have much better shapes. We especially like being able to easily reef the sails when they are full of wind either up or down wind - a big advantage of the sleeved sails. In addition they are much easier to set up on downwind runs. With the main right out and the jib goose winged and poled out with a whisker pole (8 foot long sections of 1 inch aluminium tube with dinghy spinnaker fittings on each end) we have a very controllable rig that works well in quite high winds. The boom on the main is a little low (see comments on mast height above) so we are careful to use a preventer whenever we are off the wind.

I am playing around with wind vane self steering and have made a horizontal axis wind vane (Belcher OGT Mk II) for each stern (can't have just one because the mizzen is so far aft). I had the vanes driving an auxillary rudder off beam 4 but this broke in big seas. Before it broke it worked well. I haven't decided yet whether to rebuild it or to go with a trim tab on one of the main rudders. The auxillary was a bit of a pain and collected weed - especially the 10-20 foot long bull kelp that we have here.


On our 2 month trip we used the motor usually just to get in and out of anchorages and on a few occasions we motored for longer when there was no wind and we wanted to be somewhere at a particular time. On occasion we waited for favourable winds so we could run or reach rather than having to head up wind but we beat upwind around the major capes on the west coast of Vancouver Island in moderate to strong winds.

We tack through about 100 degrees, if we point higher we start to lose too much speed. In typical sailing conditions we make around 10 degrees of leeway - less probably in calm conditions and more when it is rough and we are heading into bigger seas. We usually sail at around 5 to 6 knots when there is reasonable wind and up to 8 or 9 with a better sailing breeze and more if the wind is stronger. The highest speed we measured was 13 knots but the knotmeter wasn't working for the first part of our trip when we had the highest winds. Much more than that and we start to reduce sail to make things less exciting and drier. Unloaded on a reach in calmer water I expect she would do more.

In light winds I think she is under canvassed - or perhaps we were overloaded with gear. I think though, that this is part of the safety aspect of the rig and design. By being under canvassed for lower winds the chances of a nasty accident in gusts is greatly reduced. In stronger winds we put a reef in the main first and then the mizzen and can still head up wind well with that combination feeling pretty stable in winds to 30 knots with moderate swells and wind waves. Much more wind than that and I would start to wonder why we were beating up into it and would probably think about running off if there was somewhere to go. She is quite wet on deck pounding into seas. The higher cabin sides do provide protection but occasional waves go over the top (and down your neck if you are sitting against the hull side with your hood down) and waves have a way of ricocheting off the hulls and coming up through the slatted decks every now and then.

Tacking is pretty foolproof in most winds and as long as it is possible to get wind in the back of the jib she heads around even in very light winds - although it can take a long time! I find that the position of the rudders is fairly irrelevant once you have started the tack and it is the jib that pulls her around even if we lose all way and head astern. We find that with either just the main and jib or just mizzen and jib she is hard to tack - this needs some more experimentation but we normally leave both sails up, reefed if necessary, when headed upwind.

Reaching, as expected, gets her moving the fastest. We normally leave all three working sails up until the wind is dead astern when the mizzen interferes with the main too much and we drop the mizzen. We use a whisker pole on the jib and for many conditions find a whisker poled jib and main is the easiest thing for running down wind and broad reaches. We have hit 13 knots plus with this combination surfing down waves in 30 knots of wind before we decided to reef the main. We have a cruising chute and have had some nice runs with it but we usually only put it up when we are willing to do lots of sail changes. It tends to be a bit picky and when sailing up inlets the wind direction is changing all the time. I'm not sure if I would bother buying one again. Perhaps a bigger symmetrical spinnaker would actually be more useful.

We have found that on beam reaches we can put the downwind staysail up on the mizzen mast between the main and mizzen and it gives us an extra knot or two in lighter winds. It doesn't interfere with the other sails as long as you are careful to keep all the slots fairly open. We have also put the downwind staysail up tacked down to one bow and poled out with the jib sheet on the other side. This works pretty well with the main when running downwind in lighter winds.

Lookfar surfs well and doesn't have much desire to broach. In seas quartering from astern it is good to pay attention but once she heads off down a wave she seems really stable and goes straight down it like she is on rails. The sterns pick up well on the waves and she stays dry back there except for the occasional spout up around the outboard well.

We have a 9.9 Yamaha 4 stroke outboard that we are very pleased with. It seems very reliable and doesn't use much fuel. In two months we used about 20 gallons. We have a 6 gallon tank which we run the engine off and two 5 gallon jerry cans stowed in deck boxes. The outboard pushes us along at about 6 -7 knots in calm water. We had one situation where we had to get across a bar close to slack and motored into 20-25 knots of wind and wind waves. We only made about 2-3 knots through the water which was a bit on the slow side so maybe you could argue for more power. On the other hand more power means a lot more weight and more fuel consumption so we aren't going to change.

I find Lookfar hard to dock - this is especially true in Tofino where there are typically 2-4 knot currents running along and sometimes under the docks and space tends to be limited. The outboard is fixed which means I only have steerage when we have enough water moving over the rudders and we have limited ability to steer astern. The currents actually help when they aren't running underneath the docks. I have thought about adding a tiller to the rudder (it is a remote model with no tiller) and will probably do this in the future. We use a couple of 15 inch fenders alongside - the beams stick out at difficult heights and tend to catch otherwise.

We had a fairly cheap hand held GPS along on the trip and it was great. We had a number of situations with fairly poor visibility on coastlines with lots of rocks and boomers (rocks below just below the surface that are only visible when a big swell breaks on them). The GPS gives you a lot more confidence and is well worth the money. Sometimes it seems that radar would be nice but it is a lot of extra weight and money and would require more electrical power than we currently have so I doubt we will bother.

Possible future Modifications

There are quite a few small things we plan to do to make Lookfar more comfortable but they mostly have to do with the interior space. We will continue to play with the wind vane self steering but for coastal cruising that is more of a luxury. In the first part of the trip (while the weather was rotten) we talked a lot about how to get more shelter on deck while sailing as well as while at anchor. In the second part when the weather was better we were glad of all the uncluttered deck space. I am not sure yet whether we will do anything.

Condensation was a problem when it was cold and wet outside. We may put some insulation under the bunks to help reduce the problem but I don't want to insulate everywhere. We may put a couple more ventilators in - one over the bunks perhaps and one over the galley but these then become potential leak points in bad weather. I may just make some custom washboards that we can use at anchor that are rain proof, let in lots of air and also have bug screens in them.

Overall we are very pleased with our Tiki 31 and don't plan any major changes. To have a more comfortable boat it would need to be larger … maybe we will build something bigger one day.