Alex Zimmerman rowing Fire-Drake
photo by Dave Lesser

Alex Zimmerman is a writer, adventurer, and amateur boatbuilder, sideline occupations which paralleled his mainstream career as technologist, executive, environmentalist and consultant in the green buildings industry before his retirement. He can now afford to pursue his former sideline occupations full time.

Alex got a basic grounding in seamanship, navigation and sailing as a junior engineer officer in the Canadian Navy and continued it by teaching in the Canadian Power Squadron after he left the Navy. He did a lot of big-boat sailing in other people’s boats before downsizing to kayaks and small open boats. He built all his own boats; his three kayaks and both of his sail and oar boats. He used his decades of experience to also design his last sail and oar boat, the eighteen foot lug yawl that he named Fire-Drake.

Alex still sails with other people when he can and has made a couple of offshore passages. He also has a connection with the mountains and occasionally shoulders his backpack to head up into the mountains of Vancouver Island, BC’s mainland coast or the Canadian Rockies

Alex has long been fascinated by the marvelous coast of British Columbia, its natural wonders, its people and its history. Alex has put several thousand self-propelled miles under the keels of his various boats over the past two and half decades exploring that coast. The culmination of that exploration was the successful and safe solo completion of British Columbia’s Inside Passage in 2017 in Fire-Drake. The story of that voyage forms the last two chapters of his book, Becoming Coastal.

Alex lives in Victoria, British Columbia with his wife, and, between injuries, maintains the fiction that he is a still a runner and an athlete. He says he can stop boatbuilding any time he wants to.

Camas Moon


My most recent and current self-built boat is named Camas Moon. Camas Moon is a gaff yawl, 18’ length on deck, designed by Tad Roberts, a talented and experienced designer who lives in Silva Bay, British Columbia. The hull and deck are built of marine plywood by the owner, Alex Zimmerman of Victoria, British Columbia. Construction began not long after the start of the pandemic, and the boat was launched in late August 2022.

Camas Moon is the first boat built to Tad Roberts’ CoPogy 18 design. She is ~ 18’ LOD, 17’3” LWL, ~ 22’ LOA, ~6’6” beam, 9” draft board and rudder up, 48” board down. Design displacement is about 2,200 lbs, of which 400 lbs is lead ballast bricks inside. She is rigged as a gaff yawl, with a weighted, pivoting, off-centre centreboard, and an off-centre mizzen mast. She has a 6 HP 4 stroke outboard motor in a well ahead of the transom-hung kick-up rudder. Construction is stitch and glue (epoxy) around structural ply bulkheads/frames. Hull and deck are marine ply, 9mm for the bottom and lower hull strakes, 6 mm for the upper strakes, the raised topsides, the deck and the pilothouse. Most other elements are Douglas Fir, including the spars. The main mast, mizzen mast and yard are hollow, birdsmouth construction and the rest of the spars are solid. Standing rigging is 12-strand dyneema, and running rigging is mostly double-braid polyester, with some dyneema and some 3-strand polyester. Sail area is about 178 ft2. The jib is roller furling while the main has two traditional slab reefing points. Mooring cleats are home-made from Sapele wood.

Extensive storage compartments, made watertight with commercial hatches, both inside and in the cockpit, make the boat virtually unsinkable. She has a modest set of electronics, including LED navigation and interior lights, all powered by a 12V AGM battery which is kept charged by the two 50 Watt solar panels when the sun shines, and by the charging coil of the outboard when it is in use. The interior is rather spartan, with no built-in galley, head or water tanks, although she does carry a porta-potti. She also has a small Dickenson solid fuel heater for the cabin to extend the cruising season. Camas Moon does not tow a dinghy but does have an easily-stowed pack raft that can be inflated and used to get ashore when at anchor.

Designed as a trailerable mini-motorsailer for one or two people in the Salish Sea and along the Inside Passage, she is equally at home motoring all day in the calms or sailing when the wind serves. She will not win any round-the-buoys races to windward but performs relatively well for a gaff rig with modest sail area. While her outboard will push Camas Moon to her theoretical displacement hull speed of about 5½ knots, she is more comfortable at 4 – 4½ knots and at that speed makes less noise and uses much less fuel.