NICK SKEATES ON WYLO II: The Ultimate Barebones Cruiser and his Ultimate Dirt Simple Boat

Nick Skeates

Dang it. I was going to write a post about the boats I test-sailed after the show in Annapolis, as has been my custom these past years, but I lost my freaking camera and have no pix for it. Ah, well. This gives me a chance to change the subject and point you at a fantastic viddy posted on Vimeo by Byrony Stokes a couple of months ago. About the intrepid Nick Skeates, a dumpster-diving barebones cruising legend and his tough-as-nails self-designed and self-built boat Wylo II.

Gypsea Stories: Wylo II from Bryony Stokes on Vimeo.

Though there are no definite landmarks in the background, my tingling spider sense told me while watching the viddy that it was probably shot on the Rio Guadiana, a favorite past cruising ground. And indeed, on pawing through the comments I see this is the case.

Amazingly, Nick has sold plans for a slightly upsized version of his boat to something like 140 different home-building sailors. As of 2013, at least, the boat was also being built on a production basis by Voyaging Yachts in the UK and was available in various states of construction.

Production Wylo

Rendering of a production Wylo, as “re-realized” by Whitehouse Yacht Design for Voyaging Yachts, which now, alas, seems defunct, or at least very inactive

The most renowned Wylo sailor, other than Nick, is certainly Trevor Robertson, who with his then-partner Annie Hill (formerly the bride of Pete Hill, of Badger fame) won the Cruising Club of America’s Blue Water Medal in 2009. Trevor’s Wylo, named Iron Bark, is believed to be the only vessel in history to have spent winters frozen into the ice in both the Arctic and Antarctic.

Iron Bark

Iron Bark, demonstrating one advantage of a steel hull

In any event, I urge you to watch Byrony’s excellent video, in which Nick expounds on his philosophy of cruising and gives a tour of his boat. Afterwards, you should also watch this one, starring a production-built Wylo, in which Nick provides the soundtrack, singing a tune and playing his ukulele.

Best line in the song (at 55 seconds): Freedom is just another word for being unemployed.

[As for those other boats: this year I test-sailed the X-Yachts Xp55, the Hanse 348, the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 319, and the Jeanneau Sun Odyssey 410. Look for full reviews in future issues of SAIL Magazine.]

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14 Responses
  1. John S

    Charlie, I’m sorry you lost your camera. But I’m glad you did not post the pics of the new boats. They do nothing for me. But this was a real treat. Simple brings the greatest joy…for me anyway. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Gary Langrock

    That film should win an award if film awards were ever to mean something. What incredible insight Skeates has. Listening to his approach to life reminds me of how Dogen, as translated by Warner and his contemporaries, describe how actualize your life. This man knows first hand about the damage man has inflicted upon the earth. He tells us that it is not just about time we take notice and do something about it but it is high time (hope my paraphrase did not butcher the original).

  3. Ahoy old mate finally caught up with you thru freinds who saw you online the day goes by im seeing and hearing more of what you been up to..altho more history..apparently i managed to put my search for you on facebook..sorry wasn’t intentional..but might be helpful..and make you more famous..hihi..not sure if i can find my way back onto this site to the futur rendez vous..still love you heaps keep in…64 country..03 or just 3 area..sth IS.o223200449..

  4. Ron Falconer

    Hi Charlie, So lovely to make a surprise find of my long associate Nick Skeates. We met in Polynesia in 1977 while both sailing around the world, Nick in Wylo 1 – me in self constructed Fleur D’Ecosse. We had so much in common, do it yourself and basic, people. He introduced me the Tuamotu atolls, and spinnaker flying, on my 28 foot boat. We met again in Fiji immediately after he lost Wylo on the reef. Then in N.Z. discussing plans for Wylo 11. We saw each other again in 1985, me back in the Pacific, Nick on his second around trip. He introduced me three brothers who had some problems and a 50 ton Baltic Trader. To fix their problem I ended up with a Baltic Trader I didn’t need. Later Nick helped me sell it to a mutual friend in Fiji. He came through Polynesia again around 2008 on his forth around trip, and sailed passed my new house on Moorea. Thanks for the memories. Ron

    1. Charles Doane

      Hey Ron! So glad you found this post. Sounds like you’ve had a very interesting career as a cruiser. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Ron Falconer

    Greetings Charles, my middle name as well. Just to say I now live with my NZ wife on a 25 ton, 110 year Dutch Tjalk Barge on the Canal du Midi, South France. Hopefully moving soon to Brittany canals if we can dodge this dreaded virus plague. Life is an adventure. You seem a very busy guy. I did look for Nick on FB with no success. I try again.. Cheers.

    1. Rod

      Hi Charles. I sail a Wylo 2 out of Saldanha Bay in South Africa. I have tried every way but this post to try and contact Nick Skeates. I want to build a new one and want plans. Anyone who can help that you know of? Fair winds…Rod.

      1. Charles Doane

        Hi Rod: I have no way to get in touch with Nick.You might try Trevor Robertson, who you may have noted has a Wylo 2 he built for sale. He may have plans, or may know how to get in contact with Nick. Trevor’s e-mail is trevironbark(at)

    2. J_McL

      Hello, I am his sister, if you are still looking for a way to get in touch with Nick, please reply to this with your email address so I can send it to you privately.

      1. Colin Vane

        Hi Janet.
        Sorry to hijack this thread. I’ve followed Nick’s (and Wylo’s) progress over the years and have a friend who is currently building a Wylo in Scotland, and just came across your post.
        Coincidentally, we have friends who live in Oakdene Road almost opposite where you used to live. If you’d like to catch up on the last half century please ping me back at

  6. Dorothée Von Der Osten

    Hi Nick ! If you read this ??
    We met in Cape Town … my little painting took off with you … and some amazing memories too
    You told me somethIng which became true …
    I want to be in touch again , is your address in the UK still reaching you ?
    Much love Dorotheé

  7. Derek

    I met and sailed in company with Nick when he was sailing in Australia, Great memories and times with Nick.
    Remember giving him a race on our Freedom 40 on day and we were doing the same speed for 6 hours.
    He then used him Bimikin and over an hour started to break away from us.
    So I added some sarongs to my boom and then eventually passed.
    Ha great fun and memories.
    If Nick is in contact with the world via email haha though doubt it.
    Can someone pass on mine.
    Derek from the yacht Free as a Bird.

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