I recently became involved with a project that is planning on a 2019 Northwest Passage sailing attempt, east to west. It is an exciting endeavor and a bit “out of the blue” for me.
No, it won’t be with the Flicka, but that is an amazing thought. It will be with a 51-foot wooden sloop, called Breskell, built and captained by Olivier Huin. I hope to write about this amazing experience and am very enthusiastic about the opportunity.
For now, I will let you check out www.breskell.com for more details.
It was Day 15 of my 2017, “June on the Hook” expedition, in Sampaguita, my Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20 sailboat, and a leisure day in Canada’s Vancouver, British Columbia. I was anchored in False Creek, and it was here that I considered the international affair of “the boaters’ gaze” and “the anchor stare.”
In False Creek it is at its extreme. Most boaters do “the gaze” whether they admit it or not. Being outdoor folk by nature, the cockpit of a boat, which I’ll stylistically call the porch, is typically an open viewing platform for the surrounding world to see, as well as to see the surrounding world. The nature of the porch lends itself to watching other boaters in particular. We, and I’ll use we because I observe this in other boaters too, watch vessels arrive and depart, set and weigh their anchors, flake their sails, and come and go in their dinghies. They make repairs, set out the drying, shake out their rugs, eat their dinner, drink their drinks, or whatever. We question or applaud their intent, pass judgment on their skills, critique their boats, and have a running commentary with our crew (or ourselves.) We wonder “what’s he doing over there, what will this lead to, why in the world,” or “isn’t that clever?” We even watch them watching their neighbors, knowing all along we are someone’s neighbor too. It goes with the territory of the small world, relaxed lifestyle of boating, and a tradition easily upheld.
One sub-category of “the boaters’ gaze” is “the anchor stare.” While much of the gaze is simply observational and passive, the anchor stare is a step up in intensity. We watch someone come into the anchorage and we are on the alert. “Are they sailing or motoring in, and is it a big boat or little boat?” “Are they younger or older and where will they decide to drop the hook?” As they choose their spot, the closer they are to us, the keener we are to observe and participate. If we don’t see them come in because we are down below, we might hear a motor near us, or more telling, the sound of an anchor chain through a bow roller. We pop our heads up and assess the situation. “Are they really going to anchor there?” “How will they lie to the wind and current, and will our swing circles intersect?” “Will they drag down upon us, what kind of rode do they have, who’s on board, and are they experienced?” We use “the anchor stare,” letting them know we are assessing the situation.
Etiquette is that any new boats arriving at an anchorage are to respect the space of already anchored boats. This can have many dynamics and nuances, both for the new arrivals, and the already present. Though I may not enjoy your loud parties, your screaming children, your barking dog, your music, or your generator, these are emotional considerations that I can endure if imposed upon me.
What gets my attention the most is whether you have invaded my swing circle. I have a small boat, so my rode is 30′ of chain with 270′ of nylon line (Anchors Aweigh.) All chain would be great, but my Flicka 20 might trim and handle ridiculously with another 230 lbs. in the bow. Therefore, physics and safety dictate I must let out more rode. A Flicka has a high bow, and with the nylon rode she tends to sail around at anchor rather than hold steady with the bow to the wind. Add to this a full keel heavily influenced by water current, and you have a boat that needs a little swinging room. Furthermore, the bowsprit on the front and the outboard on the back are vital (and expensive) appendages to the boat’s successful operation and structural integrity. Combine this with a significant dose of owner’s anxiety and paranoia, and it’s in my best interest that I have enough space.
When I arrive at an anchorage, I take all of these elements into consideration in choosing my spot. The troubling part is that later arrivals often do not. Etiquette is not law, and in our overpopulated world, space is at a premium. You can ask someone to reconsider their anchoring choices, but they do not have to.
In False Creek, the anchor stare is in full force and proof it is international. With the clash of interests between liveaboards and visitors vying for the same space, this is not a peaceful anchorage. The locals will tell you the False Creek norm for scope is 2:1. Compare this to a generally accepted ratio of 3:1 for chain and 5:1 for nylon rode in settled weather everywhere else. The 2:1 scope is to provide more room for more boats, and regardless of whether you agree with this, you will be anchored next to with the assumption that, if you are not at 2:1, you should be.
Just the day before, I gazed while one single-hander entered the anchorage with a very salty looking boat of about 28 feet. I mentioned that I liked it. He replied that it was built in the 1940s and he had bought it on eBay, sight unseen. It was shipped over to Gabriola Island from New Zealand in pieces, where he rebuilt it. “Wow,” I thought, and left it at that.
First, he circled me, but then anchored downwind and another boat away. However, when the owner of a 40-foot ketch returned in his dinghy and saw how close the 28-footer was to him, he said clear as day, “Hey, don’t you think you are kind of close?”
There were some other discernible words exchanged, and the 28-footer weighed anchor. He returned to my vicinity and anchored, all be it, not as close as he had been to the 40-footer. “Really?” was what came to mind. I had chosen a spot on the edge of the anchorage to minimize being surrounded by boats. At least he was downwind, and I rationalized it would be alright. This would be important.
When the afternoon wind picked up the next day, the 28-footer dragged clear across the anchorage. The anchor must have reset about 40 feet short of the riprap shoreline. My sympathies were for the boat, so I paddled over. It was locked up, and there wasn’t much I could do to help. The fellow finally returned to, of course, not find his boat where he had left it.
Now, anyone can drag anchor at some time, but this poor fellow became a leper of the anchorage on that day. When he weighed anchor, it looked as if a plank had jammed in his Danforth anchor, causing the problem. There was a boat that arrived earlier in the day (a liveaboard, evident by the planters about the deck and the clearly unused, wadded up sail) whom the 28-footer barely missed in its dragging course. The couple aboard were hard-core “anchor starers.” When he attempted to re-anchor in the same spot, they were very vocal and unkind about their distrust of him and his anchoring. This was fine by me too, and I let them do the dirty work. I watched them staring at everyone who came into the anchorage for the rest of the day. Meanwhile, the 28-footer finally found a new spot on the other side of the anchorage.
Later that evening, I watched another boat anchor awkwardly close to me. I mentioned it to the skipper, but he didn’t seem to care what I thought. He locked up his boat, took off in his dinghy, and I never saw him again. This was followed by a mega-yacht who temporarily anchored in the field. The hard-core “anchor starers” I mentioned earlier were in disbelief at this maneuver. This yacht had threaded the needle in the anchorage and was actively using its thrusters to hold the line. Once I realized it was not permanent and they were just adjusting their dinghy, I relaxed and was ultimately impressed by the finesse.
“The boater’s gaze” and ” he anchor stare” are an international boater’s affair. You may not think you do it, but you likely do. True, those who are oblivious to their surroundings may not, but this is all the more reason for the other safety conscious boaters to participate, if not for curiosities sake, then for self-preservation. Which are you?
Try to say that three times fast! The Skookumchuck Narrows, often called the Sechelt Rapids, are a tidal rapid along the Sunshine Coast of Canada’s British Columbia. With currents on spring tides in excess of 16 knots, they are one of the fastest flowing tidal rapids in the world. If you read much of my blog, you will see that I have an affinity for the coast of British Columbia. Natural phenomena such as these rapids are why. In June of 2015, I visited these Narrows on my way to Princess Louisa Inlet.
While cruising in my 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, Sampaguita, I made an overnight stop in Egmont, BC, the small town near Skookumchuck Narrows. This would be my departure point for the 35 nautical mile journey up Jervis Inlet the next day, an inlet that provides no shelter or services until you reach Princess Louisa Inlet. I topped up on fuel and had some time for a bit of sightseeing. I had read that the rapids were an impressive sight to view in full tidal flood, so I decided to hike to them by way of Skookumchuck Narrows Provincial Park, an ideal place for viewing. This was a 2-3 mile hike each way from Egmont and well worth it.
Boating in these parts requires an understanding of tidal and current data. When I say “requires,” I mean for safety, by law, and if you want to get from Point A to Point B. I had the good fortune of visiting Skookumchuck Narrows during a spring tide. In simple terms, tide heights and current strengths cycle with the phases of the moon. Spring tides are when the heights and currents are at their highest and lowest extremes. The water level differences on each side can be as much as 9 feet as it builds up, trying to squeeze through the narrow channel. It’s these extreme differences that cause the water to flow so fast, creating rapids, standing waves, and whirlpools as it does.
When I arrived just before the maximum predicted flood, there were kayakers playboating just off the park, and the roar of the water was intimidating. There were enormous standing waves for them to do maneuvers on. While I had read the rapids were a sight to see, I did not realize it was a destination for extreme kayaking. This was a special treat.
As a sailboat (read as “slow boat”) traveler I would not have experienced these rapids without hiking to them. If I were to transit these narrows in my sailboat, I would time my passage with slack water. Slack water is the short period of time when the tidal flow changes direction and the water is close to still. If I attempted it at the time these photos were taken, there would be a good chance I would lose the boat, my life, or both. High powered boats can manage it outside of the standing waves, but if something were to go wrong, they too might be in trouble. In the pictures below you can see a powerboat holding steady in the current, taking pictures of the kayakers.
Here are some videos and stories you can check out:
This is the S/V CARLYN docked at Shilshole Bay Marina in Seattle. I am working on this boat for the spring of 2019 as Mate/Nautical Educator for Salish Sea Expeditions, a boat-based, scientific inquiry forum for youths.
Construction: Wood-strip plank with epoxy overlay; built 1995 by Scarano Boat Building; Albany, NY
Length Overall (LOA): 62ft
Length at Waterline (LWL): 52ft
Sail Area: 1,450 sq ft.
Auxiliary Engine: 75 horsepower Westerbeke diesel
Crew: 6 persons
Area of Operation: Salish Sea
|Gross Ton||28 Ton|
|Net Ton||25 Ton|
When other boaters learn that I live on a 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20, a 20-foot sailboat, they tend to raise their eyebrows. For the record, it’s not a stunt. The answer to the title is simple. I could not justify the expense of renting an apartment, marina fees, and paying for a boat’s upkeep. None of those could be considered an investment with the hope of monetary return. I was on the wrong side of all those deals. I wanted to cut my losses. So I chose what was important to me.
In September of 2010, I first moved aboard a 1966 Columbia 26. It was the first sailboat I had ever owned, and it was my “starter boat.” As could be expected for $900, it wasn’t mint. Still, I owned my own home, my marina fees were far less than a rental apartment, and I recorded 97 days of sailing on it. I was unwilling to sink money into the Columbia, so when it was clear my sailing journey had outgrown it, I began looking for a boat suitable for my future intentions.
My priorities were to have a boat I could use and afford to sustain regarding marina fees and upkeep. The experienced sailor knows that the bigger the boat is, the more time and money it takes. These increases are more exponential than linear. I knew liveaboard neighbors with much bigger boats. It took them so long to transition from home to boat that it was difficult for them to reach escape velocity. Others never left the dock, either because they never intended to, or couldn’t afford to keep them seaworthy. Some owners maintained their boats well but rarely used them. Some owners I hadn’t seen for years. I did not want these circumstances for myself.
Along came Sampaguita in 2013, (see Why I Bought a Flicka 20.) Yes, it was down-sizing from the Columbia 26 by length, but comparable regarding living space. Flicka 20s had a good reputation. She appeared to be healthy, and with 5′11″ of headroom, I could stand up in her. Flickas can be considered pricey for a 20-foot boat, but they were well built and capable. As a 28-year-old bare-bones version, she was within reach and the cost justifiable…if I lived aboard.
Living aboard a Flicka 20 is about sustainability. It’s about living within my means. It’s about going small and going now (yes, cliche, but powerful.) It’s about making sacrifices to do what is important to me, which is to go sailing and to consume less.
Since humans are so adaptable, adjusting to living in a small space with few amenities was not that difficult. Millions, maybe billions, of people in the world live with far less. I hear people talk about how many things they can’t or won’t live without. Personally, it is my preference to own a few things rather than have many things own me. I have come to understand the difference between what I need and what I want. Space and economics demand it.
So, living in 240 inches is not a stunt. It’s how I can afford to own and maintain a boat. I felt I had to choose between renting an apartment and owning a boat and I chose the latter. And this is why I live on a Flicka 20.
Part 2 of the two-part article is now available on Latitude 38‘s electronic version of their magazine ‘Lectronic Latitude. Thanks again to Tim Henry for publishing it. Click on the logo below to check it out. If you missed Part 1, not to worry, there is a link available for you to check it out when you click through. If you like it, please let them know. Thank you.
Before you owned a sailboat, you had adventures in a 1960s, Grumman, aluminum canoe, named Different Drummer. You didn’t live on it (hmmm? there’s a thought) but rather, carried it around on your Toyota pick-up (and later a Subaru wagon) and launched it from there. One particular day, early in your Seattle phase, you did just that.
As a soloist, you used a canoe more like a kayak. You sat in the center of the boat and used a long double paddle. This sitting arrangement had, over time, seen many improvisations and variations. On the day of this particular story, you were testing a new approach. You had found a styrofoam block floating around one day and thought, “that might work under the center seat.”
So you gave it a go. The challenges with sitting in the center of the canoe were 1) sitting low enough to keep the boat stable, and 2) sitting high enough to clear the gunwales when paddling. The styrofoam block was strong in number two and weak in number one.
One December day, you launched from North Lake Union and headed to South Lake Union. You were going to sail one of The Center of Wooden Boat’s, Blanchard Jrs. It was exciting as this would be the first time you would be sailing one alone. Travel to The Center was uneventful. You went sailing and had a great time. You returned to The Center, took pictures of the Blanchard, and boarded Different Drummer for your return paddle to North Lake Union.
As you were paddling away and getting situated, you adjusted the styrofoam block. As you did this, you must have moved your butt a bit too far outboard. A canoe is very stable until it isn’t. Your butt crossed that line, and the gunwale dipped down. Once the water started to rush in, the canoe lost stability. It dumped you and filled with water. It’s called swamping. Since it had flotation in the ends, it didn’t sink.
You were wearing a vest type PFD which had great buoyancy. You were within arms reach of The Center’s dock, and bystanders saw you go in. They quickly came over, two men grabbed you by the vest, lifted you from the water, and onto the dock. They commented on how easy it was to do with that type of PFD.
When canoeing, you always travel with a dry bag for times like this. It has extra clothes and some other survival gear. The men who pulled you from the water suggested you change your clothes, and since it was December, you agreed. By the time you had done this and returned to the boat, they had emptied the water. You said thank you and got on with your journey. You did, however, dunk your phone and your camera, which you in haste and excitement, failed to return to their waterproof containers. Shoot.
The takeaways are:
Always wear your PFD. The vest type was an advantage because it gave your rescuers something to grab. The inflatable type would not have provided this.
Always carry a dry bag with extra clothes. The incident was minor because you were able to put on dry clothes quickly.
Lash everything you don’t want to lose to the boat.
Always secure your electronic devices in waterproof containers.
When you know the seat is too high, don’t use it.
Keep your butt inboard.
The Seattle Boat Show was held January 25 through February 2 at Centurylink Field & Event Center with Boats Afloat at South Lake Union. There were over 425 exhibitors and over 225 seminars. I spent three days at the event working, information gathering, and volunteering.
My first day was as a captain with The Electric Boat Company. We were offering free rides to attendees at the South Lake Union site. It was a beautiful, sunny day and people could take in views of the Boats Afloat Show, the Seattle skyline, The Center for Wooden Boats, the historic Virginia V, and the crowd favorite, float plane close-ups taking off from the lake. A great family activity, enjoyed by all ages.
Day two was information gathering on equipment to outfit my Flicka 20 sailboat. I spoke to local vendors, Ballard Sails, and Ullman Sails. I looked into Spectra Watermakers and Winslow LifeRafts. I had great conversations with Alex at Fiorentino Para-Anchors and Ross from Scanmar. It was a great day to take a close, hands-on look at gear and get a feel for the people behind them.
On my final day, I volunteered at the 48˚ North booth handing out the latest issues of the magazine. A free local sailing publication, it has been recently acquired by the Northwest Maritime Center in Port Townsend. There’s a new cover and a modernized layout, yet it maintains the familiar writing staff. I found the editor, Joe Cline, to have an engaging demeanor.
Each evening I found time to check out some of the free seminars. These included Rigging Basics with Brion Toss, Foraging From Your Boat with Sail Alaska’s Jim Rard, and Doug Miller’s AIS and Beyond.
I had a great time, met some great people and gathered great information at the 2019 Seattle Boat Show. Between working, spectating and volunteering, it was a diverse and memorable experience.