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.
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.
Sampaguita is the name of my 1985 Pacific Seacraft Flicka 20. She had that name before I ever met her. Who am I to change a 28-year-old’s name?
Admittedly, I did not know what it meant before I met her and it turns out, very few Americans are hip to it’s meaning. Sampaguita is the common name for Jasminum sambac (Arabian jasmine) in the Philippines. It is their national flower. Apparently, it comes from the Spanish term “sumpa kita” which means, ‘I promise you.’ It is considered a symbol of fidelity, devotion, purity, strength, and dedication. I’m OK with all that.
In the United States, the name is received with some blank stares and with “can you spell that?” This has its pluses and minuses. For example, on the VHF radio hardly anyone can understand and repeat it. This is a safety issue. I have learned to shorten it to Sampy for that forum. On the other hand, to my relief, it’s never going to be on the Top 10 Boat Names of the Year.
The only people who have taken particular notice of the name, have been Filipino. Most notably, there was a border customs official stationed in Friday Harbor, WA. I checked in through him after returning from Canada. Twice. Both times he commented on her name affectionately and mentioned he was from the Philippines. I love the irony.
She also does not advertise her name the way it seems customary for boats to do. I know her name is Sampaguita because, if I look in the right spot, up close, I can see graphics stating it. It seems the color has been long polished from them. I like the discreteness. I suppose if I ever have her Coast Guard documented, rejuvenation will be required. Until then, her papers, hull ID, and state registration numbers are what matters when it comes to legal identification. Pretty much the same as for humans or automobiles.
After lowering the mast on Sampaguita, my 1985 Flicka 20, disassembly was next. All was well until the shroud and stay tang assemblies. Even installed, I could see there was galvanic activity where the stainless steel tangs met the aluminum mast. Since the tangs share the same loads as the chainplates, and I would be removing and inspecting those, it made sense to do likewise with the tangs. The mast was 34 years old, and I suspected these assemblies had been together since then.
3/8″, stainless steel bolts with nylon, locking nuts, secured each tang assembly to the mast. These were removed with ease and looked great. However, the rest would not come apart with no obvious way to pry them.
The mast is a Kenyon spar and internet research turned up Rig-Rite as a vendor. Their website aided me in understanding the assemblies.
There was an aluminum compression tube spanning the inside of the mast. Inserted at each end of this tube, were stainless steel flange bushings that held the tangs. Finally, a stainless steel bolt held the assembly together.
I identified the stainless steel tangs as the “dog bone” type, which matched the shape. There was a commonly used flange bushing with these, which defined the size of the compression tube. The compression tube served three purposes. First, it prevented the mast from being squished from tightening the stainless steel bolt holding the tang assembly together. Second, it provided a large bearing surface for the assembly’s downward force on the mast wall. With aluminum on aluminum, this would mitigate galvanic corrosion on this high-stress area. Third, the stainless steel bushings fit snugly inside the tubing, holding the tangs and reducing the hole size. A lighter stainless steel bolt could then be used, reducing weight aloft.
After 34 years the stainless steel bushings, and the aluminum tube, dissimilar metals, had seized together. I came up with a plan, then called my local rigger to see what they thought. They were kind enough to spend five minutes talking it through, and they confirmed I was on the right track.
I heated the bushings on each side with a portable propane torch. I cycled through each one, three times, with 10 seconds of direct flame. Then, I sprayed Liquid Wrench on the assemblies and let them sit overnight.
I purchased a 6″ long, 1/4″ diameter, stainless steel bolt from my local hardware store. I inserted this through the bushing on one side of the assembly, into the compression tube. I placed it up against the inside edge of the bushing on the opposite side and gently tapped the bolt with a hammer. Checking that I wasn’t damaging the mast, I gradually increased the force. Eventually, it broke free of its bond, and I was able to tap the bushing out of the compression tube. With one bushing off, the rest of the assembly slid from the mast. In the end, I had to strike the bolt quite hard to break it free, but the compression tube did its job of protecting the spar. I repeated this procedure with the upper tang assembly, and it too came apart.
It was worth going the distance to inspect the state of both the assemblies and the mast. When I reassemble them, I will use new parts and add Tef-Gel, to inhibit corrosion and ease future repairs.
It’s time to do some work on the Sampaguita, starting with the mast. I had the mast down in 2014 for some minor work, but there will be a bit more going on this time around. The last time I lowered it, I had to ask for some help when it was about halfway down. This time I was able to do it by myself thanks to Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailor’s Sketchbook. While I do not own the book, a dock mate, Bruce (irony?) does. He was gracious enough to let me examine the procedure for lowering a mast (and take photos.)
I discovered the simple part of the procedure which I was missing the last time. I needed to purchase two Stainless-Steel rings for $1.74 and seize them to the shrouds at the tabernacle level. The rest was line work. I still had the wooden crutches from the previous lowering to hold the mast once it was down. I used old fenders as cushions, and I had to finesse “the landing” to avoid crushing the solar vent and the forward hatch.
The procedure is mostly prep and cleanup. It took a few hours to get everything ready. Then, about three minutes for the actual lowering. Finally, two or three hours of disassembling lines and wires and tidying up.
A was hoping to get a video, but it did not work out. Bruce offered to spot me while I did the procedure. I was keen on doing it alone if I could. He also worked crowd control. If you’ve ever done work at the dock before, you know that curious, good-natured, and well-intentioned neighbors will come around and start asking questions at the most inopportune times. Bruce handled this well so I could ignore them and focus on the task. In order to get a video, I would have needed a third person. “Three’s a crowd,” and I wanted to avoid crowds.
The photos above show how I rigged the lines for bringing down the mast. I used the boom as a gin pole, and the mast pivoted forward on the tabernacle.
The crutches and fenders used to finesse the soft landing are pictured below. The mast itself only weighs about 50 lbs, with maybe another 10-20 pounds of rigging aloft. I connected the jib halyard to the topping lift. The lift ran from a block at the far end of the bowsprit to the cockpit where I was controlling the maneuver. I pulled the mast forward using those lines until gravity could take over. Then I used the main sheet to control the lowering. This sheet is usually a four-part block and tackle, but since the mast is light enough, I took it down to two-parts as I needed the extra line for the full descent.
I considered writing an article on how to lower the mast but realized it would be like re-inventing the wheel. If you intend to lower a mast yourself, find a copy of Bruce Bingham’s, The Sailors Sketchbook. It gives clear step by step instructions and amazing sketches to support them. I don’t think I could do a better job. It is out of print, but you can still find copies of it on the internet or maybe your local used book store. See if you can buy it someplace other than Amazon. Or find a neighbor who has it like I did. Use the computer you carry around in your pocket to take the pictures of the five pages you need. If you contact me, I will email them to you. I don’t feel comfortable publishing them here without Bruce’s permission.
For the newbie, Bruce Bingham is also the designer of the Flicka 20, though he doesn’t use the Flicka in the sketches. I have never met Bruce, but his design has had a major influence on my life over the past six years. Thank you Bruce.