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.
Approaching Nootka Sound
It’s heady sailing to a place Captain Cook sailed to. Nootka Sound, on the West Coast of Vancouver Island, was that place for me.
When I left Port Langford on the north side of Nootka Island, headed south, I was undecided whether to go on the outside or inside. With the morning winds light, I headed for the inside. However, they picked up before I had gone very far, so I altered my course for the outside. This worked out well. I poled out the Genoa and sailed wing and wing down the coast. It turned into a great day.
I stayed a few miles away from the coast because a submerged reef lies off of Nootka Island. As I sailed outside of this reef, I watched the largest swells roll in, build, and break over it. The roaring sound was mighty and the frothy white surf, intimidating. It is not a place you want to be and mind yourself as you approach from the north. There is a buoy to aid you.
If you look dead center on the horizon, you’ll see where you don’t want to be.
The wind followed me into Nootka Sound. At first, I thought I would go up Ewin Inlet, on Bligh Island but I decided it was too far and too late in the day to be that ambitious.
My next choice was to try Santa Gertrudis Cove, which is just north of Friendly Cove, on the inside of Nootka Island. In the picture below, you can see my GPS track as I investigate. The Dreamspeaker Cruising Guide described it as a shallow, sheltered cove mostly used by charter fishing boats overnighting for early access to the ocean. They also warn there is a rock in the middle of the entrance. They suggest if you can’t see this rock, don’t go in. As I approached, I could see Walde Sailing’s Niagara 35, Xanadu, comfortably anchored inside. However, I could not see the rock. Since my low tech ways had me relying on an outdated paper chart and a leadline, I thought it prudent to fall back on my third choice, Friendly Cove.
This choice worked out. I was able to sail into the cove and drop the hook. The only boat at anchor, I had as much swinging room as I needed. The previous night in Port Langford I was plagued by mosquitos. I had no such problem in Friendly Cove. Ironically, I met up with the Waldes a couple days later, and they mentioned being mobbed by mosquitos in Santa Gertrudis Cove. My low tech ways had saved me from another sleepless night!
Checking out Santa Gertrudis Cove
The early evening was calm. I tidied up the boat, had some dinner, and went to bed. As I lie in the bunk, drifting in and out of sleep, the boat was suddenly slammed by a wall of wind. It swung around and tightened up on the anchor rode. The bow roller creaked, the passing waves caressed the hull, and the halyards slapped the mast. All this reverberated inside the boat. I jumped up and opened the companionway to assess the situation. I had originally, incorrectly, thought the wind was blowing from the ocean into the cove. It was the overnight thermal winds blowing down from the highlands. I let out another 100 feet of anchor rode, strapped the halyards to quiet them and after a few minutes decided there was no need for alarm. I went back to sleep.
Up at sunrise, the outbound thermals were still blowing. The cove was a lee shore and the wind about 15 knots. The question at hand was whether to sail off the anchor or motor out. While sailing off is theoretically riskier, it is also far more interesting. So yeah, I decided to sail.
As I prepared for the maneuver, I had some decisions to make. Do I want a reef in the mainsail from the get-go or do I go full main to make sure I have enough power? Once the anchor is disengaged, I won’t be able to change my mind. Should I have the outboard started as a safety net? If I do, that means it will create extra drag which will affect the sailing performance.
I decided on one reef in the main. The wind was strong enough, and the boat performs much better with the proper sail area. If things go wrong, there is less sail area to carry the boat to the lee shore. As for the motor, I would have it idling. If things go sideways, it would be quick and simple to engage the propeller and turn up the throttle. The wind was strong enough that the extra drag would not be too much of a hindrance to sailing performance. The maneuver was challenging enough to warrant prudence. I also prepped the jib, it’s halyard, and it’s sheets. I would need this sail too, once the anchor was up.
The mainsail was raised, reefed and allowed to luff, the motor, lowered and idling. I went to the bow and began weighing anchor. Without a windlass, this endeavor is hand over hand and I fed the line through the hawsepipe as I went. The last thirty feet of rode is chain, and I felt it’s weight when it began to lift. It was hustle time. “Take your time, but hurry the #$@! up!” I said to myself. Next, I felt the anchor pop out. I stopped feeding line into the locker and let the rest flake on the deck. The boat was adrift. When the anchor came to the bowsprit, I pulled it into place and secured it with the pin. The rest could wait. The boat was on a course about 90 degrees to the wind and headed towards the docks and the rock you can see in the picture below. I quickly went back to the cockpit, sheeted in the main hard. I hauled up the jib, secured the halyard and sheeted it in. The boat heeled over and gained speed. When I had just enough momentum to come about, I put it on a starboard tack. This took me back across the anchorage, giving me “breathing room.” I sheeted the jib in hard, gained a bit of ground and speed, went back on the port tack, and sailed out of the cove.
Once out, I was in the clear. I shut down the motor and raised it from the water. The wind was strong enough outside that I wanted a second reef, so I did that next. Then I put the boat on a course where it would self tend and finished stowing the anchor rode and securing the anchor.
I enjoyed some great downwind sailing for a few miles. But thermal winds are regional, and once I was outside of Nootka Sound and the sun started warming the area, the wind abated. Oh well. Sailing into and out of an anchorage is always good fun and the morning’s challenge was exceptional.
Sailing in is Red, Sailing out is Blue.