LET’S SAY YOU’VE GOT the Walter Mitty dream. You’re itching to take three years off work and sail around the world. Never mind the reasons. What would it cost? How much would you have to pay for a boat that could take you, or two of you, or even three, around the world? Did you say $50,000? $75,000? Was that $100,000?
Well, there’s one for sale right here, right now, in Puget Sound, for $16,000. She’s called Phoenix and she belongs to John Jannetty, of Vashon Island, Washington. She’s a gorgeous-looking 35-foot sloop, launched in 1989. She’s a Colin Archer type with a full keel and attached rudder. She’s as rugged as they come, with all-bronze fittings from the famous Port Townsend Foundry, and the looks of a boat that was born for the ocean.
Why $16,000? Because she’s wooden. Because that’s the perception of her worth by people who don’t know boats. In my view, wood is the ideal boat-building material, and even more so for boats likely to make long voyages abroad. You can fix almost anything on a wooden boat with a few simple tools. Or you can get it fixed at reasonable prices by skilled woodworkers in foreign ports. And think about this: if you want to fix something to a wooden boat, inside or outside, a simple nail or screw will do the trick. You can’t do that with fiberglass. It becomes a major kerfuffle then.
Phoenix was built by a master craftsman at Upright Boatworks on Lopez Island. He used cedar for the planking and oak for the frames. Cedar, of course, is light and strong. Better still, it’s very resistant to rot.
Phoenix has a diesel engine that would be regarded by many “experts” as too small, a 10-horsepower Saab. But what do the “experts” know? The Hiscocks sailed around the world in a boat that was probably much heavier, and they had a 4-horsepower engine. Some people, like the Pardeys, don’t have engines at all.
There are advantages to small engines. You can start this Swedish-built Saab by hand, for example. It has that lovely old-fashioned heavy flywheel to even out the vibrations, and there is space all around it, so much space that you can actually get to every part of it without having to hang upside down by your toes from a hatch in the cockpit. Furthermore, she’s raw-water cooled, just like an outboard motor. No fresh-water secondary cooling system to go wrong. What could be simpler? And what more evocative than the noise it makes? Ker-pluff, ker-pluff, ker-pluff. It’s just magic.
John Jannetty admits Phoenix has some faults. Bits of her are in need of a lick of paint. And her bilge pump has stopped working through lack of use. There’s probably some dust in the bilges. But how bad can that be?
For some pictures that will make your mouth water and your heart flutter, go to:
You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.
— Henry David Thoreau, Walden
Two definitions for you today:
Diplomacy — the art of letting someone else have your own way.
Nonchalance — the ability to look like an owl when you have just behaved like an ass.
(Drop by every Monday, Wednesday, Friday for a new Mainly about Boats column.)