April 30, 2015

Sail the world on the cheap

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:

Today’s Thought
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.)


Jack said...

John, here's one I seriously fancy. Would be interested in your opinion. Thinking s/h circumnavigation


John Vigor said...

Jack, perfect for your purpose. I can't comment on the price of boats in Britain, but if she's as good as looks in the pictures you could hardly pick a better boat. World-famous designer, tried and tested design, nice big engine and moderate rig. She's built for the open ocean of course. You're not going to beat the weekend warriors around the cans. The Jenneaus and Beneteaus and Bavarias will beat you there, but she will look after you in a storm at sea when the chips are down. She will be a comfortable sea boat and a joy to the eye, although you might want to paint over some of that beautiful brightwork on deck to save on maintenance while you wander the seas. You can always sand it off and re-varnish when time comes to sell. Hiscock's books about Wanderer III will tell you how to handle her in all conditions. You'll need a self-steering wind vane, of course,and maybe an electric autopilot, as well, for calms. Go for it, my man!


John V.

Anonymous said...

The last line of the ad speaks volumes. "Dear wife is pressing for sale"

Alden Smith said...

Jack, I endorse John Vigors sentiments one hundred per cent here. She is a great boat in every way - but, get a survey before you buy to make sure she is sound (no rot) - if she is sound, then everything else (the look of the boat) is simply cosmetic. The addition of cruising gear is (as has been commented on already) is relatively easy on a wooden yacht.

Gary Underwood said...

I believe the SAAB is spelt SABB and is from Norway not Sweeden. Nothing to do with cars or fighter planes.
I do agree on your general philosophy we circumnaviogated with no motor.
fair Winds

John Vigor said...

Gary, you're quite right. I always get those two mixed up. SAAB is a Swedish automobile manufacturer and SABB is a legendary Norwegian marine diesel manufacturer -- legendary for simplicity, ruggedness and long life. A SABB is a sort of diesel British Seagull.
John V.