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Flashgirl Lives!

Commodore at the helm of Flashgirl after coming around the east end of Oahu on the way to Honolulu. Just months ago she was sunk at her mooring. She may not be in perfect shape, but she’s functional. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

In a world overwhelmed by bad news, we’ve got a bit of good news. Warwick ‘Commodore’ Tompkins has managed to refloat and resume sailing his Mill Valley-based Wylie 38+ Flashgirl. You may remember that the boat half sank as a result of a lightning strike to the masthead a few months ago while on a mooring near Kaneohe Bay, Oahu.

Apparently the lightning bolt hit at or near the masthead. The anchor light being toppled was but one minor bit of damage. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

The specific cause of the sinking was a hole blown in the galley sink drain. The batteries couldn’t keep the bilge pumps going forever, so she sank. Lightning caused severe damage to other parts of the boat, including the masthead and electrical system. Although the Yanmar diesel was inundated, it now seems to be running fine.

Here was the problem. The PVC sink drain was somehow broken as a result of the lightning strike, allowing water to pour into the hull. It was only a matter of time before the batteries driving the bilge pump(s) died. 

©2016Latitude 38 Media, LLC

Since shortly after the sinking, Commodore has been alone on the boat on the hook putting Flashgirl back together the best he can.

"He needed to go aloft to inspect damage to the masthead," reports his wife Nancy Potter Tompkins, "so he logically waited for the cool of night. Using a tackle, he pulled himself up to the masthead. Somehow the tackle line got caught around a fender, so Commodore could only lower himself halfway down before getting stuck. At night. Alone. In the anchorage. Well, once a climber, always a climber, so he attached some line to the bosun’s chair for retrieval, then simply climbed down the mast.”

Not bad for a guy who has been sailing the oceans of the world for more than eight decades. And no, that’s not a typo.

In the very near future, Commodore should be sailing Flashgirl back to California with the help of San Francisco Bay protegés Robert Flowerman and Jonathan ‘Bird’ Livingston, and Maui’s Geoff Bourne. That’s a group of grumpy old men for you.

As Commodore is something of a sailing legend, wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth, and his boat means much more to him than boats do to most sailors, a Flashgirl Fund was established. It gives friends a chance to help defray the expenses for restoring the boat Commodore — and often Nancy — sailed in the far reaches of the Pacific for the better part of 10 years. Twenty percent of the goal has been reached. To learn how you can contribute, email [email protected].


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Soon after Fletcher was finally apprehended by authorities and brought ashore, he laid down on a bench and took a nap — undoubtedly exhausted by his ordeal during the previous week.