In February 2022, Jack van Ommen experienced what he called his third and last shipwreck. Van Ommen was sailing aboard Fleetwood II, his second Naja 30 — a plywood, triple-chined kit boat — when he hit a reef off the coast of Cuba. Three months later, van Ommen found a boat that would become his new home and means of continuing his circumnavigations.
“It is official, meet Fleetwood III,” van Ommen wrote on his blog after seeing his new vessel on May 4. “It was love at nearly first sight.”
The newest iteration of Fleetwood, while not a Naja, is still a wooden kit boat. Fleetwood III is a 30-ft Waarschip. Her size and performance are similar the Naja 30’s, but there are several differences. She is six inches wider, with a lot more storage and sleeping berths. She is of a clinker hull construction and was professionally assembled by the Waarschip yard. “In 1980, same year as my first Fleetwood,” van Ommen wrote. She also has a “nice” 3-burner gas galley stove, a Webasto heater, swim ladder, a TV, and a mast-top TV antenna: “The first TV for me since I dumped my last one in 1998.”
Although van Ommen is certainly happy to have his new sailboat (“We have been getting acquainted and she’s a keeper”) he says she’ll be a piece of work for a while. Initially this “work” appeared to consist mostly of cleaning the interior, sanding, revarnishing, etc. Recently, however, the boat has divulged some unfortunate damage.
The first discovery was “a liquid intrusion from below and a major project. At a rate of a gallon an hour. Where the drive shaft exits the hull, the backing block has deteriorated and the two bolts are corroded.”
The bolt holes were repaired, but there was more. “I have discovered a few other items that I wished I’d discovered on my first inspection.” The wiring was a mess. “There appear to be twice the number for the items served. Not every black wire is a ground, and vice versa. No diagrams left to solve the rat’s nest puzzle.”
But more concerning was the rot found in the Waarschip’s hull, which, when inspected, turned out to be much larger than it first appeared. “… it turned out that it had penetrated all around this area and when I sanded the antifouling and primer in the area I could see the moisture, and it ended up in a good size patch to be removed of about 10 x 10 inches.”
Additionally, van Ommen has found several spots of rot beneath the keel and on the port side. Also, whereas the advertisement had indicated the boat was epoxy-coated, van Ommen was unable to find any areas where this was the case and believes an epoxy finish would have avoided the disaster he is now faced with.
However, in his usual can-do fashion, the octogenarian sailor didn’t rely on hearsay to determine the future of his new boat. Instead he paid for professional advice. “He works in what used to be the facility that built thousands of these and different size Waarschip kits. I was relieved that it can be properly fixed, I have become fond of this boat,” he wrote on July 24.
The additional repairs mean that van Ommen’s plan to set sail again this summer will not be realized. But the writing is on the wall: Fleetwood III will be launched and the well-loved sailor will continue his voyaging. One interesting mention to note is that of a meeting with Richard Spindler, founder and former publisher of Latitude 38 and Grand Poobah of the Baja Ha-Ha, and Richard’s wife, Doña de Mallorca. The couple happened to be in Arsenal Marina in Paris when van Ommen was temporarily stranded in the midst of what he called a “flight from hell.” The trio met up and spent an enjoyable afternoon and evening together before van Ommen continued his journey, this time by train.