Flicka 20

Overview

Line drawing of the Flicka 20 sailboat

At the extreme of ‘go small, go simple’ is the little Flicka 20. At an incredibly small 20 feet, few other boats can claim proven blue water capabilities. Flicka has crossed the oceans of the world, weathered severe storms and survived groundings on reefs with little damage. Yet this pint sized world cruiser can be popped onto a trailer and taken home.

Designed by Bruce Bingham along the lines of the Newport workboats of the 19th century, the Flicka 20 was originally introduced to the home-build market in 1972 before reaching production, first by Nor' Star and then by Pacific Seacraft.

If you can get over the lack of deck space and finding place to stow your tender, you'll find a boat that's essentially solid, seaworthy and with the interior space of a boat 6 feet longer. She's large enough to live in, and being so small she's incredibly easy to handle. She sails well despite her short length and heavy displacement. These are some of the reasons people rationalize buying the Flicka 20, but perhaps the real reason is her charm and character; this little boat has quite the cult following.

History

The first line drawings of the Flicka were published in RUDDER magazine in March 1972 but the origins of the Flicka go back to the 1950's when Bruce Bingham made some sketches of two derelict wooden sailboats on a river just south of Wickford in Rhode Island. Bingham later learned that they were workboats that had been used since 1840 by the fishermen who sailed out to the stormy Block Island Sound to work the fishery there. These boats were known as Newport boats and had a reputation for being fast, seaworthy boats that would bring home their crew safely. Bingham liked the rugged character of the Newport boats and upon finding the line drawings in a book he started modifying the lines into a new design which became the Flicka 20. The design was originally aimed at the home build market and the length was kept at 20 feet to make it affordable.

In the September of 1972 RUDDER published the first of a six part article on building a Flicka from ferrocement, which showed further refinements to the lines and interior. Rumor has it that the first ferrocement Flicka was built at a boat show as a demonstration project to promote the construction method. The boat failed to catch on as ferrocement construction was expensive and a lot of work for a small boat.  However, over the next five-year period, 400 sets of plans were reported sold, most of these boats built from GRP but at least one using carvel planking.

In 1974 a Flicka plug was made by Bingham and Katy Burke and sold to Nor' Star Marine in California. In 1975 Nor' Star started producing solidly built GRP hulls but at this stage there was no mold for the deck and cabin trunk. By February 1976, Nor’ Star was producing a GRP deck, cockpit and cabin truck. Their Flickas were either sold as kits or sub contracted to Westerley Marine for completion. This was a successful recipe which produced well constructed, high quality boats, regarded by many to be the most beautiful Flickas ever produced, with finely crafted and finished wood interiors. The winning partnership was brought to an end when Nor' Star Marine closed down in 1977.

The Flicka was then sold to the then newly starting out Pacific Seacraft Corporation, who built a reputation for high quality construction and beautiful hand-crafted interiors. The builders at Pacific Seacraft modified the Flicka further by decreasing the radius of the cabin trunk crown and moving the deck hatch to the cabin top forward of the mast step.  By 1994 434 Flickas had been produced by Pacific Seacraft but in 2007 the company went bust. The brand name, molds and tools were bought at a bankruptcy auction by marine archaeologist Stephen Brodie and the company was moved to the East Coast where it was resurrected.

In 2001, the new Pacific Seacraft attempted to relaunch the Flicka design on the basis that they required an order of  four or five boats. Unfortunately, the order was not filled and the design was shelved. It is thought unlikely that the Flicka will ever be in production again but there are always Flickas out there for sale on the used boat market and for those who are interested in building their own, the plans and currently at least one hull and deck kit are apparently available now through Roy McBride at CKD boats in South Africa.

Construction

Being initally a home build boat you'll find Flickas built to varying standards in a range of materials.

Pacific Seacraft Flickas were built in fiberglass, early hulls were hand laid in polyester resin while later hulls switched to osmosis resisting vinylester resin. The decks are fiberglass with a balsa core while areas with through deck hardware are cored in plywood. The interior is built from a single fiberglass pan which is bonded to the hull and lined with beautiful teak trim.

The mast is stepped in a stainless-steel tabernacle to allow easy removal for trailering as well as quick raising and lowering to avoid overhead obstacles.

Quality bronze fittings were used and the outboard chainplates were mounted through the hull with stainless steel backing plates. After 1980 enclosed heads with holding tanks became standard and the later models also come with custom bronze port lights, inboard engines and an excellent cruising rig by LeFiell.

Under Sail

Given the Flicka's short waterline length, heavy displacement and small rig, it's generally agreed she sails exceptionally well. Though most Flicka owners would agree that boat speed is not the number one priority, she is not a laggard by any means. According to Pacific Seacraft long passages of a 5-knot average are not uncommon. Owners report that she can easily sail 4 to 5 knots in the right conditions and can exceed 6 knots on a reach in winds of 20 knots or more. Her best point of sail is a beam to broad reach.

Like most heavy displacement boats, light air performance suffers. Many owners recommend the use of a drifter in 10 knots for a bit of extra go-go juice.

With her wineglass sections, short draft and 30% ballast ratio the boat is tender. Owners have also reported a tendency for weather helm. Tacking can be difficult in choppy conditions due to her tendency to pitch. Some owners have suggested that in certain weather conditions she can induce seasickness in even the hardiest of sailors but her motion is generally kind.

That aside, she is renowned for keeping her crew safe in a blow and she is a whole lot of fun to sail.

Specifications

LOA: 24' 0"
LWL: 18' 2"
Beam: 8' 0"
Draft:  3' 3"
Displacement: 6,000 lbs.
Ballast: 1,800 lbs.
Headroom: 5' 11"
Sail Area: 243 sq. ft.
Fuel: 8 US. Gal.
Water: 20 US. Gal.
Engine: Yanmar 1GM10, single-cylinder diesel, 9 horsepower
Designer: Bruce P. Bingham
Year Introduced: 1972
Builder: Custom build / Nor' Star / Pacific Seacraft

» Flicka 20 information and resources at flicka20.com
» Flicka 20 owners discussion group at Yahoo Groups
» Flicka Review from Good Old Boat Magazine by John Vigor Nov/Dec 1999
» A Flicka Sailboat Story by Roy McBride
» Flicka 20 info at CKD Boats, source of Flicka 20 Hull and Deck kits.
» Twenty Small Sailboats to Take You Anywhere by John Vigor, (Ch13, p77-82) an in depth look at the Flicka 20. ISBN:978-0939837328

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