Pokai Bay didn’t work for Beetle

Yesterday was the first day of trying out cruising the Hawaiian Islands – didn’t go particularly well as I was back at Kewalo Harbor at 9pm.   I have built up a (short) laundry list of places that the local sailing crowd likes to visit – on Oahu they are Pokai Bay, Makua, and Kaneohe Bay.  Kaneohe Bay is on the windward side of the island and while the swell is knocked down by a fringing reef the area sees the tradewinds full-on coming in off the ocean.  I’ve been there and found poor holding ground in mud in amongst the coral, not my idea of a great place to hang out.   Pokai Bay and Makua are both around on the leeward side of Oahu, relatively close to where Beetle’s slip is.

The trade winds are up, there’s a High pressure system north of the islands that is compressing the pressure gradient across the waters, trades are running E/NE at 20 knots and accelerating through the gaps between islands.  In these conditions the run across Kaiwi Channel from Oahu to Maui is essentially a straight beat into 5 foot wind chop over a 3′-5′ swell, winds gusting into the 30s.  Not so much fun, and conditions are forecast to hold for at least four days until the High drifts off to the east a bit and the pressure gradient flattens out.  Not a good time to sail to Maui.


Pokai Bay as it displays on the chart plotter. The depths are in fathoms, the red track is where I went, and Waianae harbor is upper left – we don’t fit there and they don’t like dinghies.

I decided to check out Pokai Bay, that’s in the opposite direction, 27 miles NW from Kewalo Harbor on a pleasant downwind run.  Forecast was 11-15 knots in the lee of Oahu and Pokai is supposed to have a nice sandy anchorage out in front of the breakwater built out off the beach.  There also happens to be a small boat harbor right in the same bay, Waianae Harbor managed by the DLNR (Department of Land and Natural Resources, the Hawaii state-level group that manages most of the harbors).  I telephoned the Waianae harbor office, spoke with a nice lady and asked after dinghy landing – there is no dinghy dock, no landing allowed in the harbor.  In theory I could tie to the loading dock for less than 30 minutes, but I might need to move the dinghy.  If the dinghy was registered and had insurance naming Waianae Harbor as an additional insured I could rent a slip for the day and dock my dinghy there.  I asked after controlling depth, and was told a 45′ sailboat is too large to fit in their facility.  I asked after anchoring outside the harbor, and she said she didn’t know anything about that.  Hmm… not so helpful, but good to know I should not plan to utilize the Waianae Harbor for any reason.

Coming morning I was up and out of Kewalo, sails up and out into the Pacific.  There’s a wind shadow within the first half mile from the beach with light air, outside the breeze was up, 20-25 gusting 30 as the trades wrapped around Diamond Head and fanned out on the leeward side of Oahu.  Had a fine sail around Barber’s Point though the military exclusion zone out in front of Pearl Harbor forces one out into the stronger winds.  One gybe and Beetle carried on.


Not something you see every day on the AIS laptop display. The Pearl Harbor security zone is the large pink box upper right of the screen, the submarine is passing behind Beetle (which is the green icon).

An interesting thing I noticed was US WARSHIP that appeared on the AIS display – not every day one sees that, the associated description being broadcast included the phrase “engaged in military operations”.  The AIS broadcast includes the vessel’s length, beam, and draft – no length or beam was mentioned but the draft was listed as 25.5 meters.  What in the world draws that much?  I was wondering if the ship could possibly be a submarine and sure enough – a big submarine wandered by astern of Beetle, turned right, paralleled me for a couple of miles and then veered off into the ocean.  I haven’t seen one of those in a long time, and when viewed from the side they look for all the world like a tall grey cereal box on the surface (the conning tower) being followed by a giant shark fin (the tail sticking up).


Not much of the submarine is visible from the surface, though it does look like a box being trailed by a very large shark fin. Nobody was on the bridge that I could see.

The wind backed off several miles past Barber’s Point, I put up more sail and had a fine run to Pokai Bay.  I wasn’t planning to anchor behind the breakwater adjacent to the harbor, primarily due to depth (charted depth is 7-8′, I draw 8′) and also due to reports in the local newspapers that the breakwater traps water and collects bacteria – lots of infections reported from swimmers behind the breakwater.  I had read two reports that anchoring out in front of the breakwater was good so I figured to try that out.  Swell was 2 feet, relatively low, wind chop maybe a foot on top of that, looked maybe bumpy but otherwise OK.


Barber’s Point is the big green lump, beyond it is Pokai Bay, hiding in an indentation of the island.

The water there is clear, you can look down and watch the boat’s shadow move across the white bottom, the brown patches of rock or coral are readily visible in 30 feet of water.  I went in to 15 feet,  that seemed shallow, I went back out to 27 feet and dropped the anchor – no big deal.

One thing I learned in French Polynesia is the first thing you do after dropping the hook is swim down and check the anchor.  I had my mask, fins, and snorkel in the cockpit and ready to go, hook hit the bottom, over went the swim ladder and in I went – leaving the engine idling in case I needed to move the boat.  I followed the chain out 150′ and sure enough, there was the anchor laying on its side on top of the sandy bottom.  That’s odd – normally you can’t see the anchor’s pointy end – it’s supposed to be dug in.  I swam down to inspect more closely and found the anchor was lying on top of a wide rocky flat plate with a 1/2″ to 1″ of sand on top – no wonder everything looked sandy from up top.  The entire area was nothing but wide flat rock plates that ran off into the distance, the plates separated by narrow (10′) channels running between the plates and two feet lower, the channels having thicker sand in them.  I swam around a bit and looked off in different directions – visibility was terrific and made it really obvious that if I wanted to stay here I would need to get the anchor into one of the sandy channels and hope it would hang up on the 2′ lip/ledge at the edge where the plates met the channels.  That did not sound like fun to me.  Hmm… plan B – return to Kewalo Harbor.

I went up, toweled off, pulled up the anchor and headed out, a good run back to Barber’s Point and then I had to clear the Pearl Harbor security zone.  That put Beetle back out into the stronger wind and we plunked along straight into the breeze, shoveling spray clear over the boat.  It got dark and I had a good view of the Friday night fireworks display in front of the Waikiki hotels.

By 9pm I was back in the Kewalo Harbor entrance, wind had dropped off to near zero as we’re in the high rise wind shadow, and all was good.

I’m disappointed with Pokai Bay; if that’s a good spot that folks like, then what are the other’s like?  A friend went up to Kaneohe Bay and stayed at the yacht club for a couple of days, then over to Lahaina where he’s on a mooring or inside the marina breakwater – not a lot of offshore anchoring going on there.  I ran across a useful article by Quantum Sails regarding what to do ’round these parts, the two recommended anchorages are Hanalei (Kauai) and Makena Start Park (Maui).  I know Hanalei from the Singlehanded TransPac races – that’s a great anchorage.  If Makena is in that league then is a place I want to learn more about.

Upshot – Beetle is back in Kewalo, it’s a fine sunny morning, I have lots of food on board so will have a good breakfast and think of what I’d like to do.  Plan is to roll out of here June 1 and hop over to Hanalei Bay, on Kauai.  Kauai is 120 miles downwind from here, it’s generally easy to get there and not at all easy to get back as you’re banging back into the trades.  If I want to visit anywhere else here by boat I should do so before heading to Hanalei.

– rob



Kewalo is a nice harbor


The docks in Kewalo are fixed concrete piers with tires hung off the sides to act as fenders, the tires are in turn covered with old carpet to keep the black marks off the hull. The boats hang fenders to keep the carpet from rubbing against the hull. The tidal range is about two feet from high to low, therefore the dock lines are kept relatively loose. There is surge through the marina, so you try to tie the boat off in such a way that you never quite touch the concrete.

Beetle has been happily hanging out in the slip in Kewalo Boat Harbor, and this has been a vast improvement over Ala Wai.  The people here are relatively few, most pleasant, and working on various boat projects.  There is also a lot of charter boat activity and it’s amazing to see all dive tanks come and go from the boats each day – I’m thinking it’s on the order of several hundred tanks from this dock alone.  I asked one of the fellows loading dozens of tanks into his pickup truck in the parking lot, and each dive shop is running their own compressor to keep everything filled up.


The main pier features a narrow walkway filled with tripping hazards and lined with big heavy metal enclosures for the Hawaii Electric Company power breakers to each slip. The dive operations leave lots and lots of tanks out on the docks as they shift them from the boat to the car to the shop to refill, and back again.

Being out here on the tippy top of a tall mountain in the middle of the Pacific does have its drawbacks – hurricanes, tsunami waves, and volcanos.   Keeps one on one’s toes, as it were.

Each morning I check the National Weather Service forecasts to see what might be coming down the track, and on the 72 hour WFax there was a Low pressure area indicated with the annotation: “Possible TC” – that would be bad (TC = Tropical Cyclone = Hurricane).  It was located well off to the east, about latitude 13 North.  That would be no good if it formed up and wobbled over this way.  The NWS Hurricane Center Eastern Pacific is now part of my morning reading.


The US Geological Survey has this image looking down into the Kilauea crater, the lava lake of molten rock is glowing way down inside – normally the lake is right at the top of the crater. The drop in lake level has left behind a chimney formed of not-very-stable rock.

At the same time Kilauea Volcano, the active volcano located on Hawaii (the island) is rumbling and it looks as though the magma underground has found a new path up and out to relieve pressure – it’s splitting open vents in the eastern rift zone and magma is flowing out (called lava when it gets above ground).  The molten rock is mowing down houses and roads and setting fire to the forested areas.  The US Geological Survey volcano hazards program is pointing out that if the lake surface of molten rock/lava (which is believed to be supplying the magma being expelled at the vents) drops far enough to be below the local water table, water will flow into the extra hot lava lake, form superheated steam, and Foom! – big explosion of volcanic rock as excess pressure is relieved. All this is of more than passing interest simply because I happen to be more or less in the area.

That same morning the marina harbormaster’s office sent around the Hawaii Hurricane/Tsunami Manual as a .pdf attached to an email.  Hmm… somewhat tenuous ’round these parts…  I read with interest what to do in the event the tsunami warning sirens go off (answer: if you’re out on the water then move out to 300′ depth or more, if on shore get to higher ground).


A second US Geological Survey image of ash rising from the crater.  When a rockfall happens inside the crater’s chimney, the rock hits the lava surface and tons of ash, steam, and other goodies are lofted into the air. Currently the ash is rising to an altitude of 6500′ and drifting downwind.

There isn’t much fog or smog on the islands, simply because the prevailing tradewinds blow everything airborne out to sea.  With the volcano kicking out large ash clouds when there are rockfalls inside the crater, that creates a wide area of suspended particulates to leeward of the islands.  And then the wind turns and comes in from the southwest (locally called a Kona wind) the volcano’s particulates return and we get ‘vog’ (volcano fog).  That happened the last couple of days and it made the sunsets particularly colorful and visibility dropped to not so much.  We’re getting the trades back, so all that stuff is back out at sea again.

I’ve wrapped up the work on Beetle and have had the boat out several times to load up the new rigging and have been tightening turnbuckles as the wires stretch.   This is good.  Also have the Antal low friction rings attached to strong small Harken padeyes that are attached to the Harken deck tracks via 1/4″ diameter machine screws.  The padeyes prevent the jib car from sliding aft far enough to support the no. 1 genoa, but I haven’t been using that particular sail much, and installing the padeyes directly to the track means I don’t have two new holes (per padeye) through the deck.  If I do want to go back and use the no. 1 it’s relatively simply to remove the machine screws and the track becomes usable, though slightly lighter as it has two more holes in the top surface.

One of the fun activities has been to go sailing with Ronnie on his Peterson 34 Quiver in the Hawaii YC Friday Night Beer Can races.


Ronnie is fun to sail with, he has a cadre of friends from the university that don’t necessarily know much about racing but which are always invited to join in – they sure do know a lot about catching fish!


Kristen and crew on board Quiver, we’re pointing towards the turning mark at Ala Wai entrance. It’s a real reef we’re sailing to and the channel is narrow – not something you want to miss on your way in, and most finishes are after dark.  I had to bring up the exposure a lot in the image to see anything at all, it goes dark quickly as the sun sets.  Still, it’s not cold water sailing.

I did discover on one outing that I need to remember that more than one jib halyard is in use now.  When the headsails are stored on the furler, I release tension on the sail by backing off the halyard at the winch.  To go sailing, take back up on the halyard.  I was out using the no. 4 and main and noticed I had forgotten to take back up on the no. 4; up I went with the long halyard winch handle, took up some load, and nothing happened.  That’s weird.  I took up some more – still nothing.  Went sailing anyway.  When I got back to the dock and was releasing tension I realized I had been pulling on the no. 2 halyard, not the no. 4.  The in-use furling jib halyard has always been the starboard halyard winch – I need to remember that the port halyard winch handles the no. 4. At least it was an easy fix.

To manage the additional furling line required adding a rope clutch to the deck, and it wasn’t going to be easy to squeeze one into the space available.  Plus one of the older Antal clutches has split open where the aluminum has oxidized, so that needed replacing.  While investigating the clutches I figured out how to grease them, and went and greased up all of them.  It takes a small dab of grease on a brush, apply brush to the aluminum side plates where the rotating eccentric cam goes by – operating the handle rotates the cam and the grease is distributed.


The unhappy clutch is to the right, the brand new one is to the left. Just getting the clutches turned into quite a chore: the original order from Svendsen’s to Euro Marine Trading for two clutches was not placed, then it was placed and Euro Marine put one clutch in the box while claiming they had put two in the box. After two months of back and forth, a second clutch was sent out to Svendsen’s, only I wasn’t in California by that time so I couldn’t fly it back with me on the plane. Shipping is $40 to get it here, but Steve was able to rescue the clutch from Svendsen’s, hand it off to Kristen, who shipped it out much less expensively. Only took three months to actually get the thing – but it’s the right thing!

I’ve been reading up on places that could be interesting to visit, with the intent to wrap up the stay in Hawaii at Hanalei Bay, Kauai.  The places one can reasonably anchor in the islands are few.  There’s no fringing reef in the area, and one needs to be ready to shift around the island (or head out to sea) if winds shift and onshore breezes set in with their associated swell pattern.


Waiting for someone to arrive with the a fuel card. Lots of signs explaining what to do if you do have such a card!

Fueling up in Oahu is not as straightforward as going to the fuel dock – first you have to find out where the fuel dock is.  Hint: it’s not in Ala Wai Harbor, and it’s not Kewalo Harbor – you go 4 miles up the way to Keehi Marine Center, they have the fuel dock.  Only the fuel dock doesn’t have an attendant, instead it’s a self-service system where the local boaters have an account and a fuel card arranged with the Marine Center.    If you’re like me and you don’t have such an account, you telephone the yard office and eventually, as in 45 minutes later, a fellow breaks away from whatever he is doing in the yard and arrives wearing his hard hat to operate the pumps for the non-local boater without an account.   The funny part is the existence of a very short timer on the fuel card system – once the ‘go’ button is pushed you have 20 seconds to get the fuel flowing into the tank, if you pause the fueling system shuts down and you get to start all over.  It took two hours to fuel up Beetle using this system, what with the multiple tanks, pauses to check levels, and continually resetting the pump system.  Price was pretty good, less than the gasoline.  Turns out that diesel is not road-taxed.

The morning weather forecast is calling for a bend in the trades to the NE on Wednesday and the breeze should go lighter, that might be the day to make the 50 mile crossing to Kaunakakai Harbor on Molokai.  It’s not an actual harbor one can go in to, but it does have a pier poking out and should have protection from the NE and E.  Places to go learn more about!

– rob


April in Oahu wrap-up

It’s been a busy month or so here in Ala Wai, quite a bit has been done on board Beetle and I’m quite happy with what’s happened.  At this point all of the major projects are completed, and I will have some time to go play tourist-in-Oahu.

April started out in a fairly crazy fashion – I have spent a fair bit of time on the mainland helping out with some work there, and needed some additional time here in Ala Wai to complete my own projects.  I had intended to extend my stay one month (e.g., into May).  I checked with the Ala Wai harbormaster and was informed that visiting yachts have a maximum 120 day stay in any one of the state harbors, and my end-date is April 30. egad!  Time to put things into high gear to wrap up what I can, as well as find another place that could handle Beetle for the month.

There are not a many marinas around town, and Beetle is somewhat draft-limited as at 8 feet – for example Keehi Marine Center informed me that 7 feet was what they could handle.

I talked with John, the Kewalo Boat Harbor harbormaster to see if he had room, this is an Almar-run marina located up the road about a mile.  They are in the middle of a major dock replacement and upgrade, the John thinks he has might have one slip that would work for me.  He  couldn’t commit to that straight away, so I started looking around to see what else is available.  Not much – at least not here in the Honolulu area.

I’ve also looked around and learned a bit about other areas to see in Hawaii, and several of the local sailors have said that May is when the cruising season in Hawaii kicks off – I should consider Lahaina (Maui Island), there’s Nawiliwili (Kauai Island), and Kona (Hawaii Island).  The anchorage at Kaneohe Bay is known for soft mud and iffy holding plus I’ve been there before (Pacific Cup 2000 finish, dragged around in the mud on the Fortress anchor) so I’m not planning to go there.  At least I’ve learned of a couple of places that could work, cruising season is starting up, I’m not feeling so worried about not having a slip come May 1.  However, I have to get the work done that requires a dock before not having a dock becomes a possibility.


It’s a long way down when working at the top of the rig.


The view out to sea from up high is pretty darn nice, though. Most of the time I don’t look out, but rather focus on what I’m working on right in front of me.

The headstay rigging work requires dock space for laying out the furler foils and wire, cutting the headstays to length, assembling the furlers, and getting them back up in the rig.  There was a small problem with the rigging that came in from Buzz – the D3 shroud is 6mm compact strand and could accept either a 7/16″ diameter stud or a 1/2″ diameter stud with a clevis pin that would match the chainplate hole.  When Buzz and I rigged Beetle initially with the new Ballenger spar we used the smaller diameter stud; that bit of information didn’t make it into his notes so the new D3 arrived with the larger diameter stud swaged on – which meant the turnbuckle body on the boat no longer fit the stud on the new wire.  Argh!  A quick telephone conversation with Buzz later I had new bronze turnbuckle bodies on the way – but time goes by while waiting for parts.


Checking the furling swivels for clearance. The solent furler should land just below the stainless halyard retainer set on the front of the spar. The idea is to be certain the furling swivels will not collide with each other – one wants to know this before drilling the big hole in the mast for the solent stay backing plate.

The folding bicycle needs a place to live while the boat is sailing – and a padded bag would be a good thing.  I looked at a number of pre-made bags and they either had no padding (being more of a storage cover), or they weren’t made specifically for the bicycle and were voluminous in the extreme.  I decided to make my own on the sewing machine, ordering up some DuPont Cordura and using 3mm thick closed cell PVC foam yoga mats as padding.  The Cordura came in from SailRite, I found the padding at the local Target  store.


Beetle as a sewing shop – trimming and marking the nylon Cordura with the hot knife. The metal ruler is used beneath the fabric to protect the table surface from the very hot knife edge.

When all was done I’ve got a bag that protects the bike from the boat and the boat from the bike.  Still not sure where to store the bicycle, so currently it sits behind the starboard lee cloth when Beetle is underway.


The mostly-finished bag worked out fairly well, it’s easy to get the bicycle in and out and padded enough that the metal parts of the bicycle don’t damage the surrounding woodwork. Still need to add straps as closures to hold the top down over the contents.


And the folded Dahon is happily in its new home.

With the sewing machine out and set up on the main cabin table, it was a good time to move forward with constructing a replacement mainsail cover.  The existing sunbrella cover had finally succumbed to UV and the cloth was failing.  I had purchased a bunch of sunbrella and shipped it over, along with a 1 pound cone of V-92 UV treated thread.  I like to build the cover as a series of 60″ cloth widths joined together such that the joins drape over the mainsail – each new section is sewn to the preceding section, then the top center line is set with clothes pins and staples, marked, the cover goes back down below to the sewing machine and stitched, then proceed to the next section.  Starting at the mast is the way to do this, and the shape around the mast is the most difficult piece as it has the most shape changes going on – around the mast, handle the bulk of the sail stacked up on the luff slugs, the angle down towards the boom… that always takes a while to get the material to fit.  The next piece is simpler, and from there on out the cover is close to a circular tube and relatively easy.


Checking the panels for fit. Here the first one is roughly set, the second one is half-sewn and the top line is being set. It takes sets of panels to make the cover.


Cutting the sunbrella requires clearing out the port settee cushions, as underneath there’s a 6 foot long flat section of plywood that can handle the cloth’s 60″ width. Same rules as cutting on the table, use the hot knife on top of the ruler. Don’t all boats carry around a 4′ straight edge ruler?


All the panels are cut and stitched together. Final big step is to set the bottom line prior to hemming and installing the nylon clips.

Completing the standing rigging was the most important thing to get done, and with the replacement turnbuckle bodies in hand the D3 shrouds went up easily, especially as they are the lightest piece of rigging up there.  After the D3s were in place, the last job was to measure and cut the two new headstays, plus figure out how I was going to install the Schaefer furling extrusions on the inner solent forestay; the headstay uses a toggle at the masthead held in place with a horizontal clevis pin – that’s an easy one to remove and work on as all you need to do is support the weight of the wire & furler (a short block and tackle attached to a spinnaker block bail does that), pull the pin, and lower the unit on the spinnaker halyard.  The solent stay was going to be different, as it attaches to the mast with a lollipop fitting that slots into the backing plate with the wire at 90 degrees to the mast.  No way to hold the furler out at 90 degrees to the spar while 60 feet in the air.  I had a telephone consultation with Buzz about this and his recommendation was to install the stay on the mast and then feed the aluminum extrusions onto the wire from the bottom, riveting the connecting joints & bearings in place as the extrusions went up the wire.  That worked out to be an easy way to do it, actually easier than building the whole thing on the deck and then lifting it up afterwards.  When the unit needs to come down in 8-9 years to replace the wire I will need to reverse the process, drilling out the rivets and separating the extrusions one at a time to remove them from the wire (alternatively, I could pull the mast and do the work in the yard).

I talked with Arlen and we went out to his machine shop to utilize the US Navy surplus drill press he has to drill holes in the solent stay chainplate.  That worked out well, that drill press was ancient, incredibly solid, and had a concentric chuck – quite the work horse it turned out to be.  Apparently US Navy surplus is a valuable commodity out in these parts of the Pacific.


The polished and drilled chainplate is finally bolted to the new mini-bulkhead up in the anchor locker. The solent furling drum is sitting on top of the chainplate to check for clearance with the anchor locker hatch – I had to trim the leading edge of the locker lid to avoid hitting the furling drum.

Part of the job of installing the solent stay was to install the backing plate into the mast.  This requires a 1-3/4″ hole drilled through the front of the mast, a stainless steel backing plate slipped in through the hole, drilling four more 1/4″ holes for the rivets, then setting the rivets to hold the plate in place.  I learned a fair bit about rivets in short order, as the normal 316 stainless rivets I use have hollow tubular bodies, and I was looking for a slightly longer rivet that might be stronger.  Turns out there exists something called a “structural rivet”, and the ones I found via McMaster-Carr are rated for 2000 pounds (shear and tension) each.  Four of them would support 4 tons of load.  I ordered up 20 of them in 18-8 stainless, the same grade the average marine stainless fastener.  These are wonderful rivets, handle a wide range of material thickness, and the mandrel is designed to be pulled into the body of the rivet and snap off flush with the rivet head, leaving the mandrel in place and creating a solid cylinder of 18-8 stainless as the fastener – no hollow tubes in these rivets!


A tale of two rivets: the left is the 316 stainless pop rivet that leaves a hollow tube of metal in the hole after the mandrel head pops off and the mandrel pulls free out the front. On the right is the 18-8 stainless structural rivet – the pulling mandrel head remains in place and the mandrel snaps off flush with the rivet head. Structural rivets are great! – I’m glad I ordered extra, I can use them on the boom vang bracket down the road.

Drilling the 1-3/4″ hole was an afternoon job involving a brand new Milwaukee hole saw, lots of oil, and my big Milwaukee 1/2″ chuck drill running at very slow speeds.  Part way through the cut the centering bit snapped off, which was unfortunate (I was able to retrieve the broken end from the mast).  I had to go back down the mast to find another centering drill, and in fact went back up with three in hand in case I broke another one.  With all the holes in place it was fairly easy to slip the backing plate into the mast, with a length of dacron cord run in through a rivet hole, through the hole in the backing plate, and back out of the mast – the cord is used to a) not drop the backing plate down to the bottom interior of the mast (from where I would not be able to retrieve it), and b) pull the plate tight against the inside mast wall while setting the rivets.  I carry a large rivet gun capable of setting 1/4″ rivets, as this size rivet is used to set the vang bracket into the boom and I have to replace those rivets on occasion.  I got to use the rivet gun for this job and the structural rivets are super easy to set.


The holes drilled into the mast, before the backing plate goes in. The backing plate sort of rests on the lower ledge of the hole/cut-out, while the rivets pull the backing forward against the spar wall. The same fittings are used on the shrouds, and they definitely have held up to the loads.


The backing place set. After doing this I decided I didn’t like the hollow rivets, and that’s when I went on the journey to find the structural rivets and had them overnighted in from Southern California. The headstay lollipop fitting slots into the backing plate at 90 degrees to the mast, then rotates to point towards the deck – no way the lollipop can jump out at that point.

Arlen came over for the headstay-down show, and Tom from down the dock helped out – we got the headstay onto the dock in 30 minutes.  The dock itself consists of two sections, a central walkway of smooth soft plastic lumber, and a foot-wide edge that is hard nasty sandy non-skid that would scratch the anodizing on the aluminum extrusions.   Off to Lowes to find a cloth canvas painter’s drop cloth which I then cut into two-foot-wide lengths and stitched together – instant 60 foot by 2 foot drop cloth, a size I suspect most painters don’t need.  With the headstay on the drop cloth and out of the walkway, it was then simple to slide out the old headstay with a length of 1/8″ dacron cord attached, shift the cord to the new wire and pull the new wire back into the furler.


Cutting wire to length is never any fun. You get one chance and it had better be correct. I always measure from the 1′ mark on the tape to avoid concern over exactly where the end is on the tape. I spent half a morning going over all the numbers to be certain I had the numbers correct, and then you just walk outside, measure, and chop. The furler extrusions are wrapped in the cloth near the water, I didn’t want anyone walking on them while working on the wire.

Getting the Hi-Mod mechanical fittings in place took a bit longer, as in several hours.  The first one I put together was on a short length of compact strand wire as a test.  The wire is extremely stiff and strong and does not like to bend at all.  Getting the cone and its small brass colored collar into place with each strand in the correct slot while not having the collar fly out of the fitting when the wires go Sproing! was a study in patience.  I finally worked out a way to unlay the outer wires without simultaneously unlaying the inner wires, mostly by using a screwdriver, needle nose pliers, and a small set of vice grips.  At least I didn’t poke any holes in my fingers with the sharp wire ends.


The inner workings of a Hi-Mod mechanical terminal. The wire is three sets of strands: solid central core, a set of twisted small wires around the core, and the much larger vaguely triangular wires wrapped around the outside. Below the yellow collar (that individually traps and places the outside strands) is a cone that rides on the inner side of wires. When the fitting is tightened down with wrenches the cone is crushed and grips the inner strands while the outer strands are gripped by ridges at the base of the fitting. Nice way to make the end fitting, particularly when you don’t have a rotary swaging machine.


The stud terminal before tightening up. The cone and collar are in the part on the left with the wire coming out, the stud terminal threads into the body, applying the pressure to seat the wire into the fitting.

With that figured out it was relatively easy to install the two Hi-Mod mechanical stud terminals on the bottom ends of the two stays.  Arlen was back over the next day and up went the headstay, clevis pins and cotter pins installed, and Beetle suddenly looked like a sailing boat again.  I spent two days cleaning out the interior, removing lots of left over materials from being a rig shop, put away the sewing machine, and voila! – time to go out and start tuning the rig.  The new wire will stretch as it loaded up, and it’s fairly useful to keep the mast in column.  To do that requires going sailing to place loads on the wires, then sight up the mast tube to see which way the various sections are leaning.  If the masthead is falling off to leeward, odds are good the cap shroud needs to be tightened up; the middle of the spar is more interesting: if the middle is pulling to windward does that mean the weather cap shroud is too loose, the weather D3 is too tight, or is the leeward D3 too loose?  Tugging on various wires while sailing along is a good way to see the effect and sometimes loosening the weather wire is better than taking in on the leeward wire.  You shouldn’t be tightening the turnbuckle that is loaded (e.g., the weather turnbuckle) as that is extra hard on the turnbuckle threads.  To actually tighten a weather turnbuckle requires tacking the boat first, setting up on the new tack, then go forward with the tool bag and make adjustments.  So a change would go something like, “let’s see… starboard side… one turn on the cap, one half turn on D3 and D2.  Remember that!”  Go tack boat and make the changes, tack back and see what the effect was.


The two headstays now share the load generated by the backstay, so it’s time to adjust relative tensions. The tension is managed by the turnbuckle body that is normally hidden inside the furling system’s torque tube. With the tube lifted up out of the way I can get at the turnbuckles and spin them around the tighten the stays until they seem about matched.


Out with Arlen off Waikiki to try out the rigging and tighten things up. It’s not so easy to do when it’s really windy, which it was – we’re still way reefed down.

So far I’ve had three good days out on the water twiddling with the turnbuckles, and the rig is looking good and straight (or at least in column, as there is an intentional fore-and-aft curve to the spar built into the setup).  Ideally you’d like to have 12-14 knots of breeze and flat water for tuning, what I had was 20-34 knots of wind and swell to work with – so tuning started rather cautiously with no sails up at all and the windage of the mast was enough to demonstrate wire that was out of whack.  Then it was third reef time, more tuning as things started to stretch, finally two reefs and the no. 4 and more winding on of the turnbuckles.


The new no. 2 genoa is unfurled, flying out in front of the no. 4 jib on the inner furler. The system has worked out well so far!

While boat projects were underway, I visited Kewalo Harbor and they came through with flying colors and offered Beetle a slip for the month of May – this is fantastic.  Ala Wai has been an interesting place to be, to put it mildly.  In general the floating docks are well done and nice, the falling apart concrete fixed docks are there and continuing to fall apart.  This is the first marina I have been in where the dock gates are chained OPEN – anyone can wander down to the docks at any time, and they do.  I’d observe hotel guests down on the docks working with their camera to get the right picture, the homeless folks were cruising the docks, and there’s a significant methamphetamine problem that results in people that have a rather different view of the world than the average person you’d meet.  There are four of the latter people apparently squatting on one of the state-owned repossed boats, along with two more people that have a terrible relationship that results in lots of shouting and screaming across the docks and emanating from their boat.   All it takes, in this case, is six people to generally spoil things for everyone else, and that’s unfortunate.

I asked the harbormaster’s office about the gates, and was told that the gates don’t offer security anyway, and they don’t have the funds to install programmable card key locks.  From my perspective, the first thing you do to increase security is restrict access – just because you have a perfect bank vault does not mean you invite the burglars to hang out inside the bank, you also lock the front door when you go home at night.  That doesn’t seem to be the case at the Ala Wai marina – if the gates are locked they don’t increase security, which is patently false – having lockable gates (even with a regular metal key), at least access is made more difficult.  The fixed concrete docks use gates (chain link fence with a padlock), and people seem to like to lock their gate – but that doesn’t work for the expansive floating docks.

I am quite pleased to be away from the community at Ala Wai – it’s much more quiet in Kewalo.  There’s more surge and the boat moves a bit in the slip; offset that by the pleasure of not having the company of Cat Regal (the woman who continually broke into my neighbor’s boat so she could sleep at night, and when arrested by the police, was released the next day as it appears Vessel Trespass is a misdemeanor, only to be arrested again for breaking into the same boat), not having the Ala Wai canal dump dirt and trees and tons of plastic floating debris into the harbor, and the shouting of the couple down the dock.  Police officers on the docks in Ala Wai happened so often that one eventually becomes inured to their presence; hopefully that does not happen here!

– rob/beetle



New sail has arrived!

A super fun thing has happened – the new no. 2 (130%) genoa has arrived from Hood Sails.  Robin Sodaro designed the first no. 2 headsail for Beetle and it was built as a triradial with spectra cloth – that sail has worked wonderfully for a long time, and it is still on board as the backup sail.  Triradial construction has issues on a roller furler when used partially reefed/furled – the load path alignment that is perfect when the sail is completely out is no longer in alignment when partly rolled up – and that’s part of what caused the damage to the sail when I was sailing up from Tahiti to Hawaii.


Meet Robin – he’s wonderful to work with, he’s great at listening to what you’re looking to do and has lots of ideas on how to create sails that will do what you want. His loft in Sausalito is busy busy busy.

I telephoned Robin at his loft in Sausalito, California to talk about a replacement headsail – and we settled on a crosscut no. 2 using Hood’s Vektron cloth, which is a essentially a dacron cloth with vectran threads running in the fill direction.  To compare the sailcloth to a house floor construction, the vectra is acting as the joists by carrying load and the dacron acts as the floorboards filling in the spaces between the joists.  Weaving the two together into a single cloth produces a cloth that is dimensionally stable, significantly stronger than dacron-only, and is significantly less expensive than spectra cloth.

Beetle’s mainsail is crosscut vektron, as is the no. 4 (85%) headsail – both have worked wonderfully well.  As an example of weight reduction from plain dacron, the original dacron delivery mainsail used a two plies of 10 oz dacron to handle leech loads; the Hood main is 8 oz single ply vektron.  I also like the vektron cloth as it is woven, no glue.


The loft has a nice floor for laying out sails and is packed with the equipment needed to work on them, fix them up (the racing crowd is hard on their sails), and build updates as needed. It’s always fun to visit his loft and see what goes into building and maintaining sails.

Robin keeps a little card for each sail he’s built for Beetle over the years (Hood has built all of the new sails for Beetle), and he was able to pull out his card, review the measurements and details of the spectra no. 2, and use that information to design the new sail in crosscut vektron.  That design went off to the Hood build-loft in Rhode Island where the folks have the tooling to cut the cloth to shape, sew it all together, and attach the various details that make the sail most useful – a shaped foam layer at the luff to help take up slack differentially as the sail is partially furled (reefed), a UV cover to protect the cloth from sunlight damage when on furled, leech and foot cords, sail numbers, draft stripes, tell tales, lots of little details go into building a sail.  When they’re done the sail is folded up into its bag and popped into large cardboard box – which has now arrived in Honolulu!

I got out my trusty wheelie dolly and walked over to  visit Rachel at The Mailbox Waikiki – I had telephoned her earlier to see if she would be available to sign for a big box arriving this week, and she telephoned to let me know a gigantic box had arrived.  I strapped the 90 pound box to the dolly and off the box and I went through Waikiki back to Beetle.


Headed down the sidewalk, and waiting at the corner for the crosswalk light to turn green. The traffic in Waikiki is fairly heavy, you don’t want to run out into the middle of it.


Up and over the bridge, then you get to a nice spot to pause – it’s shady and green. The box is heavy, about the size of a dorm room refrigerator, and the wheelie dolly isn’t quite the right size for this, but it’s what I have and it does work – just takes a while to roll the mile or so back to the boat.


There are not a lot of folks out walking their big boxes, at least not in front of the Hilton Hawaiian Village gigantic hotel with lots of tourists.


The marina is on the far side of the big hotel complex. Almost there. The paving is a lot less smooth in the parking lot, but we just keep bumping along over the rocks and cracks.


Back at Beetle. Time to open the box and find out what’s inside! I don’t know if the sail is folded up into a tiny package that needs to be laid out and refolded into its bag, or maybe it’s already very carefully bagged.


There’s the new sail, already bricked and bagged inside the box. I bet it will never ever be that small again – I can’t fold it as carefully as the folks in Rhode Island. There are also some fun goodies inside the box; I suspect the drink koozies will come in handy in the warm temperatures of Hawaii, hats to hold back, and a bag built from laminate sail cloth – those are always fun.

So Tiger Beetle has some new clothes to go with the new standing rigging.  I’m still working away on the standing rigging replacement, so far I’ve done the backstay, all the shrouds (8 of them in total), and that leaves replacing the existing headstay inside its furler as well as installing the tang and chainplate for the new solent stay.  The smaller and shorter cables were easy to work with – the heavy and lengthy cap shrouds were problematic.  I swapped out the port cap shroud first, and that took me an hour up in the air wrestling with perhaps 30 pounds of stiff 10mm compact strand wire – extracting the old wire was not easy as you have to simultaneously lift the wire to get the lollipop shroud terminal to a 90 degree angle while at the same time rotating the wire to keep the terminal perpendicular to the slot in the tang – if you get the orientation correct then the lollipop just slides out like it should.  If you’re off by even a little bit, the lollipop binds and won’t come free from the tang (this is a good thing, as you don’t want your standing rigging to hop out of the tang).


Ronnie walk walking by on the other side of the marina and stopped to take a picture of some idiot up the mast busily removing an important wire from the port side. It’s a long way up, especially when it’s hot and the wire is being reluctant to cooperate.

Lifting wasn’t that bad, but the wire really resists rotation, especially when there’s 58 feet of it hanging down to the deck.  Installing the replacement wire isn’t so bad, as I take it up the rig all coiled up and then I can manipulate the coil and pop in the lollipop; the coil is held together with filament tape, one wrap around the bundle each time a new loop is added to the coil (actually, it’s two tapes per loop set at opposite sides of the coil).  After setting the lollipop into the tang I can cut the closest piece of tape and the coil will release another half- loop of wire, I can descend with the wire and unroll it in a controlled way on our way towards the deck.  At each spreader you stop, open up the the stainless steel fittings that capture the wire at the spreader tip, insert wire, close up the fitting (which is a clever simple strap held in by two machine screws – no anaerobic corrosion at the spreader tips as there’s no tape and no adhesive), and carry on to the deck.  I know that Ronnie has a picture of me working on the rig,  I’ll see if I can get a copy.


Back at deck level there’s a lot going on with swapping out the rigging. It’s done one wire at a time, and I have to think through the process to be certain I don’t end up at the top and realize I left some important part or tool on deck – I doing this on my own and don’t have anyone on deck to help out if I forgot to take up the no. 2 Phillips screwdriver, or have something other than the 2.5mm allen wrench for the tiny machine screws that hold the Ruland locking collars to the rigging (the collars go on the wire, just below the spreader tip, and prevent the spreader from being forced down the wire and collapsing).

I can’t manage to change out the headstay/furler combination on my own, that will require at least two other people and some organization.  I also need to drill the bolt holes and clevis pin hole in the new chainplate for the solent stay – and that requires a drill press.  I talked with Arlan yesterday, he has the machine shop on the other side of the island, and we’re going to connect either today after he’s finished the yacht club race, or tomorrow – depending on his availability.  I need to go fetch some coconut porter as that’s his preferred beverage for drill press operations – everything will line up better after a porter or two.  In the meantime I’m continuing to strip and grease winches, only got two left to go!

And now the rain has arrived in the form of reasonably light steady rain, and my cell phone has beeped and there’s a new flash flood warning issued for the area.

Enjoy the day, the rain won’t stop me from getting over to Don Quijote to find the porter.

– rob


Boat projects continuing…

The various projects happening here on Tiger Beetle are moving forward well.   It’s also been rather wet and rainy at times, and rain is not conducive to fiberglass – it contaminates the epoxy resin and the resin tends not to cure (in addition to turning an interesting milky white color).  Rain is also not so much fun when going up the rig to work on the standing rigging.  I’ve learned to check the local forecast in the morning before starting on a project that wants a half-day of dry.

Troughs will swing cross over the islands and when one does we get lightning, lots of rain, and then flash flood alerts are sent out over the cellular telephone network – the phone suddenly lights up and beeps and you see “Flash Flood Warning” on the screen.  The notes say to stay away from rivers and streams, which is fine except that Ala Wai Harbor is IN the Ala Wai Canal – a man-made canal dug in 1928 that provides a drainage for the watershed coming down from the surrounding mountains; a lot of water is concentrated in the canal when the rain comes down, and I’m right in the middle of it.  At least I’m not on one of the end-ties directly on the canal, instead I’m several hundred feet off to one side.  This keeps Beetle clear of the big logs and enormous amounts of debris that flows down the channel, things such as refrigerators, dead dinghies, and for whatever reason lots of flip flops and soccer balls.


When it rains hard, the next day the water in Ala Wai Harbor turns a chocolate brown with all the suspended silt and dirt coming from the mountains. There’s also a fair bit of background bacteria that makes it into the water, nobody wants to be in the water – especially when it’s this color. Takes 2-3 days after the rain ends for the dirt to clear out on the ocean’s tidal flow.

The mast steps are built after lots of sewing on the SailRite LSZ-1 machine.  I have a yellow ladder with 58 steps that go all the way to the masthead – pretty nifty.  The ladder is more difficult to climb than I had expected, but I’m getting better at it.  Made three trips to the masthead Saturday to measure the backstay and headstay lengths, remove the backstay, and lastly install the new backstay.  Today I’m going to work lower on the rig and swap in the new D1 shrouds – that should be easier as I’m only working 15 feet off the deck rather than 60.


Tiger Beetle as a sewing loft. The SailRite sits on the table, 300 feet of 2″ polyester webbing flops around everywhere, with a 16 oz cone of V-138 thread feeding into the machine. I would bang through 8-10 steps over a day, and then it gets a little repetitive and I’ll switch over to another project. Even with the small machine the project still takes over the main cabin space!


The finished product, those steps go up a long way. Spacing the steps at 1 foot intervals makes them easy to reach. The steps are lashed down at the foot of the mast and then hauled up on a spinnaker halyard and set tight. It’s fairly reasonable to climb up to the second spreader, beyond that the second safety halyard I’m clipped in to becomes problematic – I’m getting better at figuring out how to work with the steps.

I’m going through the winches to strip and clean them, going at the pace of one winch per day – there are 12 winches to service and I’m currently on number 6.  This is one of the unglamorous maintenance projects, and it takes time to open up the winches, remove the accumulated dirt and old grease, finish up with nice new grease, and re-install.  The smaller two speed Barlow winches are relatively quick, the bigger three speed Barientss have additional gear stacks that are significantly more complicated, plus an idler gear to switch the winch from 1-2 (high-middle speeds) over to 2-3 (middle-low speeds).  I only ever use the lower gearing on the Barients; max power ratio is 73:1 on the big primaries and that gets used for the jib sheets, I’m very glad to have that.


Winches have lots of little parts inside, all of which are happiest when coated with a light film of grease. I’m using diesel as the grease solvent, and being an oil the diesel fuel leaves behind some oil when done. The diesel doesn’t attack the plastic bearing cages, either. Wear blue nitryl gloves during the cleaning helps to keep hands clean.

The solent stay bulkhead is glassed into the hull and sanded smooth.   Placing the wetted-out glass into place one piece at a time proved to be the right way to do the job, as even with the slower hardener (West 206 epoxy) the heat this close to the equator is enough to cause the resin to cook off quickly.  Epoxies are exothermic and react to heat strongly – the hotter it is the faster the resin cures.  Normally I’d lay up the entire glass stack on a board, wet it all out, hard roller it, then lift the whole layup into place as one piece.  I think if I’d tried that here the stack would have cooked off before I could get it onto the bulkhead.  Instead I mixed small amounts of resin (400 ml at a time) and wet out each glass layer individually, whipped it into place, then turned around to wet out the next piece – this kept the resin flowing and everything worked out well – albeit with a bit more sanding than I would have otherwise needed to complete the layup.


The plywood bulkhead does not directly touch the hull, instead it rests on a 1/2″ thick layer of foam that is in turn epoxied to the hull. The join between the wood/foam/hull is given a smooth radius using microballoons and epoxy mixed up to a good gooey spooge and troweled in place with a plastic popsicle stick. The radius provides a smooth bend that the fiberglass can follow when applied.


Tiger Beetle as a laminate shop, note the sewing machine is packed away and there’s a sheet of plywood over the table to make a wider bench to lay out and cut the glass. This is Knytex DBM1708 – a good unwoven (it’s stitched to hold its shape) glass and Fiberglass Hawaii had some.


Glass in place and all done, sanded down to remove spikey bits on the edges. Once the glass starts going on you can’t stop, so you hope a passing squall clouds doesn’t come by and drizzle on everything for the 30 minutes it takes to install the glass. The chainplate is temporarily clamped in place and the alignment is good.

The slot through the foredeck ahead of the anchor locker is in place and the polished stainless chainplate fits through the slot and aligns with the bulkhead.  There’s a slight gap between the metal chainplate and the fiberglass deck on all sides, and I’m going to fabricate a small flat metal plate through which the chainplate will poke – then bolt that metal plate to the deck.  I don’t want the chainplate to get pulled off to one side by the solent stay load and impact the fiberglass, I’d rather have the chainplate bear on metal and let the metal protect the deck.  I found that Universal Manufacturing is a local metal shop that fabricates all sorts of stuff from scratch, and they will sell small bits of metal cut to size – so I purchased a 4″ square of 316 stainless steel and a 12″ square of 1/4″ 6061 aluminum, to be used respectively as the surround for the chainplate and the backing plates below the additional clutch going on the deck for the solent roller furler.


The slot through the deck will take some additional work to clean up and get right. I need to shape the stainless trim ring for the chainplate such that it doesn’t interfere with the chain stopper just to port of the chainplate.

The new standing rigging has arrived from Ballenger Spars in California, the materials look great.  The rigging arrived in form of two giant and very heavy donuts wrapped in loads of cardboard all held in place with plastic stretch wrap.  I bet FedEx had fun lugging those around – they are roughly 90 pounds each.  Getting the donuts back to the boat was interesting, as I walked over to the mailbox place with my wheelie dolly and thought I would have a large-ish rectangular box to roll back to the boat.  The donuts were bigger than I expected, but being slightly squishy would stay in place on the dolly.  They were also heavy, so I went for one at a time – wheeling my strange cardboard donut slowly through the big tourist hotels on my way back to the marina.  I’m glad nobody walked into it, as from the outside it’s not at all apparent that what’s behind the cardboard is unforgiving stainless steel – it would definitely bang up someones toe or knee if they glanced off it while brushing by.


The first donut arrives! I used the main halyard and winch as a hoist to get the donut on deck, into the companionway, and then down to the cabin sole adjacent to the motor box. The wheelie dolly is great for moving the rigging (the dolly is lying on its back in the picture). You do look a bit odd wheeling this around through the tourists at the hotels.


All sorts of goodies are found inside the donuts. The first one has the two headstays, the backstay, and lots of turnbuckle parts. I’ve turned Beetle into a rig shop temporarily, sewing machine and fiberglass are now set aside in favor of laying the stainless steel wire out on the plywood. The second donut gets opened up today. Buzz did an amazing job of packaging the rigging for shipment.

The Schaefer 3100 roller furling unit for the solent stay is here on board and out of its box.  The box was huge and took up a lot of space down below, turns out most of the packaging is protective foam surrounding the furling drum.  I can’t actually install the unit until I cut the solent headstay to length and fit it.  I was able to test-fit the drum by clamping the chainplate to the bulkhead, threading the furler drum onto a halyard and taking the halyard up bar-tight on a winch – the alignment is good and the unit will interfere with opening the anchor locker lid.  The fix is to re-cut the locker lid (which is not a structural component) and turn the front bit of the lid into a removable plate held in place by bungee cord or similar.  Swinging the locker open will then clear the drum and I can slide the plate out from under the drum, which resolves any access issues when working with the anchor and windlass below the new furler.


The solent stay is set 30 inches aft of the forestay, and it’s going to be down low about the same height as the headstay furler. I needed to use a full size furling unit for the solent furler as it will still carry just as much load as the headstay furler, despite flying a smaller sail. The test here is to set the furler drum height and check the anchor locker lid for clearance – turns out there isn’t clearance, so on to making a small removable plate to go just aft of the solent furler.

That’s what has been going on with Beetle.  I’ve also been out on a couple of Friday night races with Ronnie on his boat Quiver, and received an invite to the Hawaii Yacht Club’s Cruising and Voyaging group – they are having a dinner Tuesday evening, and it wasn’t clear if I’m supposed to say something or just join in and meet some folks.  Either way, that should be fun.

Enjoy the day!  Things are going well here.

– rob


Back in Waikiki, boat projects ongoing

I’m back on board Beetle, returned from time with my parents in Arizona and my girlfriend in California, and brought over with me a number of boat projects components – and those projects are now well underway.

The big project is replacing the standing rigging (Buzz Ballenger in Watsonville, California is building up the new compact strand wire rigging), and adding a Solent stay to the rig configuration.  The Solent will have a Schaefer furler mounted on the stay, and this sets up Beetle to have two jibs already hoisted and ready to go.  The standing rigging is now eight years old, and it’s time to replace it with new material.


Replacing the standing rigging will mean a lot of up and down the mast. A ladder to climb up/down will be easier than pulling myself up in a bosun’s chair. I made up a test section on the sewing machine with 2″ webbing, it works well. The real webbing is 2″ polyester coming in from Bulk-Strap through Grainger here in Honolulu. When that arrives I’ll be on the sewing machine for several evenings putting it together. Not sure I’d use this at sea, but it is nice for use in a stable environment (at anchor or the dock).

Over the past two months, while out enjoying the holidays, I’ve also been researching the gear needed for Beetle – and it’s much easier to obtain things on the mainland as opposed to out on Hawaiian islands; it’s surprising the number of things that folks don’t want to ship to Oahu.  I can order up gear in California and take it with me on the airplane, or collect into one box and ship out over myself.

The no. 4 (85%) jib was a fun one – it needed some attention from Robin at Hood Sails, as I am planning to keep the sail on the furler and therefore a few modifications were in order (added a foam luff for improved sail shape while partially furled, a heavier Dacron UV cover, and a clew ring pad to protect the mast from the metal clew ring and J-Lock shackles during tacks).  I was able to double-bag the sail in two sailbags and carry the sail onto the plane as one of my two checked bags.  The airline thought it was an interesting bit of luggage and happily put the sail into the hold, where I was able to retrieve it in Oakland and then deliver it to Robin using Kristen’s car.  That was easy!


A cardboard template with popsicle sticks defines the plywood bulkhead pieces to be cut (two x 1/2″ thick marine ply bonded together make up the bulkhead). Black Sharpie pen outlines the area for paint removal back to glass, the 316 stainless steel bar bolts to the bulkhead and becomes the deck attachment for the solent stay.

Meanwhile Jim at North Sails Honolulu had my existing no. 2 headsail and he put on a proper patch at the tack to repair the damage that occurred on the trip up from Tahiti.

There were a number of small parts to pull together – a second set of jib sheets and J-Locks, replacement furling line plus a new furling line, a way to lead the no. 4 jib sheets to the cockpit winches, Spectra watermaker filters, and various other bits and pieces.


The Tylska J-Llocks are eye-spliced to the spectra sheets, and the polyester covered is pulled up to the J-Lock. I tried several times to make tiny eye splices using the full cover and couldn’t get it to work well – so I went back to stripping the cover out of the way and used in Brummel splices around the J-Locks. The splice is stitched and whipped, then the cover stitched into place on top of that.

Fortunately for me, Jim and Munch at North Sails were willing to accept delivery of equipment and hold them for me in their shop, as otherwise I don’t yet have a delivery address for boxes.  Schaefer shipped their roller furler over, I sent over some boxes, with the idea that I could rent a car for a day and run around Honolulu to collect the things I needed.  I flew in Tuesday evening on Hawaiian Airlines – that’s a fine airline with reasonable ticket prices but they charge extra for each piece of luggage you want to bring with you, which begs the question: how many people actually fly to Hawaii with no suit cases?  Upshot is you have to add $60 to the ticket price to know what the ticket costs, which seems silly.

I’m also getting better at polishing stainless steel.   The bar of metal I purchased is straight from the mill and not at all smooth (that’s why it’s called a mill finish).   The basic approach is to use a 4-1/2″ angle grinder and 40 grit flap disc to grind down and remove the surface pits from the mill, switch to 60 grit flap disc and remove the 40 grit scratches.  Switch over to my random orbital sander and run through paper weights of 80, 120, 150, 220.  That is where the time goes, as the random orbital doesn’t work quickly.  Aluminum oxide or ceramic grit is your friend when trying to cut 316 stainless.

After that it goes quickly when you get to switch back to the angle grinder and buffing compounds – at 10,000 RPM the buffing happens quickly!  I’ve got three sets of abrasive material that is put onto the spinning nylon pads – an E5 Emery (black) is very abrasive and knocks out the 220 scratches, the SCR for stainless (white) is less aggressive and leaves a rather shiny metal.  I’m waiting until after drilling the holes before finishing the polish with the GRN (green rouge).  The idea is to minimize (or remove entirely) any pits in the metal that can become starting points for crevice corrosion – the smoother the metal the fewer pits there are.  I couldn’t find any electropolishing companies in Honolulu, so I’m on my own with my sand papers and polishing compounds.  I also had to purchase a new 4-1/2″ angle grinder as my existing Makita grinder does not have a 5/8″-11 thread arbor – the Makita uses a clamp mechanism on a 5/8″ unthreaded/smooth arbor and I couldn’t find flap discs or buffing pads that were unthreaded – everything in the stores here is set up for a threaded arbor.  So now Beetle has a new DeWalt grinder – at least it’s no bigger than the Makita unit and fits into the watertight tool box on board.


Making metal smooth and shiny is not so difficult, but it does take time. Each time the metal is sanded it gets so hot that you can’t hold it and have to wait several hours for it to cool down again. Mario was right – if the metal isn’t heating up then you’re not moving any material around and you’re not polishing.

On a non-boat-project note, the huge carbon fiber race boat Rio 100 was in the harbor, across at the Waikiki Yacht Club.  Ronnie (SSS TransPac racer) was invited to help deliver the boat to Southern California as part of their crew of 9, which is about half of what the boat races with.  I got to visit the boat in the dark as they were preparing to get underway, it’s amazing to see what one can do with a lot of time and effort to produce a lightweight super strong machine.  The trash can is even carbon fiber, as is most everything else on the boat.  I forgot to check if the galley sink is carbon or steel.  There is a cylindrical shower stall forward of the mast, it’s filled with running rigging.


The nav station is located aft under the cockpit floor. The cockpit is on the order of 50 feet long, so there is a lot of room underneath.


The port side runner winch is custom built to spin backwards, presumably to keep the line lead fair. This is exactly the opposite of what anyone would expect. To combat this, there’s a giant arrow taped to the top of the winch to remind people which way this particular winch operates.

It’s time to get back to my projects.   I’m waiting for the standing rigging from Ballenger and the new no. 2 headsail from Hood, that will be fun when those parts get here.  I’ve got lots to do in the meantime!

– rob


Busy in Ala Wai

There’s been a fair bit of work done on Beetle over the last couple of weeks while side-tied in the marina of Ala Wai Harbor.


The crack in the weld is appears right at the edge of the bead where the race comes in the weld-fill material. Conveniently the solid brace had not separated from the hollow vertical stanchion.

I was polishing out the on-deck stainless steel using an old sock and the Brasso compound when I noticed a crack in the starboard lifeline gate at the forward stanchion brace.  That’s not so good.  OK, who around here welds stainless?  The brace has holes thru the bottom that bolt into the deck, if the brace breaks away from the stanchion then welding the curved brace back onto the vertical stanchion becomes more difficult as the hole alignment comes into play – the first time this happened (to port brace on the aft gate) Mario had to bring his welding equipment to the boat to repair the weld while maintaining alignment.  I wanted to get the cracked fitting to a welder before it came apart entirely.

While looking for a welder I was simultaneously in search of replacement filters for the Spectra watermaker.  I telephoned Spectra in Sausalito and found a fellow in Oahu that is the local representative, only he didn’t have the filters in stock – the watermaker runs the incoming seawater through a 20 micron filter followed up by a 5 micron filter, you want to replace both filters at the same time.  He thought he might have them in a week.  While on the phone I asked if he had any recommendations for a local welder, and he said absolutely, you want Josh over at Keehi Marine and gave Josh’s phone number to me.


The North Sails loft in Honolulu has a raised large flat work area, big enough to accommodate Beetle’s no. 2 genoa. Industrial-size sewing machines are set around the perimeter, making it possible to move the sailcloth through the machines without having to lift the weight of the sail just to fit into the machine.

While this was going on I also wanted to get someone to work on the no. 2 genoa with the small tear in the foot.  A long time ago Hood Sails had a loft over here somewhere, but a web search did not turn up the Hood loft.  Perhaps they were no longer here?  I telephoned Robin at the Hood loft in Sausalito – Robin has designed and built the sails on Tiger Beetle and if there was a loft out this way he’d know about it; failing that, he might have a recommendation for a repair loft around Honolulu.  Turns out the old loft was no more, and Robin told me to call Fuzz and Munch at the North Sails loft up the road, they’d do a fine job on the jib.  That’s an interesting assortment of names, called them, met a third fellow named Jim on the phone – and they’d be happy to work on the sail.  Trick was to get them to come down and look at the jib on the furler so I could demonstrate the problem and they could come up with a good fix.

And then it was Friday, and Ronnie mentioned that if I wanted to get out on the Hawaii Yacht Club beer can race I should go visit the TP52 Loco Motion – they usually have tons of room to take folks out.  I’m not accustomed to walking up to a boat and asking for a ride, but there were lots of people beavering away on the big red machine, taking covers off the pedestal grinders, removing boat covers, laying out the sails, organizing halyards, jib sheets, all the things one does to get a large boat ready to race.  The folks on board said absolutely, come on board! – I hopped back to Beetle to fetch my hat and change shoes, and wandered down below on Loco to say hello to the owner – he was busy at the nav desk squished in behind the companionway steps, working with a laptop computer to recalibrate some of the instruments.

Turns out John had just purchased Loco Motion, and he and his crew were learning the boat and figuring out what it would do.  It’s darn interesting to see a boat that was state-of-the-art a decade ago, still competitive today, it’s a carbon fiber racing machine with nothing on it that does not make it go faster.  A lot of equipment I’ve read about or seen pictures of was suddenly there on display right in front of me – masthead halyard locks with little trip lines coming out at the base of the mast, the mainsail halyard actually exits inside the boat and to raise the main you lead the halyard out through the companionway to one of the on-deck three speed winches cross-linked to the pedestal grinders, floating ring jib sheet system (an athwartship track above which floats a low-friction metal ring through which the jib sheet runs), hydraulic ram at the mast base to jack up the mast and tension the rigging prior to leaving the dock, another ram at the base of the headstay for tensioning the headstay (and a read-out on the B&G instruments in the cockpit so you could see how many tons were on the headstay), lots of control lines that disappeared into the deck, the mast, or the cockpit floor and then would re-appeared somewhere else so they could be tugged on and locked off.

Hawaii YC starts their races in reverse PHRF order, slowest boats out first through the narrow channel and out into the semi-protected waters off Ala Wai.  The course is to the red buoy off Diamond Head, and when we get going it’s getting dark, the breeze is up and we’re jib reaching at 14 knots into the 5 foot swell wrapping around the from the inter-island channel.  At least it’s warm as we charge through the fleet, round the mark and zoom back while peering forward into the dark to spot slower boats that we’re moving through as we look for the buoys and unlit day marks identifying the entrance through the reef and back into Ala Wai.  We almost run over a Soling that had no running lights, they light up their mainsail with a big flashlight as we go by – that was nice as otherwise they were invisible on the water.  I think we finished third, maybe, and only broke the boom vang block system that parted with a rifle-shot sound as we impacted one of the bigger waves on the way out to Diamond Head.


JS Marine is a one-man shop in a wonderfully full-of-bits-and-pieces shop under a tin metal roof in the corner of the Keehi Marine yard. Josh has my stanchion clamped to his welding table and is adding metal to the cracked weld. He even has his own fork lift for the heavy stuff.

One handy feature of sailing on Loco Motion is I met Arlen, the bowman on the boat – and turns out he and his brother have a machine shop at their place out near Kaneohoe on the other side of the island.  I was looking for a shop with an arbor press for purposes of replacing the AirX wind generator bearings, and Arlen said he’d be happy to help with that.  And a couple of days later he was in Honolulu for a meeting and afterwards stopped by Beetle and off we went to his shop.  Neat place, set on a couple of acres of property with lots of green trees, banana trees, various food plants, and the shop.

We used his 20 ton hydraulic press to nudge the shaft bearings out of the face plate, and the new bearings dropped in with just some careful finger pressure.  We ran into trouble with replacing the yaw bearing.  The instructions say to whack the protruding slip ring electrical contact stack with a rubber hammer to drop the yaw mechanism free from the bearing, then using a bearing puller to remove the bearing.  That didn’t sound too good, particularly as we’re trying to hit something standing up inside the aluminum housing of the wind generator – so we can’t strike down axially, plus there’s a relatively delicate circuit board just aft of the stack.  Even after removing the board and having at with various tools, we couldn’t get the yaw mechanism to budge.


Arlen’s shop is out back on the property, and they’re building micro-houses at the moment. Lots of welding going on, and plenty of spare bits of 6×6 and 4×4 wood to construct supports for the wind generator so we could put it under the press.

Our workbench was simply the back of a truck, which turned out to be a good height to work from.  Later I telephoned Primus Wind Power in Colorado (they purchased the AirX wind generator business from Southwest Windpower) to ask after how they remove the yaw structure from the wind generator body – after all, I was using their written instructions and we hadn’t made the thing move.  Turns out that they have built a cantilever press jig that allows them to reach into the generator body and place a metal bar on top of the copper discs, then use the press to push down on the arm from outside of the body – this way the arm reaching in can press axially and drive the yaw out of the bearing.  I may be able to do this with some C-clamps on Beetle’s workbench; failing that, I’ll be hoping to get back out to Arlen’s shop and do that with his press.


A flat bed stake truck makes a fine work bench for operating on the internals of wind generators, particularly when it is daylight, warm, and not raining.

Meantime I’ve also been visiting the local laundromats to wash clothes, pillows, and bedding.  There are two I’ve been to so far, one is small and clean and tidy and definitely where the hip crowd likes to go; the other is larger, darker, and more difficult to find – it’s also mostly empty.  The more useful laundry is definitely the darker one, many more machines in different sizes, and no lines to use them.   I figured out a way to lash pillows and larger bedding to the outside of my backpack and can ride my bike over to the laundromat – probably safer too if I fall off, as I’d land on a large stack of soft stuff.


The fancy laundromat, despite the homeless folks hanging around outside. This is the place to be seen if you live in one of the fancy high-rise buildings in the area.


This is the better place to actually get your laundry done. Definitely darker and hidden away down an alley, it seems to not be the hip place to be seen but sure has good machines.

The fellow with the Spectra watermaker filters never called me back, so I went and changed filters any way and pickled the watermaker with SC1 compound to protect the membrane.  I will purchase the filters when I am in the SF Bay Area.  It was a bit of a struggle to get the fellows from North Sails to come over and look at the sail on the boat, but Jim finally made some time, came up with some ideas, and I dropped and bagged the sail.  Two days later Jim was back with the van and we ran the sail and my bicycle across to their shop and laid it out on the floor.  Despite 14 years of use and abuse, the Hood spectra genoa has held up wonderfully – the only repair is to the small tear in the foot, and Jim is going to enlarge the tack patch to include the area out to and slightly beyond the tear.

In the meantime I’ve also changed out engine oil, discovered it’s not easy to find Chevron’s Havoline ATF Mercon V transmission fluid  for the Hurth HBW-150V transmission, had a two hour education in all the varieties of transmission fluid, exchanged information with ZF Marine (they make the transmission), and finally telephoned the Chevron Oahu distributor – they will be bringing a case of ATF just for me!  Turns out that transmissions with disc clutches, such as the Hurth I have, do not like slippery ATF – the much prefer a stickier fluid that will grab the adjacent disc rather than a slippery fluid that allows the discs to slip past each other.  Apparently Mercon V formulation is such a sticky formula, and now I’ve found some.

All in all a busy time, lots got done, a couple of good evenings at the Hawaii Yacht Club with Ronnie and the beer can racers, and Beetle is looking good.

– rob