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


Two weeks in Ala Wai Harbor

It’s been two weeks now since Beetle has arrived, and all is going well.  Kristen has flown over from California and was here in time for Thanksgiving dinner; we did this at the Mac 24/7 restaurant nearby that sets up a buffet with all kinds of good stuff – eat as much as you’d enjoy while choosing from a wide variety of foods – worked out great.

Kristen comes bearing Yacht Club membership (Island YC, in Alameda) and armed with her card we walked the short distance over to the Hawaii YC to see Giovani Soldini’s Maserati – and immediately ran into Nate, the fellow who has the boat tied up to the dock ahead of me.  Turns out it’s an entirely different environment when meeting people in the yacht club as opposed to meeting them out on the docks.  On the docks you’re wary of whom you’re talking to and do not share information, primarily because petty theft is reported to be rampant in Oahu and therefore you simply keep to yourself.  In the yacht club it’s quite different, we’re all boaters and lots of stories flowed.


Maserati hanging out on the aloha dock at HYC, awaiting arrival of the crew to sail to Hong Kong. They are planning to depart on Sunday. These boats are wicked-fast, and this one has foils to go even faster.

Kristen then ran into another SSS TransPac veteran, Ronnie Simpson – he had just come in from the Friday night races where he crewed on a Hobie 33 and they had a great race, he was quite happy with how he did and it was super to run into him there at a table out on the surrounding veranda of the club’s upstairs.  He typically crews on the TransPac 52 Locomotion, but they didn’t sail this Friday and apparently a bunch of that crew went out on the Hobie and had lots of fun.


Ronnie – a Marine injured in the Iraq War where he was blown up – he’s an amazing guy that’s been there done that, and there he was at Hawaii YC, most fun!

We met the Matteo from Italy, he’s part of the Soldini campaign looked quite elegant in his fancy Maserati shirt; he’s onboard for moving the MOD 70 to Hong Kong but wont’ be on board for the record attempt back to England.  Fun guy, lots to do for getting out of here and zipping across to there.

Today (Saturday) we went over to Pearl Harbor and got to see the US Navy submarine Bowfin – a decomissioned World War II boat that is now moored in Pearl Harbor as as museum – a very interesting tour through a tiny space.  There’s an adjacent rather large building that houses a submariner museum dedicated to the underwater boats, this houses the bulk of the display as the submarine itself, while big at 311 feet long is super narrow and teeny tiny insde, stuffed with equipment and therefore no room to house a museum – that’s what the external building is for.  Kristen’s brother Billy spent five years in the US Navy and served on the USS Ray attack submarine, and his submarine’s logo & patch was there in the Bowfin museum in Pearl Harbor – pretty neat!


The Bowfin bow torpedo tubes, the entire boat is stuffed with gear, much of it polished to a mirror-finish by the Park Service crew that mans the boat today so the public can see what it was like in World War II.


Included on-board are instructions on the care and feeding of your torpedos. Should one be concerned that the torpedo might not be quite up to snuff, definitely reference to this posted information would be helpful.


The Bowfin at rest in Pearl Harbor. This is a particularly well-done exhibit, with an audio headset soundtrack to go along with the artifacts that you are observing while moving through the boat.


This is the submariner patch from Billy’s boat, SSN 653, right there uner the display case in the museum – a nuclear powered attack sub (Sturgeon Class) – that he served on. Pretty amazing boat, he’s had some great stories that I probably can’t repeat, you’ll just have to ask him.

Kristen has a rental Prius car, so we’ve also been able to get out and around and explore more of Oahu than I am able to by bicycle, we’ve been out to Waimea Beach (think of the Beach Boy’s song), and also over to Sunset Beach down from the Pipeline to see them preparing for the Van’s surfing contest – lots of trailers, power generators, big television cameras, all that was interesting.  Also checked out a Zippy’s diner restaurant for the down-home Hawaiian experience though it wouldn’t be out of place in any city in the world, they have good food at good prices… and speaking of prices, there is a local large Japanese market/store called Don Quixote that remind me a lot of a smaller Walmart built around Japanese products, only it is located here in Ala Wai.  Lots of things imported from Japan that I could not figure out what they were, and their beer buyer is particularly excellent as he (or she) has brought in an enormous variety of goodies from around the world.  And I now have two Don Quixote plastic shopping bags.  Turns out that in Hawaii they discourage you from single-use plastic bags and instead you get solid sturdy plastic bags for 10 cents each and re-use them, only I am informed that never be seen carrying around an ABC store bag – those are for tourists!


Waimea Bay has lots of breeze today, what with the reinforced tradewinds courtesy of a front just to the east and a High pressure system building to the northwest. The lifeguards had signs out saying NO SWIMMING (and apparently swimming means folks without dive fins)… lots of sideways undertow in the waves as they hit the beach.

On board Beetle the big project was cleaning out the water tanks.  The tankage has been producing sediment and small specks in the water that made me suspicious, and one of the projects while in Ala Wai is to empty and clean the tanks.  I suspect that by not using chlorinated city water in the tanks for the last four years has allowed critters to consider growing in the pure Spectra watermaker-produced water, so time to clean out tanks.  This involves pulling apart the port and starboard settee/dinette in the middle of the boat in order to access the tank ports, pull the ports and go into the tanks with nylon abrasive pads, 5% bleach, and lots of water to dilute everything.  I did a bit of research on bleach and the resulting free chlorine in the water that does the work for you.  At least in Honolulu, the water is chlorinated at 0.1 to 0.5 PPM; a swimming pool is chlorinated to 1-3ppm, and to sanitize a water tank you want 50 PPM for four hours – then dump the water and replace.  I went through four water exchanges following the 50 PPM chlorine application, and removed a bunch of aluminum oxide from the interior of the three tanks – seems the alluminum inspection port backing plates have definitely had some corrosion issues and dropped some material in to the tanks, and that was good to get rid of.  When that was all done, new water flushed through, the water on board is looking and tasting good again.  Next step is to install a Shurflo activated carbon water filter ahead of the pumps – this will filter all the water coming into the system and keep crud out, that will be a good thing.

So that’s what has been happening here.  I’ve spent three afternoons at the AT&T store using their nice upload speeds to move imagery to Zenfolio, each hour there I can move what would have taken 80 hours on the public library network – so far I’m ahead 280 hours, and that’s a lot of hours.  It is nice to move data at 30-40 Mbps (that’s bits, not bytes), and while not a fast network from a business perspective, it is freely available as long as you’re willing to sit in front of the AT&T store at hat Ala Moan shopping center – that’s very nice of AT&T to make that available.

All is well here tonight, Nate (the neighbor) is cooking up enchiladas at Hawaii YC tonight, Kristen and I will be there later tonight to partake.

– rob


Friday morning in Waikiki

Good morning –

It’s another very pleasant day here in Ala Wai Harbor, Waikiki, Oahu – the Hawaiian islands are a fine place to be during the winter months, particularly as they do not have typhoon or hurricanes at this time of year – though it may rain a bit.  Always check your typhoons and hurricanes forecast before purchasing airplane tickets to anywhere warm that is furthern than 10 degrees latitude from the equator, at least that would be my recommendation.


Every boat should have a small bicycle to go with it, especially if you can fold the bike in half and stick it down below where it is out of the way and protected from waves. Having wheels to get about sure expands the area one can easily explore.,

I have a new transport device, namely one Dahon Mariner D8  bicycle.  It has tiny little 20″ tires and looks somewhat reminiscent of a circus bike, with the handy feature that it can be folded in half and stored in  relatively small spaces, such as are found on board Tiger Beetle.  The convenience factor is significant, a bike makes most places within five miles a reasonable run, as compared to walking in which a 2.8 mile walk in the Hawaii heat, humidity, and sun something of a wish-you-had-taken-the-bus run by the time you reach the destination, and you still have the return route to traverse.  The bike is a game-changer for that circumstance as your feet aren’t sore from walking on concrete when you arrive and it didn’t take an hour to get there.  Which leads to the my visit to US Customs at Pier 1 to complete my yacht check-in to the USA.

The US Customs lady that visited Beetle on Saturday (the day I arrived) checked me in and told me I needed to telephone the main Customs office at Pier 1 to arrange a time to go there and complete my check-in.  I had no idea what I hadn’t done nor why the agent in front of me standing on the dock in Ala Wai couldn’t complete my check-in, but apparently you’re not done until you go to Pier 1 and do whatever it is they ask you to do.  So I telephone Pier 1.  I need to be there before 2:30PM as that’s when they stop dealing with small boats, bring funds to pay for my $27.50 US Customs CBP Decal that I’m supposed to affix to my boat adjacent to the entry way.  I ask about directions from Ala Wai, she thinks a moment and says it’s a long way, take a cab.

I decide to check out Google Maps and see how far this place really is.  I also decide to pull the AquaSignal Series 40 bicolor bow nav light that has died and take it with me as West Marine might have one, never know, and West Marine is out that direction somewhere.  Google Maps declares it is 2.8 miles from Ala Wai to Customs.  I compare this to my stroll over to the Ala Moana Center to visit AT&T, that was 1.4 miles – I can easily double that distance and hit Customs, plus see the waterfront I haven’t been along before.

Turns out that 2.8 miles isn’t quite accurate, and more importantly Google Maps doesn’t account for heat index.  I have a nice reasonably brisk walk, it’s an interesting waterfront.  And I don’t seem to be getting any closer, despite passing the shopping center a while back.  I check directions on the smartphone, it’s still a long way off.  The dark asphalt street is hot, reflecting heat back up at me.  I forgot to bring a water bottle – hmm…  I eventually appear in front of a sign stating US Department of Homeland Security, walk up to the enormous barred iron gates painted green that span the entire front of a mid-size building… and they’re locked.  I can hear someone speaking on the other side through the bars, so I call out, “Is US Customs inside?  Can you let me in?”  A fellow in a uniform pokes his nose out and says, “Uh… Customs is around the side towards this rear.  This is Deporation, I can’t let you in.”  Ah… that would explain the few people speaking on their cellular telephones in various foreign languages while hanging around in front of the giant green gates – perhaps they know someone on the other side of that gate.  I decide I prefer being on the outside of this particular gate.  I walk around back.

Around back turns out to be a half mile walk out over more hot black asphalt to the commercial port Pier 1, to talk with a guard at the container truck entry, he points out where Customs is (the white one-story building back there, he points), takes my Washington state drivers license and signs me in on his clipboard, and off I go, though I’m asked to walk on the other side of the green fence within the yellow painted lines so I don’t get run over by a truck.  There isn’t a lot of truck traffic at the moment, I feel fairly safe doing this.

Inside the small structure structure through the blue door to your left is a little desk with a small silver bell on it, the sign says, “Hit bell twice if you are small vessel reporting…” so I do.  A lady pops up and I asked her, “Do you have a  glass of water I can have?”  I explain who I am and why I am there, turns out I spoke with her on the phone, and she brings to me a fancy bottled water straight from the fridge.  I fill out several forms intended for merchant marine cargo ships that want to know whether or not my cargo was hazardous, where I picked it up, lists of all crew on board, it’s a full-on commercial cargo ship entry that I’ve walked into.  She crosses off (or writes ‘NIL’ in several spaces) and I start filling out forms between drinks of nice cold water.  She wanders off.  A while later I’m done, I consider pressing the  bell again (twice) when another person wearing a blue Customs uniform and a gun (but not a bullet proof vest, that would cook these people) walks in and asks why I am there?  I point at the forms.  He rings the bell twice and walks off into the interior of the office and my friend re-emerges.  “All done?”  Indeedy do.  She proceeds to stamp things, make copies, send faxes, record things in computers, send email… and I’m done!  Wow!  That completes Beetle’s entry into the USA, and CBP will send (first class) my Decal to Washington state within 5-6 weeks.  Maybe it will actually show up?  She asks if I’m taking a cab back to Ala Wai (hint, hint, it’s hot outside) and she points out there is a bus that goes that way directly in front of their place.  I decide to try the bus.

Once back outside, no need to sign out the with guard at the road gate, which is odd as he wrote down the time-in but didn’t write down the time-out, I hit the bench in front of the Deportation and telephone West Marine, they are only 0.8 miles further up Ala Moana Blvd.  Yes, the girl on the telephone determines that they should have FIVE of the AquaSignal Series 40 bicolor nav lights, she hits the shelves and returns with one in hand.  I tell her to look for the person with a bright green SSS t-shirt, that’s me.  She tells me that she thinks it’s a lot further than 0.8 miles from US Customs to their store.  I decide to walk anyway.  She’s correct.   My feet are defintely getting a work-out, I purchase the complete new lens & bulb & bulb mount & bracket AquaSignal nav light and depart the store with instructions on how to find the bus (go around back, cross the park with the homeless people in it, look for the China-type architecture and you’re in Chinatown, first road is King Street, every bus going there will probably go towards Ala Wai Harbor).

I depart the store and promptly get lost, wander around for a couple of blocks and find the homeless people, then find Chinatown beyond them, but I missed the all-important feature of the bus stop.  I can’t find one.  I decide to walk towards Ala Wai in search of a bus-stop, this was probably a mistake as the bus stop was one block behind me.  I walked 8 blocks the other direction.  Chinatown is an interesting place, lots of signs in Chinese, tons of food markets, they clearly like Chinese food here.  Eventually I find a bus stop and I have no idea which bus I want; the first two that stop say, “Nope – don’t go there” and depart.  Third or fourth bus says, “We get close.  Step in!”  Off we go.  Past Ala Moana Center (now walking needed, very cool), over the Ala Wai river, and start to head east (!) away from the Marina.  I’ve had 25 minutes on the bus to observe this and have been tracking our progress on my Google Maps feature of my phone, and figure out I want the next stop.  The drive, amazingly enough, has remember that I want this stop also, he pulls the bus over, looks at me, points, and says, “You want off – Ala Wai is that way!”  Super nice guy.

I’ll skip ahead, the next morning I swapped out light fixtures in the bow pulpit, which involved trimming back 12vDC Ancor wire, removing corrosion from the stripped copper with the Dremel tool and a wire wheel brush, Nav lights are all up again and running – I’ll want that for my marina inspection in the morning.   I do my own inspection based on the marina’s check-list, find that I have in-date flares (three SOLAS parachutes), and put an oil-absorbent pad under the engine ’cause the checklist says they’re going to look for one.


The security guys at WalMart wouldn’t let me bring the bicycle in, and theft is a significant concern on Oahu. They were amazed when I folded the bicycle up and put it in the shopping cart. Limits the quantity of groceries that fit in the cart, limits the ability of anyone else to borrow your bicycle without asking permission.

Since that’s all done, I call up Eki Cyclery – they are a family-owned and operated for 106 yeras now, all started by their grandfather Toichi, and the grand kids continue to operate the store – most amazing.  Eki is a Dahon dealer and has the Dahon Mariner D8 bicycle, a folding bicycle that is supposed to be ‘marinized’ or at least not rust as fast as the average bike.  People seem to really like them (or have the exact opposite feeling about the bikes), I rode one 12 years previously in Oakland and it was shakey and I didn’t like it, so I didn’t purchase one.  I decide to try one today, Dahon is up to the D8 (meaning it now has an eighth gear, one up from the D7), and indeed the grandkid at Eki says they have one on the floor, come on over.  This time I take the bus, it is a lot further than West Marine – I’m not walking that far.  Bus is pretty neat, quick, clean, and Eki does have the D8.  The lady and I (I can’t really call her a grand kid as she’s significantly older than I am) go through the bike, she explains how it all works, demonstrates the folding mechanism, I go ride it around the parking lot.  The bicycle behaves entirely unlike as it did 12 years ago – this is now a solid machine without wobbly hinges and soft bendy handle bars – this is a real bicycle that is solid, fits my frame (slide seat back 1/2″, lower handle bars slightly) and it’s great.  I purchase it.  I ride home to Beetle on it.  This is very cool.  So now I have shore-side wheels as-needed, and the machine folds up quite nicely into a fairly large package but it will fit down below.  Next step is to figure out where and how to stow it.  There are several places it could go, I’m just working on which is the best spot.

And finally yesterday (Wednesday) it worked out that my Uncle Richard and is lovely daughter Megan are on the island at the moment, and they were able to make the time to come over and visit Beetle and me.  It was super to see them, I suspect it has been a long time since I’ve seen either (I believe Megan was a baby girl when last I saw her).  Mucho fun.  They got to see the boat and then Uncle Richard treated us to hamburgers up the road at a great brew pub with a fine Aloha Amber on tap.  (And this place actually brews the beer right there on premises.)  Good stuff!


Uncle Richard happened to be in town, he was able to stop by and visit Beetle. That’s his grand daughter, she was not too sure what to make of the boat. And there are large hotels in the background – they are good lightning protection for boats in the marina.

That brings us up to more or less current affairs.  More things have happened that can wiat for another day, finished the marina check-in and buoy run out to No. 1 Green Mark and back, insurance papers have arrived and were given to the marina, all is good.

Enjoy the afternoon!

– rob


Getting organized in Ala Wai, Honolulu

Good morning –

it’s been a busy two days now that I’ve landed in Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu.

First stop was at the AT&T store to get SIM cards for my telephone and Sierra Wireless air card, and sign up for service – that’s done, I have a telephone again along with internet access. In theory my setup with Google Voice will allow people to dial my original phone number and that person’s call will ring through to the handset I have – haven’t tested this yet, that will be coming shortly. I ported by original long time phone number from AT&T to Google Voice, and then shut down my AT&T account. The telephone SIM card I picked up yesterday has a different phone number attached to it, I brought up my Google Voice account, entered the new phone number, and ticked the box for ‘forward calls to’ – that ought to do the trick.

Then I walked over to WalMart and found some Fat Tire amber ale (awesome!) and some Dr. Pepper (great!) thten promptly retired to the boat and went to sleep. I’m still on a goofy sleep pattern which is slowly sorting itself out, so tend to go to sleep super early and wake up super early. The first night in the harbor I woke up at 4AM and went topside to check the sail trim and make sure we were on course… and realized Beetle was tied to the dock.

This morning I bound the Hawaii-required liability insurance with Boat US, that’s taken care of. I also visited the Harbor Master’s office and met Keri, very nice person, I’ve now got a shower key and a temporary mooring permit good for a week. On Wednesday we’re having a boat inspection and will do the required buoy run to demonstrate that Tiger Beetle is operational. After that I should get a mooring permit good for longer. Very nice people at the office, most helpful. There isn’t an on-site laundry machine or facility, but there is a laundromat three blocks away next to the 7-11, or so I am told. I will walk by there on my way to Customs to check it out.

Next thing up this morning is to telephone US Customs over at the main Port and sort out what I need to do with them to complete my Customs stuff. The US Customs lady on Saturday told me I needed to call the Port and go visit them today (Monday). Now that I have a telephone, I can!

I’m still working off the sleep-deprivation and getting oriented to a wholly different environment, which is kind of fun. There’s lots to see here, the people are nice, I’m impressed.

Time to call US Customs and see what I can do for them.

– rob

Beetle has arrived in Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu

It’s a good trip that finishes without a lot of broken gear, and this has been a good trip in that regard. Damages underway consist of: masthead tricolor bulb or fixture went out, and mini-bilge pump is not properly sucking water up out of the bilge. Not bad at all. I’ll take it.

Today was another exercise in getting run over by squalls right up to the very end – at which time it was simply raining and I became wet through and through. The morning started well, a calm patch where the two winds coming in from the two channels meet, ok, so motor on – and in a short while I had the breeze for the channel south of Oahu. The forecast said 15 knots from the east, that was actually 25-35 knots from the east with 10-14′ seas as the squalls did their best to make sure it was as unpleasant as possible out there. Engine off, sails out, sails in, egad – it’s blowing 35 knots, sails in more. At that point I punted, rolled up the jib, left the main at third reef, and turned the engine on again – I could simply motor in and the squalls could do whatever they felt like, I didn’t care.

With all the moisture in the air there was very little visibility and in fact I didn’t see Diamond Head, the big tall point to the east of Ala Wai and which is a major landmark from offshore, I didn’t see it until 3 miles out. So that was landfall, a dark grey blob looming up out of the misty white rain. Not particularly impressive, but it was useful to have it visually to confirm that what I had been tracking for 10 miles on the radar and 30 miles on the chart plotter was actually the thing in front of the boat – and it was.

I was more than annoyed at that point, as the entire morning had been spent trying to get in some sleep, feeling the boat heel way over, reduce sail, boat stopped, get up to add sail, repeat. At least the trip would be over, that would be a positive.

Another annoying thing has been trying to find a schematic of Ala Wai Harbor – the Ala Wai Harbormaster certainly doesn’t list one, and in I came to their marina with no assistance from Ala Wai despite repeated questions via email as to what I was walking into. The best information I had was from Cinnabar after I mentioned that US Customs had told me to try for the Aloha dock (located somewhere in Ala Wai, the person I was talking wasn’t certain where that dock was and they didn’t have a map, either); Cinnabar said they thought it was the second dock on the right as you go in and it belongs to Hawaii Yacht Club. In I went, definitely a narrow channel to be in reasonable light despite all the nav-aids, and the second dock on the right was filled up by… Soldini’s Maserati trimaran sticking way out into the fairway and looking like it going 35 knots while standing still.

[as an aside, we’re having major lightning and associated thunder going by Honolulu at the moment – I’m much happier in here in the marina than I would be outside on the water. The tall high-rise hotels adjacent to the marina provide some level of lightning protection as in theory Beetle is located within the high-rise’s “safe zone”]

There were two sets of cruising boats rafted up three deep in front of Maserati, and that was it for the Aloha dock. On my pass around a fellow poked his head up out of a catamaran on the dock and told me the best place to go was up ahead, turn right at the catamaran, take a second right, and there would be a long empty dock on my right – tie up there. And he was right. Tied up, walked up to the Harbormaster’s office to read a sign taped to the door saying they are closed Friday-Sunday for Armistice Day observance. Walked back to the boat and telephoned US Customs, that took perhaps a dozen satellite telephone calls to get the information across as Iridium dropped the calls after 30-40 seconds; perhaps the high-rise buildings interfere with satellite connections?

An hour later Customs and Agriculture were both here, Beetle passed, and I need to go to the Customs office in the commercial port on Monday to pay for my CBP Decal and affix it to my boat. The nice Agents departed, I walked up to the ABC store and bought a sandwich and a Sapporo beer, and now I’m sitting here half-asleep in a very nice, non-moving, extremely quiet, ultra-modern-dock marina. Fun part is I didn’t fall over or have any trouble walking around – I usually don’t after a long trip, and this was no exception.

20 days on the water, something like 2670 miles covered, and we’re here. The maximum I slept at any one time was one hour over the 20 days, and while I would sleep every chance I had I also know it’s not good quality sleep. I’m quite tired at this point, and going to go to bed soon and get in a full night’s sleep. It sure does feel like San Diego here, about the same temperature, about the same humidity, except here has squalls and there doesn’t.

Good night.

– rob

Saturday morning, almost there

Good morning –

this particular Saturday morning finds Beetle up and about and scurrying across the lee waters of Molokai-Maui (which includes the islands Lanai and Kahoolawe). We’re getting a positive push from behind as the wrap-around wind and swell coming in through the Alenuihaha Channel and through to Beetle.

The weather forecast speaks of ‘rain showers’, I believe that can be translated as ‘squalls’. The forecast has called for lots of rain showers today, I’ve detected that rain tends to come from clouds, clouds with rain falling tend to have wind as well, and clouds with rain and wind are squalls. The weather people should speak of ‘lots of squalls’, that would be more accurate in my opinion.

Right now I’ve got 53 miles remaining to the entry channel into Ala Wai Harbor and I hope there is room at the Hawaii Yacht Club Aloha dock – that’s where I’m intending to fetch up and telephone US Customs to come on over. I’d like to be in no later than 6PM and at the speed Beetle has managed to maintain we should be in before dark. I still have the Penguin Bank to cross, a shallow bank relative to the surrounding deep water (25 fathoms dropping to 290 fathoms) and the Coast Pilot didn’t say anything particularly bad about the bank provided you aren’t right up against Laau Point of Molokai (rip currents and breakers there from two currents meeting at that point). Penguin Bank drops off into the Kaiwi Channel, the body of water between Oahu and Molokai. Hopefully that channel is not as bad as the channel between Maui and Hawaii – then I can keep speed up.

Last night was particularly nasty out here, primarily due to winds and seas coming in through the channel between Maui and Hawaii. The forecast was for 20 knots from the east *IN* the channel, and less out beyond the channel. Well, that was a failure to anticipate on the part of the forecaster. What actually happened was I motored out of the flat calm water to a hard-edged wind line with white caps just beyond it; I had found the wind poking in from the channel. Bang! – instant 18 knots of wind and a short sharp swell that felt a lot like a 4′ wake being thrown by a big heavy power boat going by at semi-planing speeds. A larger underlying swell at 6′ was rolling through, but it was the little swells that caused the banging and crashing.

OK, I can manage this, engine off, jib out a bit, wind fills in to a steady 25 knots topping out at 33, and sets up forward of the beam. I drop in the third reef and roll up the jib to slightly smaller than a storm jib and we start thumping along – at least we’re not hitting the big swell nose-on. The silly part is I’m 60 miles away from the channel – it must have been really bad for any boats in the channel. After perhaps an hour of this I had the sails and boat balanced out to where the autopilot wasn’t working hard, we had decent boat speed, and the sail plan could handle the higher wind gusts without straining. We just crashed along for 50 miles of this, white caps would strike the hull and fly up over the boat, took a lot water in the cockpit, and in general it was fairly icky. At least it completely black so you couldn’t see the squalls coming, you’d just hear the wind generator rev up as the wind built and you knew what was coming.

About 2AM I’d cleared the center of the channel and the winds were still up but shifted direction enough to ease sails and keep on trucking, now with the wind and seas slightly aft of the beam – that was a welcome relief as Beetle quieted down and sped up some. Still seeing 33-34 knots of wind, and that carried on for another 20 miles. Nice part was I woke up from one of my sleeps to discover the wind had dropped way off, the little swells had vanished, and I was going 5 knots down current even though boat speed was 4.5 knots – far out, we’re getting a push!

I looked at the distance to go, looked at the wind, looked at the squalls (on the radar), and decided to roll up the jib and put on the engine. We’re now powering along towards Ala Wai quite happily; assuming the Kaiwi Channel isn’t blowing 33 knots (ignoring the forecaster call for 15 from the east today), it looks good for arrival before dark this evening.

All right, time to check the deck to make sure everything , radio net is in an hour, I’ve already filled the day tank and pulled down morning weather. Oh, and it definitely looks like the GFS weather model is of no value around the islands – it doesn’t seem to understand channels and passes and islands. So I’m not downloading it as of this morning unless I’m interested in what the model thinks will be happening in the outer waters.

Will be nice to spot an island today, yesterday’s grey smudge wasn’t a particularly exciting landfall. Perhaps I will make landfall again today, this time with a real island that is green!

Enjoy the morning.

current position: 20 36’N x 157 22’W, course 326T @ 7.4 knots distance to go: 49 miles to Ala Wai Harbor, Oahu

– rob