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!