Solving Problems

Miles traveled Day 21: 133
Miles traveled to date: 2,922
Miles to Fatu Hiva 234

I was going to title this posting “Port Townsend Rigging Sucks”, but that’s going to be pretty obvious as you read this. Today was not a typical day on passage – we’ve been motoring all day and Rob went up the mast late this afternoon.

One of the projects we had PT Rigging do when our mast was down was to run our spinnaker halyard inside the mast so it wouldn’t thwack the mast and make so much noise. They cut an opening at the top of the mast and another down above deck level and put the halyard inside. Sounds pretty simple. We only have one halyard and it hangs on the port side of the boat.

As we traveled down the west coast in the northern hemisphere we generally were on starboard tack, meaning the wind came across our starboard side and the spinnaker would fly off the port side of the boat. We only left it up overnight once, and that was on the Haha with Lee & Kathleen and we’re pretty sure it was on starboard tack as the prevailing winds would have been from our right side. Now that we’re in the southern hemisphere the tradewinds are southeasterly and we’re traveling southwest, so the wind is across our port side and the spinnaker flies on the starboard side of the boat.

The first few days out of the Galapagos we had the spinnaker up for 2 days on port tack and when the wind filled in we pulled it down and noticed really bad chafe on the halyard about 6′ from the top. We just assumed it was because we didn’t have it hoisted tight enough and it had rubbed on top of the roller furling. So we lopped of 6′ and all was well.

We hoisted it a couple of days ago and flew it on port tack again and sure enough, even though it was tight as a drum there it was chafed again 6′ down. Last night we thought we better check before it got dark and dropped it to have a look and the chafe was all the way though the cover and into the core. Now we were out of extra 6′ pieces to lop off. And we knew it had been tight.

What we realized was that the opening PT Rigging cut was not properly placed and when the halyard is not straight out of the hole the side of the opening is going to cut into the line. Well, it should be pretty easy to realize that the only time the halyard is going to be exactly straight out of the opening is on starboard tack. I can’t believe they messed this up so bad.

So now we have a halyard that we want to get out of the mast and don’t want to go aloft while underway. So we devised a plan this morning to run a messenger up with fishing weights. Theoretically when the weights passed through the block in front of the mast opening they would drop down between the mast and the block and the line would come down to the deck and we would have a way to thread the halyard into the block outside of the mast, as well as a messenger in the mast in case we wanted to put the halyard back in (although I’m not sure why we would).

So we tried with lightweight messenger lines and sure enough the weights would roll through the block and drop down and just sit there. There was apparently too much friction and not enough weight. So we added more weight and tried again. No joy. So we replaced the messenger line with fishing line on one side thinking it would reduce the friction across the block. Still it just hung, so we added more weights and hoisted one last time. Suddenly the weights are dropping towards the deck and then we out of messenger on one end. Just as we’re tying more messenger on the boat rolls and the weights wrap around the shroud above the spreaders. And around again. Rob spent an hour trying to untangle them and we finally gave up and hoisted him aloft. He untangled them and down to the deck they dropped as they should have before.

So now we have one halyard that is no longer internal and is too short to tie off away from the mast and it thwacks worse than it ever did before PT Rigging got involved. And we’re going to have to buy a new halyard in Papeete. The thing about PT Rigging that just makes me so crazy is that we were not paying them the $15/hour “I’m still reading the book” rate that we should have been; they were charging full rigger’s rates and just made so many mistakes like this from sheer inexperience.

In the end it was a good exercise and we know we don’t want to send Rob aloft underway again unless it’s really the last possible option. Our friend Jeff single-handed his Baba40 around Cape Horn earlier this year and had to get himself aloft in the Southern Ocean. We have no idea how he managed that.

Now we’ve got a halyard we can use again on port tack and the winds have dropped to 6 knots. So we’re going to motor tonight and see if they pick up again in the morning. We have a Saturday morning landfall planned in Fatu Hiva and enough fuel if we have to motor the rest of the way. Our friends found out today that the customs boat left the Tuamotos for Papeete and will be back in the Marquesas in two weeks so we have time to rest up in Fatu Hiva before we go to Hiva Oa to check in.