Day 760 [Nov. 1/10 JST] -- Hawaii repairs update: More mysteries

Today's Report
November 1/10 JST

Position:  21°17'N, 157°53'W (Honolulu) 

Remaining distance to Yokohama finish:  13.4%

The saga continues.

We've been waiting for a point in the Hawaii repairs process to make an announcement on the departure date, but it remains elusive. Despite the continuing heroic efforts by our selfless volunteers, it seems that as one issue gets addressed, another three or four are revealed.

Money has been short, so as one pricy repair has been done, the next could then be tackled. Volunteer help has far reduced what would have been paid out, but repair parts, slip fees, and some professional services are now more than $10,000 (either already paid out or estimated), and mounting.

In recent weeks the degraded condition of the rigging and mast has given particular alarm. We were fortunate a few weeks ago to receive a generous donation from Harken Inc., on replacement of key parts of the jib furling system, for which we are hugely grateful. After that, it became obvious as well that the staysail furler needed key replacement parts, and so those have been ordered and are to arrive soon.

Inspections revealed that the welding repair on the mast failed during the first attempt to leave Hawaii. Shockingly, cracks reappeared at three of the four corners of the staysail halyard box in the area that had been professionally welded to repair earlier stress fractures, raising the prospect that rig tension was far greater than had been supposed. There is now little doubt that the mast was within a few days or even hours of snapping.

One theory is that the vessel's steel sides were oil-canned during the pounding NBSDIII received by much larger fishing boats in Punta Arenas, forcing the side plates to buckle and causing a huge strain on the rigging. This strain eventually showed itself in various ways, including cracks in fittings, furling drum turning difficulty, failed attachment pins, and those near-disastrous mast cracks. Proof of this over-tensioning became obvious when chief volunteer Dave Cooper was forced to resort to cutting through the seized starboard forward lower shroud with a power cutting tool and the shroud suddenly released with "quite a bang," he said.

A metal brace, referred to as a "mast plate doubler," was fabricated in New Zealand by the original mast-maker and delivered last week. This is now being attached in a painstaking process by Dave, requiring numerous trips up and down the mast, assisted by Saito-san and others. We hope to get pictures of the mast doubler soon, but you'll be about right if you think of a leg cast cut vertically in half, then carried aloft to be reassembled and attached with tapping screws and marine epoxy. With proper rig tension it is felt this should be enough for the return to Japan under reduced sails.

Meanwhile another mystery has developed around what's been found inside the fuel tanks. One of the tanks has been opened for inspection, the one that serves as the vessel's "day" tank, while there are three other tanks that feed the day tank as it becomes depleted. Up until Chile the fuel had been fine, with no evidence of fuel contamination. After departing, it was clear that the fuel had somehow become badly fouled, as one filter after another was used by Saito-san in an effort to keep the main engine and the auxiliary generator going. His first attempt to leave Chile was aborted when the engine gradually lost power and stopped working.

On opening the day tank, Dave a few days ago reported the following, after commenting that bad weather had temporarily halted work on the rigging and mast:

In light of the [weather] wash-out Saito-san and I decided to tackle the stbd tank cleaning. Pumped the fuel into the 55 gal jugs on deck and opened the manhole. We could see this tank is filled with a mud-like substance which coats almost all the surfaces. What exactly it is and where it came from can’t be determined but Saito-san keeps referring to Chile. Whatever it is it will be a job to get it out, cleaned, new manhole gasket made and cover back on. However I now see why he has had a “fuel problem.”

This picture shows the amount of sediment in the primary fuel filter.

This morning Saito-san reported that the tank has now been cleaned, with the assistance of Dave and a new volunteer, a Japanese cruiser by the name of Mr. Takita, who arrived in his own boat several weeks ago from Japan and will return in the spring.

Saito-san said earlier this week that he cannot predict for sure when everything will be ready, but is hoping for as early as a mid-November departure. "We can't rush it," he said again this morning, "because we have to do it one thing at a time and get it right."

Meanwhile, we've also been waiting for an all-clear on the weather front. The typhoon that went past Tokyo last night was a strong reminder that the boat must be in better than good shape before she departs Hawaii.