Thursday, June 16, 2011

Haulout and Rigging Repairs for the Heart of Gold

For those of you who don't know, back in March I took the Heart of Gold to downtown Petaluma to go out drinking with some friends.  I like to bring the boat downtown because it puts me within walking distance of all of the shops, restaurants, and bars (or stumbling/crawling distance as the case may be).  Unfortunately, as I made my approach to the D Street drawbridge, the bridge tender didn't tell me that due to some sort of controls problem, the bridge hadn't opened all the way. 

Even though I've taken my boat through this same bridge many times (often at higher tides) This time I didn't have quite enough clearance to pass under the bridge.  Instead, I caught the forestay on the bridge.  Since I was trying to avoid holding up traffic on D Street, I was moving pretty quick when it hit and the impact was enough to tweak the roller furler, mangle the bowsprit, and snap the welds that held the mastead to the top of the mast.  The mast itself may have been bent beyond repair as well.

Luckily nobody was hurt.

Having a potentially broken mast and a bunch of wrecked rigging means no sailing.  No sailing means my sailboat is basically not a sailboat.  This will not do.

The plan was to take the boat down to the yard for repairs as quickly as possible.  The only problem is that not long after the whole fiasco, I was shipped off to Japan for Operation Tomodachi.  Then I came back to the crazy schedule I needed to run in order to be ready for Maker Faire.

Finally on Monday I set out from the Petaluma Marina with my father aboard, bound for Svendsen's Boat Works in Alameda.  I picked Svendsen's because back when I was a 14-year old sea scout, they gave us a good deal on the haulout when we were working on the old wooden 45-foot picket boat that became the Sea Scout Ship Compass Rose.  I liked the facility and the location and felt like it was a good idea to go back there.

The transit down to Alameda was pretty unremarkable.  Dad and I left the marina at about 1030.  Three hours later we were finally clear of the Petaluma River channel and in fairly open water.  When the waves started picking up, things got a bit interesting for a moment.

Back when the masthead broke off, it was held in place by one of the old wire halyards that had hooked itself across the top of the mast.  In the calm water of the Petaluma River, it's stayed in place for the past three months.  Once we were in a bit of a rolling sea, the broken masthead finally started to work its way down the wire halyard. 

The main problem with this is that it might eventually decide to come down altogether.  In the process, the roller furler for the jib would kink or bend and possibly tear up the jib itself.  Turning for a favorable wind, I managed to get one of the rope halyards wrapped around the upper spreaders and pull it tight enough to hold the damaged rigging in place.  If the rigging didn't look messed up before, it definitely looked bad now:
Rigging Awry

While I was monkeying around with all of that, Dad was at the wheel:
Dad at the Helm

Early in the afternoon we passed Red Rock:
Passing Red Rock

As we entered the open Bay, I was glad to see that the weather was fairly calm:
Approaching Angel Island

In case anyone's wondering how I could've hit a bridge, I'd like to point out that it's very difficult to guage how much clearance your mast will have while standing in the cockpit.  So when the bridge is opened up, you have to trust that the operator has indeed opened it as far as he needs to in order for you to pass under it.  To illustrate this point, here's a shot of my mast as I was about to pass under eastern span of the Bay Bridge.  In this case I had about a hundred feet of clearance:
Passing under Old Bay Bridge
It still looks like it's about to hit.

Having passed safely under the bridge, we made our way down the Oakland Estuary toward Alameda.  Along the way, we passed Coast Guard Island:
Coast Guard Cutter

After a bit of looking, we finally found our way to the dock at Svendsen's Boat Works and moored.  Here's another shot of my jacked-up rigging:
Moored at Svendsen's

As we left the yard, a lone raven stood watch in the yard:
Svendsen's Raven

The next day I got the first call from the yard with their initial range of possible damage estimates.  I'd rather not post numbers, but suffice it to say that their worst-case estimate was about half of my total earnings from last year.  Thank goodness I have insurance.

Stay tuned...


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