Friday, March 28, 2008

Getting new dodger uncovers need for new traveler

In my quest to offshore certify everything on Aeolus and outfit her with a new dodger, I discovered yet another unexpected need: a new traveler. My dodger is being done locally here by the good folks at San Juan Canvas. The current dodger has served well since being built by Hayden Island Canvas in Portland, Oregon for the original owner back in 1990 or so. It is now tired and dead, as even sunbrella wears out.

As part of the dodger process, we decided it would be best to strengthen my frame a little bit. The existing frame is very well designed, with conservative height and proper wave shedding angles, but did lack a tie down bar in the front. The vast majority of dodgers I see around the docks here in Friday Harbor are what I would call day sail dodgers: big, gaudy, obese and flimsy looking things that proudly stand erect off the deck as though tempting any wave to knock them down. Foolishness in anything other than benign conditions. The dodger on Aeolus is helped by the fact there is already a pilothouse providing some height and structure, but is then helped further by the conservative offshore angles and sizing. Given that it is not a hard dodger for high latitude sort of work, it is quite sturdy. Anyway, the front arch was held down by a strap that went down to the pilothouse. I needed to replace this with actual stainless tubing because it would greatly stiffen the dodger and help when we add the handholds on the outside edge of the dodger. I even angled these forward most bars in a little bit, so that all the strength in the dodger is not just from fore and aft, but able to resist a bit of sideways force.

To do this, I wanted to through bolt the deck fitting. To do this, I needed to remove the headliner in the pilothouse. Good, I thought, should do that anyway to check the nuts and backing plates on the traveler and such. So I unscrew everything and pop out the ceiling panels and what do I see but puny little seriously corroded aluminum backing plates under the stainless washers and bolts. Christ. Sometimes I think I'm the only one who thinks about galvanic corrosion. The holes in the backing plate were so corroded away that the plate was essentially serving no purpose. Fortunately, the pilothouse top is extremely strongly built and the mainsheet had never tacked hard with full sail in 40 knot winds or something. Bet she wouldn't have liked that.

So, once into it, I decided to back out the bolts and rebed everything as I've been doing. Long story short, the 20 year old Lewmar traveler would have no part of being taken apart. To remove the bolts, you need to remove the end caps and to do that, you need to remove these tiny stainless screws that had long since corroded irrevocably into the aluminum they were threaded into. Again, am I the only one worried about galvanic corrosion? They would not budge, and the heads stripped despite a soaking in WD40. As I began looking at the details of the rest of the traveler, I discovered it was worn out several other places. Not an offshore traveler to begin with, but sturdy enough when new. When I called Lewmar to find out if replacement parts were available, they essentially laughed. I essentially cried.

Thus, I began the journey to purchasing a new traveler, and had to put the new dodger on hold. Sounds like I have an infinite budget, but we don't.

After exhausting research, which I enjoy, I've decided to purchase a new Harken system. No small part of my decision was the excellent Harken customer service and the availability of spare parts for decades after they stop making something. They still have parts for my furler that they stopped making in 1989. The price was essentially the same as a Garhauer unit, which I also considered. The Garhauer unit I looked at was the UB2, a beefy thing with a good reputation. However, it cannot be bent, and so I would need their $200 risers, making the Garhauer unit the same cost as a bent Harken unit. Then it came down to design and function, and I am impressed by the simplicity, serviceability, and strength of the Harken system.

I'm going with their Big Boat traveler, as Aeolus is right at the upper cusp for their midrange system, and so I once again erred on the conservative side. I'm getting their HI-Beam track, bent to my deck curvature, and a 4:1 car and end cap system. It is all really beefy stuff, and the price I got from sailnet saved me easily hundreds of dollars over normal retail. If everything comes on time and as ordered, I'll be thrilled. The Harken unit can also be mounted into my existing traveler holes.

To be exact, I ordered from sailnet:

3170 End pieces w/cam $328

3156.1.5 HI Beam track $142
Bending for 2” chord rise over 42 length

3164 Car with ears for blocks $260

2638 40mm blocks (2) $82 total

3158 Trim Cap $11

I'm excited about this new traveler and hope to have it in hand and installed within a couple weeks. Will publish photos of it and a review once it is in.

Turns out upon investigation that my old Lewmar unit was never rigged properly. It had always worked just fine so I never noticed, but the bitter end was incorrectly tied into the eye instead of into these cool rope clutches built into the car. This photo shows how it was done wrong, and how it should have been done. You can just see the line on the right coming out of the car. Inside there, is a set of teeth that grip the line. The right photo shows these teeth removed. Very simple, strong and elegant. What the previous owner had done is on the left side of the car on the left photo, which is to awkwardly tie off the line around the eye. That top eye had been badly eaten way by the years of pounding by the straight edge of the fitting you see there. And that topmost fitting was stretched and weakened. A very bad combination.

So, despite a painful expenditure, I am certainly happy to be getting such a beefy and worthy traveler for Aeolus.

Update 4/3/08: To the right is a photo of the underside of the pilothouse where the traveler bolts come through after you remove the headliner. I've purchased some stainless and fabricated new backing plates that will take better advantage of the area. As the picture shows, I have also epoxied the area using enough coloidal silica for peanut butter consistency and then using a piece of plastic, I used the backing plate to flatten out the epoxy over the entire area of the new SS backing plate. This way, the plate is bearing uniformly on the pilothouse roof and not point loaded on the irregular surface the way it had been. I'll drill the bolt holes back out from the top down. Can't wait for the new traveler to arrive.

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