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We rolled up to Hoku Pa'a just before 3 on a Friday afternoon after a week of driving. Fridays have always been one of our favourite days and this was no exception. Our beloved vessel looked very much as we had left her, albeit dustier. When we had returned to Canada last April (2017), it was after 5 weeks of pretty steady work on the boat. Many of those projects were needed as a result of being knocked over in a hurricane, so it was with some trepidation that we drove away, returning to the kind of work that pays. Before leaving last April we made sure there were more stands supporting the boat. The boatyard's new stronger stands were in limited supply so we placed plywood sheets under some of our stands (to prevent them from sinking into the mud) and hoped for the benefits of quantity. On the Friday afternoon of our arrival, we were pleased to see that the yard had added still more stands, including 2 sturdier ones, and that the plywood seemed to have helped stabilize everything. Phew.
We got to work right away, cleaning, unpacking and making the boat habitable. The very fine red dust is quite egalitarian in what it coats, outside and inside. Settling in occupied us until after sunset. Thus began the boatyard routine - wake around sunrise, climb down our ladder to walk to the washrooms, have breakfast, work, break for lunch, work until sunset, then with some variety in order: showers, supper and happy hour. What was left of the evening sometimes had administrative tasks, small projects or relaxing, but usually included early to bed (after another walk to the bathrooms of course). Naturally we kept our strength up by enjoying some of the good foods and beverages that are a part of Mexico.
One might think after spending so much time last year with focused work on the boat there would be little left to do. Not so, athough we did accomplish quite a lot in that time. One big task - inspecting the keel bolts is described here. Another huge accomplishment was getting a replacement mast. Gosh, that only took one sentence to say but it took months to clarify our needs, source out the mast, arrange transportation, figure out how to cross two borders, sort through Mexican bureaucracy with little Spanish ability, and make sure the driver on the last stretch could find the boatyard. It was a happy day when this 51 foot aluminum stick arrived as the sole cargo in a 53 foot tractor trailer. However, it was also a day close to our departure so the refitting and hoisting had to wait. As to all the other things that needed doing on that Friday we returned (some of which we hadn't yet become aware of) well, that seems to be the way boats work.
The reversion of Hoku Pa'a to a sailboat began last year with the removal of a remarkable number of fittings from the damaged mast. Measurements and diagrams of their locations were done first and each part was carefully labelled. Two chunks of the bent mast will sail again as a boom for Reisender, and a cross brace for the catamaran Imi Loa. The remaining piece made a handy work bench.
Hoisting day finally arrived. We were keyed up and ready at the set time (0800h) but found ourselves cooling our heels for the next hour and half. Apparently there was some trouble with the crane. Although the winds were likely to increase while we waited it did seem important to ensure the crane was working well. From the cockpit, about 12 feet off the ground it felt strange to see the airborne mast fly by while I stood by helplessly. Whenever the big machines get involved, whether it's a Travelift transporting the boat, or a crane lifting the mast, you can prepare as much as possible but, at some point, you have to give up control of the proceedings and put your faith in the equipment and the operator.
We sprang into action once the mast was high enough, guiding it into the hole in the deck. Michel from Colymbus, who had been helping control the mast from the ground, joined Bjarne and me on deck. Bjarne then went into the cabin where the base of the mast rests and yelled up to me what needed to be adjusted. I conveyed these directions to the operator through hand gestures and limited Spanish. Adding challenge to the communication was that I could hardly hear Bjarne over the loud crane and the very noisy sandblasting nearby. I then scrambled around attaching stays (cables/ropes that stop the mast from falling over). The first test of the whole thing was to hoist Bjarne up to unhook the crane sling. Yep, more acts of faith - in our preparations, the equipment, and each other.
Although the mast, like any primadona, got a lot of attention, there were several other tasks to do. In the process of completing them we discovered more along the way, like the rusty metal breaking though the engine's exhaust hose, and the raw water pump gasket that fell apart as we replaced the impellor. Bjarne had the temerity one day to suggest that all the unknown tasks were now known. Shortly thereafter, with his head in the bilge, I heard, "where's that water coming from?" It was an admittedly small diversion, requiring only an hour and half and some teflon tape, but certainly necessary since it was the drinking water that was escaping.
A surprise that came with the replacement mast was that our main halyard (pulls the mainsail up) was jamming. We used a fishing weight to rerun a messenger line and reroute the halyard but that didn't fix it. Hmmm. We experimented with several different lines and realized that we needed a thinner rope. The boat was originally rigged with wire halyards, which are skinnier than rope halyards. Somehow this wasn't an issue on our former mast, but on the new one the thicker rope was jamming at the masthead sheave. The solution was straightforward in one sense, but where to find appropriate replacement line was another issue entirely. We put out several feelers in the boaters' network and after a few days found a fellow sailor who had just what we needed. It was now or never as he was leaving town the next day so off we dashed to the neighbouring town of San Carlos, taking advantage of the opportunity to have lunch with fellow BCAers Carol and Kelly (Intrepid II.)
The lunar eclipse of a blue moon (which looked decidely red at times) provided another break in the routine. Since we didn't have to sit at a desk the next day, getting up at 0400h to catch this rare event didn't seem so outrageous. The boatyard was quiet at that time and it felt very peaceful to watch the moon disappear slowly.
The insurance company, quite reasonably, was not willing to take our word for it that the boat was soundly repaired; they wanted an independent opinion. So, in addition to all the other things surveyors like to examine, we pointed Allan to the now straight prop shaft and strut, repaired gel coat, straightened pulpit and stanchions, rebuilt rudder, solid keel bolts, new steering cables, and mast with no bend. We passed muster and set a date for Hoku Pa'a to splash.
It felt great to be back on the water again but there was one more significant job to do, for which we needed a dock. At that point, we had only a halyard (aka, a piece of rope intended for other purposes) instead of a very strong wire running from the top of the mast to the bow. Since we wanted the mast to remain standing, this was definitely a temporary situation. Installation of the new forestay and roller furling had a great deal of potential for things to go sideways. In addition to measuring errors, there are many pieces to assemble for the furling and there is a certain amount of fragility in the 44 or so feet of metal extrusions that could kink while being hoisted. None of these materials would be easily found in our current location if things did go belly up. Fortunately, Bjarne is very meticulous. He reviewed the instructions carefully and followed them methodically. We measured the forestay several times in many ways before making the final cut, and still cringed as we did it.
Athough daylight remained (what, stop working before sunset?), the brisk winds would not have helped our cause. In the calm of the next morning we recruited 2 others to provide support and reduce bending as we hoisted this large puzzle off the dock. I continued with my upper body workouts, hauling Bjarne up the mast a couple of more times. When all was said and done, it was a great relief to note that the forestay length was correct and no parts fell in the water during the process. We were truly a sailboat again!