As you may recall if you’ve been reading the daily LTY Updates, the aluminum joint which attaches the boom to the mast snapped off on the way to Niue and fixing this turned into yet another story to add to many others where serendipity gets involved and helps turn a problem into a great experience.
If you look closely in the photo on the left here, you can see the broken aluminum part at the very base of the boom (large silver casing with FurlBoom on it), just in front of the black strap that was was part of my emergency lashing, along with the red spinnaker halyard you can see holding the boom up. You can also see how the main sail furls or rolls up into the boom as it wraps around the inner mandrel or shaft in the center. The boom has also slid about 25cm/10” back in this photo which is also a problem because this pulled out a short shaft that is attached to the far aft end of the boom and slides inside a bushing in the end of the mandrel that lets is turn freely. With the shaft pulled out of the bushing, the aft end of the sail and mandrel are just flopping around loose inside the boom. Not a good thing.
I spent several hour creating a system of webbing tie down ratchets that I used along with the vang (strut that helps hold boom up and runs diagonally from base of mast to 1/3 back on boom) to pull the boom forward little by little. The tricky part was to get that short shaft (about 8”/20cm) back into the bushing. I needed to elevate the rolled up sail and mandrel to jus the right height to align with the shaft, get the shaft just started into the bushing and keep it there while I pulled the boom forward with the ratchets. Oh, and did I mention that I’m sitting straddling the aft end of the boom, riding it like a not too well broken in horse as the boat is heeled well over in about 30 knots of wind and 3-4m waves? But after many tries and by holding my tongue just the right way I was finally able to get the shaft back in and pull the boom the rest of the rest of the way forward to where it is supposed to be as in this picture on the right. I was then able to use the tie down ratchets to keep the boom in position sideways and we were soon back to sailing again!
I then Emailed ahead to the Niue Yacht Club, which they fondly call "The Biggest Little Yacht Club in the World" and to which I am now a proud member, and let them know about my impending arrival and to ask if they had any aluminum welding equipment on the island to fix the broken boom fitting. Murphy’s Law was in full force as I have welders on board but of course only for steel and stainless steel, but not aluminum, as I have very little aluminum on Learnativity, other than the mast and boom. Commodore Keith was very prompt in getting back to me and we Emailed back and forth as he worked on finding some options to fix the fitting. They did indeed have a welder on the island capable of welding aluminum and Keith was able to track down Graham, the island’s welder. Unfortunately Graham said his AL welder was broken but there was another one on the island that he thought I could use, so I left it at that and waited till I got to Niue to figure it out.
The sail and boom were working quite well and I would be able to get over to Tonga where there are much better facilities if I wasn’t able to weld the fitting in Niue, and I had a plan in mind to use some stainless cable I have to secure the boom fitting better if needed. But as soon as I went ashore to check in, there was Keith waiting at the landing in his car, and he whisked me away to Customs and Immigration and then off to see Graham. Turns out Graham had been able to fix his welder with parts he had ordered long ago and never got around to using and because he now had another job on the other side of the island that he had to look after the next day.
Great news! But I needed to get the parts to Graham ASAP as he had to weld them today as he would be gone the rest of the week on the other job. So back to LTY I dashed and set about removing the aluminum casting on the mast end of the boom where the two tabs had broken off. The long SS bolts holding the AL casting to the boom were not easy to get off, aluminum and SS don’t get along well, but my faithful impact screw driver (one of THE best tools I have) and a small sledge hammer to run it got 7 of the 8 bolts out and I only had to drill out one of them. You can see the casting successfully off the boom in the photo above right and I then radioed Keith to let him know I had all the parts ready to go.
I headed back ashore in the dingy where Ernie, one of the island elders and NYC “Admiral” picked me up and took me straight over to Graham’s house. We plotted out the best way to do the repair and within a few hours the two broken tabs were fully welded back in place with lots of extra aluminum built up to brace them further. Welding aluminum castings is always very iffy as you never know what combination of alloys have been used but you can usually tell a lot by how well the new aluminum welding rod melts into the old casting material and in this case it seems to look quite good and I am full of my usual optimism and faith that this repair will hold for the several months it will likely take to get a new part shipped in to me.
Soon after the boom had broken I had also been in touch with my faithful friend John to discuss options and give him all the details so he could contact people at FurlBoom, the manufacturer, to get their advice and see if they could supply a new part. Dougall at FurlBoom in Costa Mesa who I had worked with when I ordered the boom and picked it up (see 2007 post for details and pictures on that), got back to us immediately on Email and he was extremely helpful and immediately offered to have a new part prepped and shipped to John, all free of charge.
As Dougall, John and I discussed this further I told him about my concerns for the design of this casting from the beginning and a new improved design I had been working on with John. As it turned out FurlBoom had made up a boom for a large catamaran which has quite high lateral forces on the boom and for this they had built a special modified version of the gooseneck fitting using a new stainless part for the two tabs that had broken on mine and this design was almost identical to what John and I were preparing to fabricate! Dougall said he would have one of these new ones made up and would be able to get that sent to John within a week, no charge. Great service and only adds to my appreciation of deciding to go with both an in boom furling system and this one from FurlBoom. I can’t imagine sailing, especially single handed, without this kind of a setup which along with all the other modifications to my running rigging let’s me manage all my sails, lines and controls from my cockpit.
Now I just need to figure out a way to get the new boom fitting to me and I’m working on convincing John that he needs to hand deliver it at an upcoming fun destination so I’ll keep you informed as to how that goes. For now I’m quite confident with the repaired casting and I’ve got alternatives I can use even if it breaks again that will let me keep sailing for the next few months until I can get the new casting delivered and installed.
And so yet again, what could have/should have been a very big problem turns into yet another great experience and story to add to Wayne’s charmed life. I don’t try to understand such things I just put all my trust and faith into serendipity and synchronicity and use these as my strategy and guides in life as they have sure worked fantastically well so far.
Stay tuned for more I’m sure and hope you enjoyed this latest saga. We now rejoin regular broadcasting from the good ship Learnativity with Wayne and Ruby the Wonderdog!