Friday, February 8, 2008

Musings: Making a Mess

The street was wet and its sides sodden and sloppy, but perhaps the weather is shifting, because I caught a glimpse of Waialeale this morning, and that made me glad.

Koko was happy, or I should say happier, because she’s ordinarily a very happy dog, to encounter her old friends Bear and Girl, who came bounding out of their yard to say hello, but were left standing dejected in the street when I commanded them to stay.

Koko cast forlorn looks back in their direction, but perked up when we ran into Andy’s dogs, and Andy, who was wearing a Chinese New Year shirt, although that was yesterday, and it was adorned with a rabbit.

This is the year of the rat, and yes, they’re still with me, hidden behind the walls and ceiling. Sigh. I remember a Mokihana Pest Control guy telling me about going to a house where a guy had blown a hole in the floor trying to kill a rat with a shotgun.

I can empathize, although I don’t have a shotgun and am not fond enough of housework to want to do something that will deliberately make a mess.

Since we’re already on that topic, I figure I might as well bring up something I’ve hesitated to discuss, since I have absolutely no proof, and that’s the issue of whether the Superferry damaged its rudder because it hit a whale.

Like I said, I have seen no evidence, but the discussion has not died down since it first surfaced over a week ago.

A certain Lee Tepley, whom I do not know, has been circulating an email in which he makes the observation: “Rudders would always stick down into the water and would add to the vessel’s drag — reducing the ferries already poor fuel mileage. To minimize this effect, it would be reasonable to make the rudder and supporting posts as thin as thought practical. Thus, if the rudder should strike a whale, it might easily crack. In fact, an auxiliary rudder could be one of the weakest underwater parts of the Superferry.”

Tepley continues: “So if a whale were lucky enough to avoid being impaled on one of the sharp leading edges of the Superferry’s pontoons, it might still be struck by an ‘auxiliary rudder.’ In fact, the rugged pontoons would be unlikely to be damaged by a collision and, unless the whale were impaled for a long period of time, the collision might go unnoticed. There would be a slight bump from the collision but it might not be detected by the barfing passengers. Also, the crew would not be likely to officially report it.”

The point was also raised as to why Superferry folks would have gone looking under the boat, which is how the cracked rudder was discovered, unless they had some reason to think there was a need to check things out.

While we likely will never know the truth on this one, it does raise troubling questions about whether the public will ever be informed if the ferry does hit a whale, especially in rough seas.

But whether the rudder broke because of poor design, faulty construction, severe weather or hitting a whale, none of those scenarios bode well for the big boat.

For those who are following the increasingly dismal Superferry numbers, Brad Parsons sends this:

Passenger counts for Feb. 4: Offloading on Maui: 66 vehicles, 5 motorcycles, 150 people counted. Onloading: 92 vehicles including 2 large commercial vehicles, plus an additional 22 military vehicles, and 3 motorcycles.

Passenger counts for Feb. 5: Offloading on Maui: 35 vehicles including 3 large commercial vehicles, 3 motorcycles, and 60 people counted. One suspect car offloading. Onloading: Only 17 vehicles, including 1 large commercial vehicle.

And just so you know, now that John McCain is enjoying a surge, he’s the candidate of choice for Superferry Chairman John Lehman, who is registered as a bundler to collect campaign contributions for the hawkish McCain.


Anonymous said...

mahalo joan for sharing the concerns of many regarding the inevitability of a ferry whale collision and the motives for coverup

Anonymous said...

"Know before you blow," Seastate Barf-O-Meter Index (version 2.1):

Aloha, Brad

Anonymous said...

Rudders are vulnerable, but that's precisely why they usually don't "stick down" lower than the hull. Often, the base of the keel extends below the rudder to hold the bottom of the rudder post. But this is all pure speculation because no one has published a view of the ferry's hull (and propulsion and control mechanisms are usually closely guarded secrets of the shipbuilders).

Yes, the ferry hull may have control surfaces that stick out from the hull, and yes, they could be damaged by a whale strike. But these surfaces are subject to high stresses under normal operation, and it's just as likely they were poorly designed (wouldn't be the first time in the history of engineering). As to what promted the inspection and repairs, I thought I read somewhere it caused a leak--which is a totally plausible story.

I'm part of the EIS-first crowd, but the way some ferry opponents are latching onto this rudder subplot with some amateurish speculation is likely to discredit their previous good work and the larger message.

But the point about the public being informed or not about a whale strike is a good way to bring the discussion back to the larger issue.