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November 1, 2012

A Way to Fold W17 Amas when alone

As there is no doubt that the W17 can be sailed solo and that this will happen quite often, one can imagine a problem if one trails the boat to a launching site, only to find that it's quite deserted and you cannot rig the boat as the amas are still folded!

Now in most circumstances, there WILL be someone around who will be happy to spend the two minutes required to unfold the amas, and this is STILL the better and safer way to proceed. But I decided to imagine the worst case and work through a solution to handle this issue, alone.

Basically, I found that if you lift each ama up as high as possible and rest it on a temporary strut, you can reach the ama from the other side to lower it in place. This video shows how the strut works—in this case, while folding the ama in.

If you're reasonably strong and you've not built your amas excessively overweight, lifting each ama seems quite feasible. As part of the weight is carried on the hinges, the initial lift on my boat was only about 60 lbs (27 kg) and it gets lighter the higher up you go. Though if you're less than about 5'8" (1.73 m) you might need a small platform to have the necessary reach—especially if your trailer has the larger 12" wheels, recommended for serious road trips, over say 30 km.

One thing you do not want to risk, is the prop (strut) being accidentally displaced and allowing the ama to fall over the top! To avoid that risk, one end of the proposed strut is mounted to a frame that is lightly strapped to the ama deck.

Here are details of that frame.

The strut itself needs to attach securely to this frame, and also be connected in a manner that permits release with one hand. So in this case, I added a palm on each side of the strut to fit against the central pin on the frame, with a piece of thick rubber stretched over the two palms to keep the strut attached. See photo below.

It's not essential, but I glued a block to the rubber flap, so that it drops into the mouth of the 'jaws' when you wrap the rubber over the end, to help keep a firm grip of the central pin in the frame shown above.

WARNING: One thing that is very important when using this system or others like it, is to realize that the center of gravity for the boat is pretty high when an ama is folded above the deck and when you are also working up in the cockpit, the boat MUST be stabilized under the side wings or you risk rolling the whole boat off the trailer! For the same reason, it's also a good idea to have a trailer that's not too narrow between the wheels. Close to 6 ft (1.80 m) would be fine. This would permit a trailer frame wide enough to build vertical supports, port and starboard, to support the cockpit overhang on each side.

When using this system to lower (spread out) the amas, first stabilize the boat and trailer in all directions and then lift one ama up until you can install the strut, with the frame under the ama deck. The lower end of the strut, will sit on the cockpit floor, against the inner hull side. To position the frame, make sure that the cross bar at the lower end of the strut will not slide across the cockpit floor and drop down into the dagger board case! As long as ¾ of it is aft of the case opening, this will work fine. Then attach the strap around the ama so that the frame cannot fall off accidentally! Once the ama is lifted enough so that its weight is on the strut, come down from the boat and prepare to take the weight from the ground. I found this is best done by starting with your back against the cockpit boxes and levering your arms against the ama to bring it up vertically, just over center of the hinges. Should you lose your balance a little, there's no problem to just let it fall back to the inside again, as the strut is still there, ASSUMING you strapped the frame to the ama as noted above—that's why the strap is important. Once the ama is just over-center, it's easy to turn around and take the weight as you lower the ama outboard, now facing in towards the boat. (This is all a lot easier and quicker to do than it is to describe.)
When finally lowering the ama over the latches (underside hinges), make sure that the knuckles of the latch correctly slide between each other and then install the stainless steel pins complete with circlips or lock nuts.

It has already been pointed out elsewhere on this website that when folded, the amas need to be supported at a good distance from the hinge pins, so that the hinges are saved from high loads—especially when trailing the boat on a bumpy road!

So here are dimensions for the solid supports, close to the centerline. (The forward one is the one sitting over the mast pin.)

Once you have built these, you'll need to slowly lower each ama of your own boat onto them, and if one end touches before the other, grind off that upper edge until both forward and aft deck pads touch at the same time. Then apply a layer or two of duct tape to the top edge to protect the contact area.

Feel free to send in specific questions or comments via my Questions Form, that I may select to answer through this website if considered of broad interest.

WARNING NOTE: It’s VERY important to not apply abnormal twisting loads on the AKA to AMA joints. This can happen when:

  1. the ama is incorrectly lifted by only one end (never do this), or
  2. If the folded storage stool heights are not correctly adjusted so that both ends of the ama touch at the same time. This is especially important for trailering. One owner who ignored this, developed cracks in the ama sides. Though “ALL is fixable”, this should certainly be avoided.

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