Month: February 2016

Covering the wheel with leather

Covering the wheel with leather

There is nothing wrong with the stainless steel wheel.  But there is nothing exceptional about it either.  At first I wanted to replace the metal wheel with a teak one, but the cost was ridiculous.  And, I would have to do the varnishing.

Next option was to cover the wheel with leather, an attractive and very comfortable alternative.  My research took me to Boatleather, a company in Seattle with a good selection and reasonable prices.  This happened when there was a boat show in Oakland and Boatleather had a booth there so I could see the product, the colors, and feel the difference it makes.

I chose a dark teak color and opted for the foam padding to get an extra comfortable grip.  They sent everything I needed to install the cover and their website,, has a link to very helpful video instructions. Here’s the progression of the project:


It took one full day to complete.  My right hand was cramped for a few days after completion, but it was worth it.  The only problem was a section where the pre-punched eyes in the leather ripped when I pulled the thread tight.


I called Tom at Boatleather and his explanation was that real leather can have weak spots and unfortunately I got one.  He didn’t recall this happening before.  I wasn’t about to ask for a new cover and start over so I went back and “overstitched” the torn punch holes.

Not perfect, but if I don’t point it out, no one notices (except me).


I’ve had the leather on for a few months now and  can say that from an appearance and handling perspective I am very happy with the results.  Here’s Rhonda with a “good grip” on the wheel:



Motorsailing and the tachometer reads zero.

Motorsailing and the tachometer reads zero.

The first cruise we took on Makani was from Sausalito to Benicia.  The Sausalito Yacht Club sponsored the cruise for members so they arranged for slips in Benicia and dinner at the Benicia Yacht Club.  Normally, it’s a nice 3 to 4 hour downwind sail north through San Pablo Bay.

Of course, the wind disappeared and we ended up motorsailing the entire way.  After going for about two hours at around 2500 rpm our tachometer dropped to zero.  Not having any idea what to do, I shut down the diesel and ghosted along under sail.  Eventually we approached the Carquinez Bridge which is around a dogleg to starboard.  With the wind almost nonexistent and a lot of commercial shipping in the area, we decided to fire up the diesel. Started right up and the tach was reading perfectly.

We returned to Sausalito on Sunday, again having to motorsail all the back, because now the wind was right on our nose at 20-25 knots.  Again after about two hours of motorsailing the tach dropped to zero, but this time we ignored it and continued home without incident.

Monday, I spoke to Hans List at List Marine and he explained the situation.  On the Westerbeke, and other makes, the tachometer is run through the alternator.  When running for a few hours the batteries were completely topped off, which caused the tachometer to read “zero.”  We could have ignored it, or turned on some equipment that would have put a drain on the battery which would create charging and the tachometer reading in a normal fashion.

Interesting explanation, but not one I would have expected.