Friday, November 25, 2011

Interesting Weather on the Water

After being held up in Hampton, VA for five days, the Caribbean 1500 Rally left on Friday, November 18th. We had a windy start and trip out to the Gulf Stream. Sometime during the first night, someone at the helm allowed us to veer off course to the east and we got caught in an eddie with the current against us. Our second day was spent trying to get out of its clutches. Needless to say, we did not make very good progress on our second day at sea.

You could water ski out here!
Not only did we have the current fighting us, the wind died down. The ocean was so calm for two days that you could have water skied on it. So, of course, we fired up the "Iron Jenny" (our Yanmar 110) to make some headway. Then after that we hit strong winds with northeast swells up to 15-20 feet.

Life was good! We were sailing along at 7-9 knots. After a couple of days at this rate, it happened! The autopilot steering gave out! Actually, we learned later that it was a matter of cleaning the graphite build-up out of the brushes. We checked everything in the trouble shooting manual, but could not find the access to the brushes. Being coached by other skippers on the Rally SSB Radio Net helped, but none of them had the same type of system we do, so we were not looking in the right place. Ironically, we listened to a lecture on cleaning these brushes. Apparently we assumed the User's Manual would direct us to them. NOT!

Now that we are on land and had others look at it, it could have been a very easy fix. (Sorry crew!) Most of the lessons are learned under challenging situations at sea! Our wonderful crew rose to the situation and were steady at the helm day and night - and day and night and ...

As you can see, we have to tear apart our bed to get to things like the batteries, autopilot, etc. It seems like every time I get the cabin organized, we have to pull it apart for something! Oh well, it gives us something to do to pass the time!

Fortunately the autopilot problem was our only major issue during the crossing. With the high winds and seas and intermittent flat spells, the trip took longer this year. We basically followed the rhumb line and made tracks to Tortola. The lack of the autopilot caused the crew to hand steer for 700 miles. Their watches went from two hours to one hour on the last day as fatigue set in. I could only handle the wheel for an hour and a half before my shoulders started screaming "no more!" Bob and Larry were terrific and determined to stay the course (maybe they just wanted to get off the boat??). Thanks, guys!

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