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Day 23 - AP working again - but I get a big fright!

Wednesday 17th November 2010

Reply from Raymarine was waiting for me early this morning - how to test motor using wires in to course computer.... We were happily sailing along just then under windsteering, so no immediate rush to do that. I took my time looking at a slight change of course towards ITCZ (trying to avoid active areas) when I must have inadvertently keyed an 'Auto' response - and heard the AP starting up!! Great sound...! Went on deck to try it out, and it seemed to be working - maybe differently but, I thought, OK. Sent email with news, asking if anything I should do to test it - got immediate reply from my Raymarine contact with lots of suggestions and a few more questions ...

Got out manuals to sort out my answers and actions needed (re-setting of some calibration items was suggested so I needed to remind myself how to do that).... Finally made changes, taking opportunity to re-calibrate log - it has been way under-reading since just after leaving Victoria - must have caught some gunge or maybe has growth on it, so I used SOG to set boat speed - don't think there's much current around just now. Also sat on deck with some thin spectra line & tied down the shackle on the stays'l foot to the furling gear.... I'd put two extra shackles there when I'd found the foot of the stays'l flying loose on tacking a couple of times, soon after leaving Victoria , but the genoa sheet often caught on them, getting tangled, so I'd been meaning to change things there for a time.

I stayed with wind steering to conserve battery power and eventually got to have breakfast at 1.30pm, thinking things were going pretty well, with wind having slowly increased to near 10 knots and 'Nereida' making a fair speed ..... I'd had to tie in 1st reef by then, with gusty wind making us round up under full canvas, but unfurled the stays'l to compensate - we were on a beam reach in E wind.

Then, this afternoon, I had an absolute nightmare, after chatting on usual radio 'sked' and feeling wind getting up as I finished. A BIG mass of grey, threatening cloud was off to port and giving strong wind... I put on the autopilot to head us away, with wind steering getting overpowered, thinking all now fine - but the boat started behaving crazily - violently swerving first one way & then t'other... Unbelievable...! It kept heading us up, directly for the cloud I was trying to avoid, so I kept having to take the wheel to head us off the wind...... Needed to tie in 2nd reef ... which I finally managed .... Handsteered for quite a bit then we were able to get back onto wind steering with cloud left astern and wind down a touch....

Went down below, feeling pretty low & thinking I might have to abandon RTW effort if AP so useless since I needed to be able to rely on it in times of crisis.... I went to put back the system's course computer I'd got out yesterday in order to look at wiring connections to motor. In replacing it, I noticed big sign on cover saying to mount it vertically ..... It then occurred to me - it has a gyro inside!..... no wonder it went mad!.... it was on its back instead of upright - so couldn't get directions sorted sensibly ... It'd had a major headache!! I was so relieved..... I was sure that was the problem ..... Came up & tested out when wind had calmed down a touch .... AP worked beautifully......! Better than before, in fact, with its new settings.... I felt so much better - but exhausted. Had some food and lots of water.... and got to sleep early... emails could wait...!

The cloud cover was light but about 90% for most of the day, but after that incident, late in the day, there was a gap ahead of clear sky between the big grey clouds. .. and the sky was totally clear overhead, come nightfall.

24hr DMG this morning was 97 n.ml - not very good, due to light, fickle winds earlier yesterday. We're about 1200 miles due W of coast where 'Nereida I' now lies buried in sand near Tenexpa, midway between Acapulco & Zihuatanejo in Mexico.... painful memories.

Written by : Mike

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