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SHTP Day 16

Sunday 9th July

Beautiful moonlit sea last night - for a short while before the strong winds got up! Made good progress overnight and winds were still up this morning around rollcall time - too much...! To keep our course, I'd had to put us almost on a dead run downwind, Hermann steering as usual, when the wind increased to around 25kn or more. I'd seen a belt of rainclouds astern of us but didn't think they would cause a problem. (In the Caribbean, a squall cloud is often isolated and really dark grey/black, so it's very noticeable that you're about to get hit!) Anyway, first we were sailing 'by the lee' and then the main got backed. Hermann is doing a fabulous job but, like all the other wind-steering systems, has trouble keeping a good course dead down-wind in such strong conditions ... especially when big waves are regularly knocking the boat sideways!! I found out that, yes, you can be 'hove-to' with poled-out genoa (although making way slowly) ..but that it didn't put me 'in irons' - I was able to get back downwind (the strength of winds possibly helped). Trouble was that I was now trapped (once more) at the wheel, while we rushed along at great speed, until things calmed down a little & I could get aft to Hermann to re-set the steering system.
Things did calm down, so much so that I felt it was time to hoist the 'chute.... trouble was that the winds started picking up again soon after - "Better get the 'chute down", I thought - but, try as I might to haul the sock down, it came down just a short distance & refused to budge any further. I tried to figure out why it should be stuck - there really wasn't anything there to jam. Qu: How do you get a 'chute down without a sock...?? Did I need to release one or both of the guys more? Let the foreguy (downhaul) go completely? Lower it on the halyard & somehow try to bundle it up as it came down.... that clearly was NOT going to work! Or what? Never having done it before, I had no idea! Somehow, I had to get it in the lee of the main to de-power it - but that meant putting us on a dead run - knowing we could back the main again with all the problem that had caused last time. I wished the electronic autopilot was working! While I was considering my options, we nearly broached, with the 'chute almost touching the water. I dived for the wheel and swung us away from the beam reach we had come on to - the winds were still up and we were doing at least 8.4 & surfing at well over 9 kn. I put us on a run - & the 'chute came across, forward of the main - de-powered! I locked the wheel, prayed, and rushed forward - & hauled the sock down as fast as I could, tying it down - easy! But we had backed the main again, of course... and I was trapped helming again until things calmed down once more. Never mind, we survived....!!

During the afternoon, the sun came out and I caught sight of a shoal of flying fish all rushing about, gliding over the wavetops - always incredible to see just how far they go, often changing course midstream. Lovely to watch. So far, I've not had any land on deck.

My depth instrument is clearly faulty - I re-connected it with idea of silencing the annoying 'shallow' alarm coming up on other instruments - but it has obviously gone down the pan completely. It won't let me do anything, no matter which buttons I press... fortunately it went into a 'deep' reading (& has now stayed at 14ft) which doesn't trigger 'shallow' alarms - so no more beeping 'shallow' alarms on system!! And to stop the other beeping (from no GPS data) I've disconnected the two GPS displays (one in the cockpit, one at the chart table) from the system also (they're redundant, since no GPS data anyway) - peace & quiet at last - sigh!! My radar is still misbehaving - last night it went into MOB mode yet again.

I just went back with the multimeter to the autopilot course computer (and linear drive fusebox) to re-check fuses and wiring - fuses all fine and both sets of Seatalk wires (from GPS antenna in to CC and from CC to rest of boat systems) seem to have data flow - so why no GPS data on system and why no autopilot response? - I'm foxed!! Maybe the new CC has gone down...?
Still intend trying to re-do connections at NMEA interface box again - but that might be dud now also. Still thinking about a NMEA cable from CC to chart-table - trouble is access is awkward so I'm not well-motivated to do it while on passage, especially since, for that to work, it assumes CC is working fine. I wonder if I could check for data from the 'NMEA out' at the CC...?

I'm having constantly to jump up into the cockpit to adjust our course as the wind swings - in fact, I'm getting a lot of exercise because, with no GPS display in the cockpit giving SOG & COG, I have to check with the COG shown by the PC at the chart table to see whether my adjustments are good enough & then go back up again. In 'cruising mode', I probably wouldn't bother so much, but in 'racing' mode, keeping a tighter course means less miles lost to my fellow-racers...!!! A lot of work though - much easier to press a button from time to time and let the autopilot keep the course regardless of the wind shifting a bit, asuming you have the battery power to do it.

It's been a day of light grey clouds, with speed dropping when we're upwind of a rainshower and then speed picking up as we near them. Boatpeed has been pretty good much of the day so no thought of putting the chute up again since midday's episode. Seas are pretty big at times - you can hear the hissing as we rise to the top of a wave and it breaks in passing us. Makes you aware of the power of the sea.

Tonight should be almost full moon .... maybe the clouds will clear enough to see it.

Time for a meal before rollcall.

23 43.9N, 144 19.9W ; DTF: 844n.ml. at 8.10pm PDT

Written by : Mike

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