Day 21 towards Cape Horn - Grey, cloudy.... Autopilot issues

After taking a look at the rudder reference unit in the autopilot system, we stayed on that for a time to see how it coped - and if any error messages came up...

Jeanne Socrates

Michael Robertson

Sunday 11th November 2012

A dull grey day with occasional spits of rain - almost total cloud cover, with wind varying from ENE to NE, mostly around 10-12 kt but and gusting at times up to 16kt under the clouds. Swell now from NNE and down to 2m from the 3m of yesterday, So a relaxing day of ambling in easy conditions... Full genoa and stays'l helping to keep us at 5.5-6.3 kt SOG, occasionally dropping to beow 5kt in lulls.  

Decided to head slightly E of due S to avoid possible area of strong convection in ITCZ around 10-15N - will probably have moved onto our path as we get closer, whichever way I head, but you never know... Problem with the ITCZ is that nasty areas of strong convection can pop up so quickly and without much warning, it's so unstable... So it really is a matter of luck as to whether the big stormclouds can be avoided - usually get caught by some, but hopefully not a lot!  

I decided early on to have a relaxing day, other than keeping an eye on wind, sails and course, that is...! I've not downloaded a single weatherfax, although I get a set of gribs by default daily. We're clearly in the NE Tradewinds and no storms are forecast, so until we get into squally tropical weather or nearer to the ITCZ with its possible 'convection' giving areas of thunderclouds etc, there's no need to be concerned - so I decided to enjoy the day and take it easy - it's Sunday, isn't it??!!  

I caught up on the Sailing Olympics reports from Portland ... only three months' late! Team GB did very well, with five medals, although not so many golds as in Qingdao, ... and well done, Ben Ainslie! What a superb sailor - yet another Olympic Gold!! I'm looking forward to getting reports on the Vendee Globe race. It will be of interest to see where they are when I'm near Cape Horn - they could well be somewhere nearby and about to head up the Atlantic to finish... (They go just a little faster than I do!!)  

Have mostly been sailing last two days or so with Fred in control, but after taking a look at the rudder reference unit in the autopilot system, we stayed on that for a time to see how it coped - and if any error messages came up... I'd found that the base on which the unit was fixed had come loose and was allowing it to swivel as the 'tiller arm' on the rudder moved from side to side. There seemed to be nothing else wrong, so I fixed it firmly in place, making sure it was centred correctly, and switched the autopilot into 'Auto' mode - it took over the steering with no complaints (a.k.a.no error messages!), having started it up with the wheel centred, and seemed to be working fine, correctly showing the rudder movement on the rudder bar display ... But then, when I put it into 'Standby' to see what would happen - there was still no rudder bar shown on the display - it disappeared.... grrr!!! When I switched back to 'Auto', the AP was seemingly working fine again... I felt perplexed... . Decided to switch off everything - instruments and AP .... and then put AP on by itself - got error messages.. powered up instruments and managed to persuade it to work in 'Auto' ...seemingly OK.... Tried 'Standby' - rudder bar was magically there...??#*^#**!!! Back into 'Auto' - all fine... Back into 'Standby' - all fine - rudder bar displaying - all OK ... Somehow, I've solved my problem - but by 'black magic', it seems to me!! Seem to have managed to reset the system, after fixing rudder ref unit firmly in place, so now all seems OK ... Let's hope so.... Phew!!!  

5pm - Had to furl in quite a lot of genoa - wind got up to 19kt and we made excellent speed - but heeled rather too much, especially being rather beam onto the seas, which also increased a bit... Since then, have had frequent repeats of wind up to 20kt from 12-15kt... so speed has often varied from 5-6.5kt to well over 7.5 kt! Those rainclouds...!  

It was amazingly clear when I contacted the Pacific Seafarers Net this evening on 14300 kHz (Jane, NH7TZ, on Kauai and NZ and Aus stations as well) - propagation has been so variable lately and it made contact virtually impossible two nights ago. On the Baja Net this morning, it wasn't too bad, despite the 'bleeding' music from some adjacent station that seems a perpetual noise on that 7 MHz frequency at that time.  

24hr DMG to 3pmPST/2300GMT: 115 n.ml - slow overnight and wandering a bit, with wind sometimes light & varying in direction; Golden Gate Bridge: 690n.ml; Strait of Juan de Fuca was 1320n.ml away at 3pm & our position was 650 ml due W of Bahia San Juanito, on the Baja Peninsula in Mexico.  

Today's 3pm report:  
TIME: 2012/11/11 23:00  
LAT: 26-26.76N LONG: 124-31.08W COURSE: 175T SPEED: 5.7  
WIND_SPEED: 14 WIND_DIR: NE  
SWELL_DIR: NNE SWELL_HT: 2.0M SWELL_PER: 8  
CLOUDS: 99% BARO: 1023 TREND: -3  
AIR_TEMP: 22.0C SEA_TEMP: 23.0C  

Since I'm sailing around the world solo, non-stop, unaided - around the Five Great Capes, including Cape Horn - which will be quite a challenge, I would like to raise money for the excellent free nursing care for terminally ill cancer sufferers provided by Marie Curie Cancer Care whilst doing so.

If you click on the Marie Curie logo, you can donate via the secure 'Just Giving' website - many thanks for your sponsorship of my efforts!