RTW Day 166 - Celebrating Windsteering Back in Action

Jeanne Socrates fixes her windvane steering while sailing around the world.

Friday 4th April

Up at 5.30am to check on deck and then make brief contact with Comedy and Tony`s Nets....... nearing dawn... a storm petrel dancing over the sea close by... Very light N wind - almost nothing... Sea also down nicely to around 1m - a long slow swell... looking hopeful for rudder replacement later...

Needed more sleep and nearly hit the hay again.. but on checking the weather forecast saw that although the swell was expected to stay down, or even reduce, the wind was expected to pick up a little over the day .. so felt obliged to stay up and get on with several urgent jobs. In fact, the day has been a mix of flat calm and light wind, with occasional gusts to maybe 10 knots. The autopilot more or less coped overnight and into daytime in the light wind but at times we just had to drift, with glassy calm patches showing on the slightly undulating sea surface....

The urgent jobs needing to be done in the prevailing calm conditions basically involved replacing the old, worn genoa sheets (the control ropes on the big headsail, or genoa), especially necessary after one had parted yesterday morning, and replacing the rudder on the wind steering (Fred!) after the pin holding it in place had come adrift a while ago, causing it to drop off the rudder post. That resulted in the hydraulic autopilot being needed continuously since then - with a need for constant topping up of the batteries to run it.

I

d already found a suitable length of rope for the genoa sheets and had checked last night that it was long enough to replace both sheets - they were both looking very tired! That was the first job, I decided, in view of the wind possibly getting up over the day, since I needed to unfurl most of the sail to bring the clew to within easy reach, and didn

t take too long. Then on to considering the rudder replacement - and how to secure the pin used to hold it in place. I went aft to look at the lower end of the rudder post, to decide how to tackle the job.... To my dismay, I saw that the ratio control knob was totally missing - it controls how the motion of the vane in the wind is translated into the movement of the rudder - a vital part of the mechanism...

Out with boxes of different spares - bolts, washers, spacers, bits & pieces... I was looking for a specific bolt to replace a missing one and a means of fixing it in place to do the job of the knob.... There was no point in even thinking about replacing the rudder if that couldn't be done! (I was also looking into a couple of different options for securing the rudder pin...) I eventually found two bolts (one as a spare) which were useable - not quite as long as I

d have liked but there were no others suitable with the right pitch... Then cut up two rubber items to make suitable spacers, picked out a suitable washer, coated the end of the bolt with Loctite and fixed the bolt firmly in place... I just hope it stays put! (But I

m considering covering it with duct tape tomorrow to prevent it from falling if it comes loose.)

Having wasted some time, firstly with the thought of securing the rudder pin with wire (it snapped as I was twisting it!) and then using a small ring, I realised that I had a nice big sturdy split ring that could more easily be fitted in place underwater. So then into my boots & foulies and off with my long-sleeved, fleece tops - I expected to get wet - but fortunately the air wasn't too cold!! On with harness and two safety lines... By this time, the flat calm had disappeared and we were making 3 kt! .... we had to heave to so I could do the work.

I'd had to clean the area I'd be stepping, kneeling & maybe lying on - the lowest step of the sugar scoop was highly slippery with green slime. Next I had to figure out how to place my body/limbs beside the struts while being strapped in place but able to lean out safely to manoeuvre the unwieldy rudder into position in the disturbed water. I tied both the pin and the rudder so neither could be lost and finally managed to persuade the rudder, which wanted to float away, to locate onto the post and then to slide up it into position.. Then I had to locate the pin in its hole in both rudder and post, so it could be pushed through .. Finally, I had to turn almost upside down, leaning over the support struts, to get the split ring through a hole at the end of the pin in the water, to secure it from coming out of position... Job over! All that was left to do was to get it working as we got underway in some light wind... I was very happy to see it taking over control in place of the autopilot - no battery power needed!

In the NNE wind, we were on a close reach, trying to head E - the advantage of wind steeering is following the wind as it changes direction - we've been heading SSE to E since then - making the best eastward course possible, at speeds varying from 1-5 knots with a fickle wind. I enjoyed tidying up the lines in the cockpit under a welcome blue sky nearing sunset, delighted to spot a handsome black and white Cape petrel flying by, and then went and cooked a big meal - I was famished - nothing since breakfast! Later, I mixed myself a mango juice and rum to celebrate a successful day!!

The back up computer is still determinedly playing up but I've been too busy to do anything but download emails and weatherfaxes - I'll work on it tomorrow...

D.M.G. over 24hr to 1100GMT: 26 n.ml. !! (Definitely not a speed record!) ; Cape Leeuwin : 1342 n.ml. (286T) ; King Island (entrance to Bass Strait) : 248 n.ml. (028T) ; Tasmania S.E.Cape : 234 n.ml. (089T)