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The Voyage of Spectacle Autopilot

The Voyage

Spectacles

Andy and Melissa are sailing around the world on their 48-foot sailboat, Spectacle.

The Position

Bali, Indonesia

The Pictures

The Voyage of Spectacle

Archive for the ‘Autopilot’ Category

Back in the Cockpit

Posted by: melissa

Welcome to Year 2 of Spectacle’s spectacular shenanigans!

You might recall that, a mere six months into our trip, a twice-busted autopilot and an obsessive cricket-related detour resulted in Spectacle being far behind schedule.  Once the Bonaire autopilot fiasco reared its ugly head, we decided to cancel our plans to cross the Pacific during Year 1, wait out South Pacific hurricane season in Los Angeles, and proceed with our voyage during the next Pacific crossing season (which opens in April).

We spent five-plus months stateside catching up with friends and family, and of course, enjoying the amenities of American life that we don’t get out here on the boat.  College football (and especially Andy’s beloved USC Trojans and long-awful-but-suddenly-good Missouri Tigers) were high priorities.  Highlights included the Cotton Bowl and the USC versus Nebraska game in Lincoln.  Since we just don’t travel enough, we headed to Sri Lanka for a two-week cricket extravaganza / wedding reconnaissance mission / post-World Cup catch up session with the team.  Additionally, it was nice to spend Christmas at home especially considering the circumstances of last Christmas!

Upon Further Review … The Play Stands

Posted by: melissa

After closer investigation, the boat seems to be in surprisingly good shape.  We went over our list with the boat sitter and the marina manager item by item, and what they have not already completed, they have detailed suggestions for.  Today and tomorrow will be packed with repairs, maintenance, cleaning, sanding, and oiling.

Emigdio, the electronics guy, is checking out the single side band (SSB) and VHF (very high frequency) antennas.  Although I’m no SSB expert, I have never been able to pick up anything resembling communication on any channel, and the VHF has been spotty at best.  Antenna problems are fairly common, so hopefully Emigdio can save the day.  Although we have two backup, handheld, battery-operated radios, the boat unit is quite convenient (and powerful) to use underway.

In matters less important but highly irritating, the light on the cockpit chartplotter (manufactured by our good friends at Raymarine) has burned out.  We have called the Raymarine reseller in Panama City, who happened to have the guy from Raymarine standing next to him at the time of his call.  Andy said that we needed a new lightbulb for a Raymarine RC520.  The reseller relayed the message to the Raymarine guy, whose laughter was audible in the background.  Apparently, this is viewed as a nearly prehistoric unit.  This “ancient” equipment was new on this boat in 2001 and spare parts now basically can’t be had.  Have we mentioned how much we love Raymarine?

We aren’t buying a whole new chartplotter just for a light bulb, so it looks like nighttime navigation checks will involve either a flashlight or a trip down to the navigation station belowdecks.

The ongoing saga of the boat’s teak trim continues as well.  The former owner of this boat prided himself on the flawless varnish job on the toe rail.  Maintaining a perfect varnish job, however, has proven to be far more effort than we are willing to put into an essentially cosmetic project.  As such, we decided to let the wood go natural.  I sanded all the varnish off of the wood and treated it with teak oil.  As it turns out, maintaining even the natural wood has also proved to be a lot of effort, especially in equatorial heat.  But we think it looks even better than the varnish and it’s not quite as much work.

When we arrive at places where people need work and labor is cheap, we’ve been hiring people to sand and treat the rail, which is what we did last summer here in Cartagena.  Another boat in the marina recommended a kid named Carlos.  They said he did great work for them, and he’s learning English at night while manually laboring during the day to support his wife and young son.  After striking a deal with the eager young Carlos, we were informed by the marina manager that we had committed an infraction of sorts regarding the workmen’s pecking order.  There are guys who work here at the marina on a regular basis taking on any project available … no matter how difficult or unglamorous.  In their view, Carlos is inconsistent … highly visible and very charming when a lot of cushy jobs are available and disappearing when the hard work starts.

Evidently, Carlos pulled another disappearing act right after we prepaid him and left the country last August.  Now, on our return, Carlos is back but continues to be in especially poor favor with the regular workmen for a variety of reasons:  1) for skipping out on our project, and 2) taking off to Panama for a month and returning with T-shirts and souvenirs and stories of fun and adventure.  And of course, Carlos is in pretty poor favor with us since it’s clear he failed to complete the work for which he was commissioned.  But our boat sitter, Alberto, is holding Carlos’ feet to the fire, and a couple of days ago, Carlos returned to our doorstep with hat in hand.  After some negotiation, we struck a compromise and agreed that Carlos owes two days of work.  Because of his extended “vacation,” he pleaded for more work, but at that point, we didn’t really have any more work for him or any real desire to fork over any more cash to him.  In any event, we felt a bit bad that we had contributed drama to internal marina politics.

Back in Cartagena, we have been excited to revisit some of our favorite hotspots, especially the fantastic El Santisimo.  Additionally, a new French bistro – “Oh-La-La” — has recently been opened by a French husband/Colombian wife team, and its pretty impressive value for money — delicious French specialties made with a nod to local Colombian ingredients and flare.  Three courses plus wine ended up under $50 for the two of us the other night, and everything but the wine was pretty darn good.

Although we are quite sad to leave beautiful Cartagena, I am really excited to get this show on the road.  We should pull out of here on March 5 and be in Colon, Panama, about two days later.

Getting Back to Normal Means Boat Work

Posted by: melissa

We said “Goodbye” to Ryan yesterday evening, and then went out for pizza and beer with Jason.  He stayed on the boat with us last night, and was off to the airport early this morning.  And so Andy and I are left by ourselves with our thoughts.  We both still don’t really know what to think about the passage.  Every time we tell the story, some new detail comes out or some new emotion bubbles to the surface.  It doesn’t help that we both still feel very tired.  It’s hard to sleep soundly after a passage anyway because you’re so used to sleeping in 3-4 hour increments depending on the watch schedule, but adjusting this time is proving especially difficult.  I think we are both suffering from an adrenalin hangover of sorts, and coming down is a real bitch.  The whole experience feels quite surreal.

One way to shake such a strange feeling is to get back to normal things, and for me, that means boat work and check lists.  First on the list is dealing with the head sail.  It needs a new shackle for the halyard, but unfortunately, the halyard and furling drum did not come down the forestay when we dropped the headsail at sea, so someone will need to go up the mast to retrieve it.  The furling line is looking a little haggard as well so I’ll look into replacing that while we’re at it.  The staysail blew out completely.  It seriously looks like it was shot with a shotgun, but the sail loft thinks it may be repairable and will pick it up later today.

I’m also going to find someone to service the autopilot.  If you’re a boat person, or if you follow our travels or the travels of any other cruiser, you realize the importance of the autopilot.  During the crossing, poor old Otto was working really really hard against that huge, following, Tasman swell, and he was making some pretty sad noises.  It was also making a “thunk” noise as if it was slamming into something when turning sharply and completely to port.  Whatever’s happening, it can’t be good.  The loss of the autopilot was a secret fear for the entire crew, but never articulated out loud in an effort to keep everyone’s stress level as low as possible.

At some point during the crossing, a loose jib sheet was whipping around and whacked a big hole in the plastic window of the dodger.  The boat trim guy will come by later this week, and I’ll probably get a quote to re-do the bed cushions as well. 

Additionally, we have a ton of exterior lights that are burned out – anchor light, tri-color, starboard deck light, and starboard running light.  Other than that, I would like to hire someone to help me scrub the deck, work on rust removal, polish all the metal, and sand and oil the teak.  Bayswater Marina in Auckland was a stickler on not allowing exterior boat work, so much of the deck desperately needs attention.


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