Electronic Mutiny

A captain’s concerns are many indeed, and crew satisfaction is a well honed fine art of diplomacy that stays at the top of the list. But I may have neglected one very important member lately, Commander, our faithful autopilot. Last night after losing to Naomi in the great Phase 10 card game of many days, we began discussing dinner when a shrill beep of defiance emanated from Commander, and it would not steer anymore. All day for many days Commander had dutifully followed the navigated route from Honolulu to Neah Bay. These last few days had innumerable large swells coming at us along the port beam while Commander valiantly readjusted as we rose, rolled, wobbled, and pitched. Until, finally the announcement with a beep, no more.

Restart, reboot, reconnect, retry all failed, and the prospect of hand steering did not appeal to any of the previously happy crew. (Problems secondarily multiplied.) Everyone took a post: lifejackets on, Sarah to the wheel, Naomi opened the manual, Kathleen watched over me as I descended into that quiet place beneath the cockpit with the wet hatch that we do not want to open, the lazarette. Fearing a red hydraulic fluid Quentin Tarantino scene again, I was relieved to find all things in their place, but no activity on the autopilot pump. So we still have steerage, but by the wheel, which is difficult to maintain as straight a course to landfall as we all want and need at this point of the journey.

Enter the value of redundancy, a second autopilot is available, with its own control, pump and ram on the rudder. But to engage number two, we bypass number one ram, which also responds to the wheel. After turning a couple of 360’s among the towering swells, all the valves are positioned and the autopilot number two is actively steering, but it knows not of the chart or route, so auto heading is enough for now. This means that the watchstander must constantly monitor the route and drift to correct the heading. Again the issue of general crew satisfaction is at risk, but they are a hardy bunch and smiles are all around as we head into the night without Commander.

Today is an abatement of the wind and seas, and the miles are still ticking down to enter the Straits of Juan de Fuca tonight. We will make for Port Angeles further down the Strait by tomorrow as they have more marine services than Neah Bay. Hopefully, we can revive the Commander and begin cruising without too much delay. As for the crew, it is lovely Kathleen’s birthday today and ice cream and brownies are on the celebration menu. Smiles restored.

That’s the news, all the best to our friends and family out there.


A little water on the port side.

A little water on the port side.

Checking the rigging.

Checking the rigging.

47 55 N

125 54 W

42 miles to the Strait.

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3 Responses to Electronic Mutiny

  1. Penny says:

    Happy Birthday, again, Kathleen! Wishing you a wonderful year. Brownies and ice cream, sounds like something that you four have been dreaming of….along with your sushi, burgers, and fries. Enjoy, and we’ll celebrate again in September.

    With the autopilot, I see you have to expect the unexpected at sea. I’m glad you’re so prepared.

  2. Sybil Saito says:

    Happy Birthday Kathleen! Brownies and ice cream in the middle of the ocean – that’s my kind of birthday! Send pictures!!!!

  3. Joe Moss says:

    You are the best captain. Love the stories. Great that you had some celebration for Katheen’s birthday. Thinking of you always during your crossing and know the last bit and seeing land will be joyous. Love you, Sandie

    Sent from my iPad


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