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.
47 55 N
125 54 W
42 miles to the Strait.