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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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They have been making good speed passing around to the north of a big low pressure cell(storm), but are now riding the back of the storm diving south to avoid the big dead zone moving in front the north. This seems like a tougher passage to route because of the instability of the weather systems.

Hopefully, they can ride the back of the cell to the south until they hook into the Trades.

Jeff
 

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Yes, I think he's done a great job of dodging the worst of that low, while keeping the boat moving nicely. I wonder how deep he'll dive south. I'm not seeing much favorable wind above 25 n. Though, there may be some opportunities to gain some west in the coming week I'm sure if there are, he'll find them.
 

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Yes, she does. The center of that Madeira low has been moving south with him. He's been riding the outer bands, nicely, south with it. That low looks like it's beginning to deteriorate. The next one will bring wind from an unfriendly direction. Seems to be moving fast though.
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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The bigger issues are the huge high pressure ridges and associated dead zones to the north of them, and now issues with the autopilot. The two waves of high pressure have winds in 40+ winds. It looks like Sea Life is getting to the south of the first wave as long as they can keep moving at good speed to the SSW. Once south of 27-28 deg N, they should be able to swing towards the rhumbline.

But before that they also need to deal with a large dead air zone.

There is also the other issue autopilot is acting up.

Jeff
 

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They'll be below 30n soon. Looks like he's heading slightly east again, maybe to pick up some more wind and speed and avoid the dead air as long as possible.

Really sucks that Auto-Pilot is acting up. Hopefully he gets it straightened out.
 

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Now they are below 30 N. Boatspeed is now 3 Knots. That maybe a good thing because with the autopilot "acting up" they may have to handsteer and in light conditions it is easier to get enough rest. I don't know if the boat can be rigged to sail itself downwind Some boats have two grooves on the forestay and a second halliard so they can rig two jibs and pole them out, drop the main and the boat will go downwind by itself. Autopilots have a permanent magnet direct current (PMDC) motor. It has small brushes like 1/4 inch and they are a wear item. But it is probbly easier to carry a spare motor. On the BOAC they have two A/P installed because they have two rudders but only one A/P is used and when it acts-up they switch to the other one.
 

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Looks like Mark is threading the needle sailing downwind for the trade winds and staying out of the dead air and big waves. Temp should be around 60F where he is now bearing SSW 4 mph
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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Mark was able to fix the autopliot. But now they are in a light air zone between the low pressure zone they had been in and the massive high pressure ridge sweeping through the North Atlantic. The last of the low pressure system they were in has broken up. At this point unless they can motor maybe 150 miles south-south west, it looks so there will be roughly 20 hours before they go from broad reaching in 5 knots to beating into gusts over 20 knots.

Jeff
 

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Very Glad he got the AP running again.

Looking at the predict wind site, Looks like Mark and Marjorie have found one of the few spots in the Atlantic Ocean where their drinks won't tip over. ;-) And they can go for a swim! They've done one hell of a job, threading their way through these systems, so far.
 

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I missed where he said his AP was malfunctioning. I know he was looking for a spare AP ram, before he departed.
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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I missed where he said his AP was malfunctioning. I know he was looking for a spare AP ram, before he departed.
Mark and I have been trading texts along the way. He sent me a text early on Sunday morning (my time) and spent roughly a full day and tracked it down and fixed it. Very impressive!
Jeff
 

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Mark and I have been trading texts along the way. He sent me a text early on Sunday morning (my time) and spent roughly a full day and tracked it down and fixed it. Very impressive!
Jeff
Sure is. I’ve had this recurring vision, in the middle of some random boat project, of how awful it would be to have to do it, while underway.

Looks like weather on the nose for them, at the moment. Gentleman don’t sail to weather. :)
 

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Farr 11.6 (Farr 38)
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So here is the story on the autopilot in Mark's own words:
Big Problem Auto Pilot dies, we hand steer 2,300 nms
Tue Mar 30 2021

Suddenly the Auto Pilot turned off in the high winds and steep, short, rough seas causing the back of the boat to come through the wind and we gybed-all-standing, snapping the gybe preventer and allowing the boom to fly across the boat till it exploded a pully block off the mainsheets and ripping the US$1,600 main traveller apart destroying the rim that goes under the track with its brand new ball bearings now running across the deck and bouncing overboard like rats off a doomed ship.
The Auto Pilot would not come back on again but for 30 seconds at a time.
We were hand steering with 2,300 nautical miles in front of the two of us and a destroyed mess on deck. It was 1 am. Sunday morning.
I have some spare scavenged 16 mm Dyneema line Wayne gave me years ago stashed in the lazarette. I’d shown Marjorie and said it could lift the weight of the whole boat. Its easy to make a new main traveller.
3 hour watches hand steering (I said we would go to 4 hours steering within a few days) – see previous blog posts about Watches and the necessity for 5 or 6 hours sleep in a block each day -
First hour your shoulders ache from the heavy wheel in the high winds and your wrists hurt in the unaccustomed use hanging tight to cold steel of the wheel. Your feet hurt from the cold deck seeping through boots but when you sit down the one meter wide wheel takes the leverage you have standing up, so you sit for a while then have to stand. Your butt and shoulders and everywhere in between are hurting.
Second Hour steering and your back starts to hurt too.
Third Hour and the pain is deadened by tiredness. I fell asleep while standing up steering but woke up when my head hit the deck.
Then 3 hours sleep and repeat.
We passed each other like ships in the night, never being able to touch or hug because someone had to be holding the wheel.
The Autopilot would stay on for about 30 seconds and then switch off saying it needed Calibration. But the Calibration section of the electronic menu has disappeared. Its just not there! Gone. But its all new electronics, so whats going on?
The AP itself is 20 years old but the electronics have been upgraded but not with a new Course Computer. Raymarine has upgraded all their equipment since 20 years ago so there is a new method of linking the AP, course Computer and Instruments. An expensive method. If you need one bit you need it to but the whole bloody lot (US$4,000-$6,000). So I did the sneaky and found a tach who could put the new instruments on the old AP and my outdated pre-course computer computer.
And now I’m trying to fix if while Marjorie is doing double shifts on the wheel.
We contact David on the boat Persephone in Lagos, Portugal. He is very good at keeping a problem in little bit and replying with a small but detailed method to test.
He contacted Raymarine by email all day yesterday morning, Monday. But their solutions were never about the lack of Calibration settings that should be on the menu but things like the Fluxgate compass, which I am sure is not the problem although we checked for metal next to it in the wardrobe. (We moved some chain-mail dresses of Marjorie
:wink:
)
Raymarine finally said we should stop in at a close island with a Raymarine dealer and they sent a link of distributers. The closest viable islands were 2,300 nms away. 5,000 kilometres.
I looked at Marjorie at the wheel and said I don’t think we can fix this. Can we hand steer to the Caribbean? I was expecting to see a tearful face of true anguish… but I was looking at a face of resilience, determination, courage, the most beautiful face in the world.
She said: “You told me that the only thing that we don’t have redundancy for, that would be a big problem if it broke was the Auto Pilot. So I knew it would break, I just hoped it would be closer to the Islands. But when we get to the Caribbean you can buy me a rum….”

David the rabid ex-lawyer prowls Raymarine
Tue Mar 30 2021

Raymarines response to our Auto Pilot fault to find an island with a Raymarine dealership mid-Atlantic may have made Marjorie and I know we’d be hand steering for 2,300nms, but not David on the boat Persephone now in Lagos, Portugal.
We met years ago in Grenada in the Caribbean when I would hear this happy voice on the VHF radio. A happy voice means a spirit of life. I thought ‘I must meet this guy’. Since then we have bumped into each other and his partner, Trudie, in many countries including the UK in London for winter, and France, where we toured the D-Day Beaches together.
David jumped on the phone and demanded to speak to the oldest tech still alive. They checked the closet for the Old Dude and wheeled him to the phone where he said with delight he babied many of these old Type 1 linier drives… ‘they don’t make them like they used to’. “The fault is not the Calibration, it’s the electric motor brushes have a bit of dirt on them. Modern APs are ‘brushless’ but the old ones had them. If the brushes are dirty the modern electronics can’t read the fault properly and think it can’t Calibrate so it removes the Calibration option from the Menu”. He then shuffled back to his closet mumbling “don’t make em like we used to…”
So the solution is to remove the whole Auto Pilot, bring it into the saloon dining table, rip it apart and check the brushes. If the brushes are too worn down just stuff a bit of aluminium foil behind them to add a bit of length.
So with 12 hours before the next storm I think even I can do the job in that time – although it might be close.
David explains the order in text messages and a satellite phone call.
I shove Marjorie back on the wheel. In the last 24 hours she has been at the wheel for 16 or more hours. I disconnect the wires, she holds the wheel exactly stead and we disconnect the quadrant connecting pin. Then I work on the pin at the other end… which… does not move. 20 years being fixed in one position is not good on a boat. Its designed to move but doesn’t need to on our set-up so it doesn’t. I flood it with WD40 and while waiting inspect the casing of the AP. I can see the screws that hold the casing which covers the motor. Can’t I just undo them? Theres space. Not normal to have working space on a boat. I undo the screws and the casing slides along the arm and theres 2 beautiful plastic screw caps covering the brushes that a dental tool pops out. The first one I pull out shows a tiny 5 mm x 5 mm electrode block the surface of which is not corroded, just dirty. I get my scotch scouring pad and rub gently for 30 seconds till its clean. Replace it, remove the other, its clean but I scrub it anyway. Replace, re-wire, re-connect. Test…… IT WORKS!!!
I didn’t need to take the whole unit off. I didn’t even need to disconnect the drive arm or the electrics. In fact, of the 2 hours to do the job I only needed maybe 20 minutes if I had know to go straight for the screws. The cleaning of the two tiny brushes took 30 seconds each, literally. 30 seconds.
At 4pm Monday we held our breaths as we pushed the Auto Pilot button. On it went “Auto”. 30 seconds breath holding, 60 seconds… could we breathe, please? We watched it for 5 minutes before sleep called us below. At sea our bed is in the aft cabin where you can just hear the auto-pilot going bup, bup bup… buuuuup, bup bup, bup. A beautiful rhythm to go to sleep by.
Mark
 

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16 hours at the Helm @ double shifts, willing to hand steer to the carribean for a Rum. ;-) Looks like Mark has found a soulmate in Marjorie! Bravo !
 

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Those kind of stories, the grit and commitment to care and share, always get at my soft spot.

Thanks.
 

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What a great story! Great work Mark... You owe Marjorie big time.

This brings back a memory for me. I was sailing single handed from St Marten to LIS via Bermuda... with two kittens on board. I departed Philipsburg and was sailing along nicely on a close reach or similar. Seas were not flat... Alpha 3000 AP (Alison) did the steering. I recall it was not too long after the sun set Allison stopped steering, YIKES... Would I have to hand steer back to St. Marten for 12 hrs or could I fix the AP? What happened? I turned the boat to a dead down wind course locked the helm and hoped the boat would stay flat enough for me to fiddle with the AP. I got myself into the aft lazarette... I can actually get at the AP from a removable panel in the aft cabin.. at least most of it is reachable.
Luckily the problem was easy to fix. The ram has has a 1/2" Ø hole for a bolt which is bolted to a plate which in turn is bolted the the rudder stock. As the ram goes in and out it pushes the plate (lever) and this turns the rudder. Nut fell off the bolt... arm dropped away and the ram was pushing and pulling nothing. But was lost in the bilge somewhere. But I had spare nuts and bolts and so problem was to get the new nut tightened on the bolt. This was not terribly hard despite the boat moving around like a washing machine. Once in place the AP was good to go. Thank dog! Kittens had escaped to the deck and were retrieving flying fish!
 

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It's all my fault! I asked Mark on Thursday how the autopilot was holding up and he replied on Friday: best piece of equipment for 13 years. I jinxed it. Looking at PredictWind he's close hauled in 20 knots at 175 true. Not very pleasant. I"ll stay on my couch and contemplate changing the motor on my A/P to a brushless one even though I carry a spare motor.
 
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