OSTAR day 6

British Beagle
Charles Emmett
Sun 2 Jun 2013 15:49

Day 6

Sunday 2nd June 12.00 BST

Position – 46 42 85N 20 38 54W

Log 793 miles (113 over last 24 hours)


Today has been an emotional rollercoaster!


Having finally got the monitor set up and working yesterday evening, having spent most of the day with my head in the engine compartment; I had some food and tried to get some sleep.  The monitor seemed to be steering ok and although I was not as confident in it as I should have been, I was very tired and the winds were still light.  I slept in 1 hour shifts to check my course every hour.


For those not familiar with auto helms and wind steering systems, the fundamental difference between the two is that with Arnold (the auto-helm) you can simply select a course or wind angle, set the number in the control and it will steer a constant. If the wind changes direction, thus taking you off course, an alarm will sound – so you don’t end up sailing off merrily in the wrong direction or round in circles.  The downside to Arnold is that he is very power thirsty – a commodity now in short supply on Beagle.  The monitor wind vane is a purely mechanical system which just pilots the boat to a set wind angle by using a small sail (or vane) which is set to the desired angle and any movement in the boat is counteracted by an equal and opposite movement in the vane, which then through a sequence of blocks and ropes, adjusts the tiller accordingly.  The downside to this system is that it needs to be regularly monitored and adjusted to ensure that it is still sailing the boat on the desired heading in the event of any change in wind direction.  It is also extremely sensitive and takes time to set up or change, especially for Beagle as it is designed to operate best with ‘neutral helm’ where Beagle has a tendency for weather helm, which is the way I like it.  The big advantage of the wind vane is that it uses no power at all.


Anyway, enough of the boring technical explanations – I am afraid that my short life as a mechanic has come to a premature end.  Deciding to give the batteries a bit of a boost at 6.00 this morning, I sparked up the engine.  To my horror, no charge was showing on the battery monitor.  All my efforts of yesterday to resolve this situation have amounted to nothing and I was back to square-one.  Once again I turned everything off that was not crucial, just leaving the wind instruments and AIS on, which together only draw about 0.6 of an amp.


I was distraught – feeling tired and very low, I actually considered turning the boat round and heading for home, whilst I moped in to my cup of tea.  I then remembered that before I left Portscatho, Tors had given me a card and said – ‘If you get lonely or down in the dumps, open the card’ – so I did.  Now I don’t want to go in to detail about the contents, it was very personal and it made me quite emotional, but the end result was that I had a massive mood change.  I decided that my resolve should be much greater and that I was made of sterner stuff – in the words of some – wipe it and man up – I thought that my old man would be turning in his grave if he knew that I had given up so easily because of a few minor snags.  Chichester and Haslar, the founders of OSTAR, had no more than compass and sextant, coupled with a scruffy old chart – no GPS, no plotter, no AIS or radar, no sat phones or computers or weather grib files – probably not even an engine – and they made it across ok. So all thoughts of bailing out were dismissed!


A little time later, I was sitting at the chart table doing a bit of nav and routing, when I suddenly noticed that the battery monitor was showing a charge.  Is this divine intervention, I thought – it can’t be, I haven’t been to church for years, barring the odd wedding.  I looked out through the companionway and the forecast wind had started to fill in from the SW and my wind generator was wirling away like a mini helicopter waiting to take off.  Well blow me down with a feather, with 48 hours of stiff SW wind on the way, this should be enough to fully charge the batteries, so long as I don’t use too much.  My mood much improved, I decided to celebrate with a cup of tea and a packet of hob-nobs.


The sea state has been building for the last few hours and the onslaught of the wind (now up to 18kn) after 48 hours of wallowing around in 5-6kn is very welcome.  A combination of light winds and my spending too much time sorting out problems and not enough time sailing the boat, have meant that I have lost out enormously in the last couple of days in the race – but Beagle, Boris and I are back up and running – bring on the SW gales forecast for the next 48 hours – Beagle weather is back!!


Signing off with huge thanks to my amazing daughter.  I adore you from the bottom of my heart – and well done for the 1st with distinction for your final assignment.


Back tomorrow hopefully with better news

C, Boris and Beagle