How to turn a bad night into an OK one - pilots and plumbing

Andy Gibb
Mon 24 Jan 2011 17:05
We are at 6:31.21N 46:42.42W.
Last night on Intrepid was eventful. During my watch at 2am a particularly
vicious combination of huge wave and 30 degree windshift slewed Intrepid
right round, and tried to push the main sail the wrong way. The jib
preventer rope we have specially arranged stopped this, but the force
required to bring Intrepid back onto her proper course tripped the safety
cut out on the autopilot. I hand steered for a bit, then the auto worked
again but as Jonny handed over to Martin at 5am, the same thing happened.
Steering byhand for the remainder of the trip is not perfect, but what
turned a bad night into an OK one was the thought that : a. we have an
alternative autopilot which does not use electricity - the hydrovane; b.
anyway there are 4 of us; c. there is only 400 miles or 3-4 days to go. A
significant number of yachts have broken autopilots on Atlantic crossings.
And even better, d. when I tested the autopilot it seemd OK, and indeed it steered Intrepid
while Martin kept a close watch over it, and then at 9am we did a complete
check and it seems fine, just felt unloved by being asked to cope with these
huge waves and windshifts, and essentially went on a short term holiday. So
that's OK then.

We crossed the Atlantic in 2001 on the ARC at the same time as a yacht
sailed by Jon Snow the BBC journalist and his son Dan, (now also a TV
presenter). They arrived across the Atlantic with BOTH toilets broken, the
crew had to bucket and chuck it for the previous 2 weeks. We know because we
were moored next to them in Canaries, and then Nicky who had broken her arm
half way across was in the next bed in the St Lucia hospital to Dan Snow who
had his appendix removed the day they arrived - if it had flared any earlier
he would have had acute appendicitis 1000 miles from anywhere, and probably
Why the bit about Jon Snow's toilet? Well, as Jonny got me up to tend to the
autopilot at 5am, he casually mentioned that his and Martin's forward toilet
had blocked. Well, its not good to have a blocked toilet anywhere, but to
have one at sea is far worse, and Nicky and I are more familiar with the
Jabsco marine toiltets, so Nicky and I spent the 5 hours after sorting the
autopilot finding out where the (immoveable) blockage was, replacing the
hose that had the blockage in it with spare hose I keep on Intrepid,
changing the Y valve and the valves in the toilet that had turned inside out
by the vigorous pumping trying to clear the blockage with spares we had, and
generally getting pretty shitty as Intrepid rolled from side to side and I
tried to keep my head inside the small space allowed for the plumbing.
Jonny and Martin sailed the boat, baked bread (a first for Jonny) and cooked
soup, so as I write, we are just finishing clearing up and about to have a
delayed delicious smelling lunch.
Oh the joys of ocean sailing!!!!!!!
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