Have we been rolled?

Sun 7 Apr 2019 19:59
Don’t panic, not rolled in that way! So far we have successfully kept the thin aluminium bit well above the heavy lead bit, which is generally a good sign.

And we have mostly kept the pointy bit pointed roughly towards Bermuda. I say “mostly” as accepted deviation from the straight course does tend to increase a bit (a lot) towards the end of a three hour night watch. Anybody for Florida? Or maybe the Azores? Three blokes are not going to admit that the electronic autopilot can do it better than us.
And when speeding along in the waves, with one hand holding a biscuit, one hand the mug of coffee, one hand the wheel and another holding the ship - you might notice there becomes a bit of a deficiency in the human limb provisions for Atlantic sailing. Something has to give. And, as those who know me will realise, it won’t be the biscuit that is released first. Nor the coffee.

So to “being rolled”? Well late on the evening of 5th April our GPS started sulking and lost its position fix. Initially it was out for about 45 minutes. Not a huge issue in open sea, as we have the compass to steer with and nothing to hit for hundreds of miles (and lots of spare GPS devices in each phone and iPad- the don’t panic bit again :-)
Interestingly this occurred just after 0000UTC on 6th April - which is apparently a “GPS Year Rollover” date, when the year number broadcast by the satellites suddenly flips back to year zero.
Not quite sure why they chose 6th April for end date, as opposed to 1st Jan or even Chinese calendar? Must be a NASA tax wheeze, perhaps?
For those who are interested I include an attachment which explains the binary number system used by computers and the number of years able to be recorded in each different length of binary digit space - fascinating stuff you will agree (tomorrow’s tutorial will be on why the instruments will only show distance to waypoint of 655miles or less - will leave you to ponder this till then).
Anyway, the GPS system was having this rollover about the time we first hit this issue - so the prof wondered if this could be a factor (though my Samsung phone was quite happy).

As with computers, the general “solution” to any nav system issue is to switch on and off again in hope. (Which we later did a few times.). So time to flick on the autopilot and reboot the system to see if fixed it.
But what is referred to as sailing “experience” is in fact a long back record of previous stupidity and mistakes rebadged more positively. And just before attempting this I recalled a recent “experience” when going round the Mull of Kintyre solo. Skipper nipped below to switch off the phone charger. One black switch labelled in grey looks much the same as any other - but have interestingly different outcomes. Switching off the instruments also switches off the autopilot compass, and just south of the Mull I did a rapid 360 degree pirouette before I had time to leap on deck and grab control.
So “experience” paid and I waited this time.

The GPS grumbled all day, going off frequently and sometimes taking a while to recover, but with no serious impact on progress. Romping along on a fast beam reach averaging 8 knots in the sunshine (that is the factual content of this blog so hope you appreciated it).
When dinner time came it was more serious however. The cockpit speakers suddenly failed to play the skipper his music. The “T” word was briefly muttered darkly.

But minor GPS foibles were forgotten as we continued to sail through the night in perfect conditions. Who needs a GPS when we have a star, or billions of stars, to steer our ship by. Lovely. And touch wood, today on 7th April the ships GPS has been very well behaved, so far.

400 miles run and about 530 miles to go towards our waypoint just SE of Bermuda. Will skipper allow a celebratory beer ration, as promised, for successfully completing the first third of the journey (before we reach the half way beers)?
Further (not very) exciting instalments tomorrow .....

Sent from my iPad