Saturday 17th July
Distance run in 24 hours 101
Total distance run 709
After a day of little wind, yesterday evening saw a sudden change, with winds of 20+knots and very confused seas. We shortened sail considerably, and sailed with 2 reefs in the main and the yankee, and made some good speed in the right direction. Unfortunately, the autopilot which had been giving error messages on & off for a couple of days decided that it really had had enough now, and although it continued to hold the wheel steady, would not turn it. This meant that we had to hand steer, and it was easy to see why the autopilot gave up, as the sea was constantly yanking the wheel hard over one way or the other, making it quite hard work. We put the autopilot on from time to time to give ourselves a rest, and as the sails were well-balanced it was able to hold the wheel steady, but when noises started to come from the area of the autopilot drive we decided we had better not use it any more. The backup wheel pilot was also overwhelmed by the seas and so with over half the passage still left to go, we now had no autopilot.
On the upside, we were surprised to suddenly hear the beep beep of a text message arriving on one of our mobiles which just happened to have been left on. 'Welcome to Greece' it said, and it appeared that although we were some 50 miles off the coast of Crete, we had picked up a mobile signal! We wasted no time in connecting to the internet and getting the weather forecast for the next week. This meant that we were better informed when making passage decisions. The bad news was that there would be little wind over the next several days and progress towards Malta would therefore be slow. The good news was that there were no gale warnings!