Biscay Drama 43.22.072N 08.23.090W

Peter and Sarah Shaw
Thu 11 Aug 2016 10:01

Log extract:

 Although autopilot performing well it started making strange noises and I went into rear stbd cabin to take a look – much stowage needed to be removed to gain access  -I had to crawl in to access a small inspection hatch close to the stern – I had to relocate stowage to gain access  - as I crawled in a case of beer and a  ream of printing paper relocated on top of me as we were hit by an enormous wave - fortunately Sarah - who was huddled in the cockpit did not hear my yells and expletives. Having shifted the case of beer and stuffed the paper underneath me my natty head torch revealed the base of the autopilot unit -about the size of a differential on a small car - was dangling on some very loose bolts!

It is pitch black outside and the boat is being thrown around and the compass spinning like the tumblers of a one armed bandit. The twin wheels are connected to the auto pilot drive unit via chains which are constantly moving as the rudder is moved from one side to the other - the bolts that needed to be tightened are inches away from these fast moving chains. (Remember The Texas Chain Saw Massacre -chains are really good for cutting off limbs !) 


          Doing nothing - autopilot eventually breaks off -  we loose steerage and in the bad conditions probably loose boat.Do Something -tighten bolts -Autopilot should hold out but may loose fingers or hand in the Stormbreaker Chainsaw Massacre ! 


No option but to tighten the bolts - Sarah broke open the first aid kit and prepared some bandages just in case. One again I squeezed into to the tight space with a spanner, head torch and much trepidation. On my way Stormbreaker was once again hit side on by an enormous wave and I was hit by an Industrial size pack of Andrex which had become airborne - more expletives !


It felt like  the bomb defuser in one of those movies - one false move and ………. 


 The spanner felt slippery in my wet hands - the space below the unit was a dark void of bilge space -no chance of recovery if dropped.

Deep breaths and ready for the first bolt -all lined up with a steady hand - another wave strikes Stormbreaker and my head is knocked against the bulkhead and hits the switch of my head torch which promptly turns it off -complete darkness. I hear the pilot respond to the wave and both chains move faster as if eager to slice the wet fingers that have dared to come so close. I quickly pull back and the spanner starts to slip from my sweaty grip - I loose it and as the boat lurches violently it fly’s back to hit me in the face -further and increased expletives - Head torch re lit and spanner lays just in front of me .


A further look into the now well illuminated chamber of horrors and a second attempt to grab the bolts - spanner on the first bolt as the chain trims the hairs on my knuckles - two or three turns secures a tight fit on the first of the four bolts. Spanner on second bolt as the boat lurches again - this time I am caught a glancing blow by the port chain - just a nick but a reminder of the danger. Another lurch from Stormbreaker and I am reunited with the case of beer which now pins me down and clears the air from my lungs.


Bolt two now secured and a move to the starboard rear cabin to access the other side of the unit . Case of beer has long since left my back as it flew across the cabin after a further lurch from Stormbreaker.


Now in starboard cabin with better sight of bolts and a better angle- chains continue to spin and snarl but I eventually secure the remaining two bolts moments before the batteries in my head torch drain and I am once again plunged into complete darkness.


All now sorted – autopilot appears OK but will check in Coruna .