Tiller Pilot Sea Trials (and a run in with the Coast Guard)

Where Next?
Bob Williams
Thu 22 Oct 2015 22:21

At anchor Richardson Bay, San Francisco Harbor
Wind: south-east, F2 gentle breeze
Weather: mostly sunny, mild

We remain, still, at anchor in Richardson Bay. I have been filling my time with doing some painting of Sylph's decks, and other minor maintenance chores, as well as continuing my studies in creative writing. I have now finished painting the aft end of the coach house, bar a few minor touch ups, and it is looking much better. I have also reinstalled a foot pump to provide sea water to the galley sink. This died back in Alaska where I was unable to find a replacement pump, so I installed a small electric pump instead. Unfortunately the pump would often get an air block in it despite my best efforts to ensure that any air that made its way in through the inlet would automatically bleed out. Now that is fixed. The other boat job I have just finished today, at least in a prototype form, is installing an autopilot. I purchased a second hand tiller pilot from my fellow cruisers aboard the Muktuk and adapted it to fit onto a tiller I made to fit the Hydrovane rudder. I took it for sea trials today, in a lap around Alcatraz Island and am pleased to be able to report that it worked a treat. I need to improve the tiller arrangement as, while it works, it is a bit on the flimsy side and will likely break after a bit of use.

Unfortunately my little sea trial ran into a moment of embarrassment with the US Coast Guard. I was completing some of the calibration procedures on the autopilot and was down below momentarily reading the manual and checking the chart. When I returned on deck I was taken aback to see a large Coast Guard launch paralleling our course about twenty yards off our port quarter. One of the men on deck asked whether I had any qualifications. I immediately assumed I was about to be booked for not keeping a proper lookout. I advised them that I did and scurried down below to find them, but of course as fate would have it after searching the chart draw where I have kept these documents for as long as I can remember, I could not find them. Bother. I ducked on deck, made sure that they could see I was having a good look around, advised them that I was not sure where I had put them (a likely story, I could almost hear them thinking) and returned below to continue my scavenging. After a minute or more of searching, while I am pleased to say the new autopilot maintained a perfect heading, I gave up and went on deck and advised them of my qualifications. They actually seemed satisfied and then asked for the ship's documentation. This I was able to readily lay my hands on, and they closed the gap so that I could hand the papers across to them. I continued to make my vigilant lookout manifestly obvious. After copying out some of the details they handed the paperwork back and very courteously allowed me to proceed. I breathed a long sigh of relief and returned to navigating around Alcatraz.

I took a few photos of the island as I motored around it, and rather than attempt a cliched description of it I will post the photos separately. Once around the small island we made our way back to anchor in Richardson Bay.

This morning the Muktuk left for Ensenada in Mexico, but two days ago Harald on board the Fram turned up, so I still have someone to socialise with, and have just returned from a pleasant evening on board Fram. Harald cooks a very respectable and tasty stew (it was his turn).

My creative writing course has another five weeks to run. I have very mixed feelings about it. I won't say it was a mistake, as it has at least shown me that creative writing is perhaps not the best use of my limited writing skills. If anything I think it is simply sapping what little creative energy I have to the detriment of other perhaps more meaningful projects. So I am sorry to say that I will not be writing the definitive twenty first century novel any time soon, not that that was ever my ambition, rather it was merely to possibly help me make my blog a little more interesting. Please do not get me wrong. I think it is an excellent course for those who have genuine ambitions along these lines, but, alas, I am not such a one. My path would seem to lie elsewhere, predominantly in the physical realm, and, I am suspecting, in icier climes.

All is well.