Position Report on Thursday 17th April 2014

The Alba Chronicles
Neville Howarth
Thu 17 Apr 2014 16:14

Position Report on Thursday 17th April 2014 at 0800


10:17.4S 138:17.0W


So far, we've done 3,005 miles with 30 miles to go.  In the last 24 hours, we’ve done 125 frustrating miles – one of our slowest days on the passage.  We’re sailing at 4-5 knots in 4-6 foot seas.  It's another lovely sunny day and we're now getting very, very excited because we can see Fatu Hiva!  I can’t wait to rip open a cold can of beer – this is the longest that I’ve been without alcohol since I was a teenager !!!  Here's what we did yesterday and overnight.


16 April 2014   Galapagos to Marquesas (Day 21)


I woke at half past six and couldn't get back to sleep - a combination of time zone changes and my excitement that we were nearly at the end of our passage.  At 0800, we had 165 miles to go, so there was a good chance the we would drop our anchor in Fatu Hiva the next day. 


There were 10 boats on the SSB net, all doing fine.  "Baraka" was about the same distance from Fatu Hiva as we were and so they should be arriving at the anchorage around the same time.  We had light 10-15 knot winds all day with the direction slowly backing to be from the east by late afternoon, so we had a very relaxing day, ending up running dead down wind.


Before dinner, Glenys went into the front heads to have a shower, and I was down below receiving a weather email, when suddenly the boat turned to hard to starboard.  By the time that I'd got up to the steering wheel, we had hove-to with the main backed - thank goodness that I had a preventer on the main boom.


I turned the boat back onto the correct heading and saw that, once again, the heading on the autopilot was different to our magnetic compass, this time it was out by 50 degrees.  This was the third time that the autopilot had freaked out when Glenys was in the front heads - what on earth was she doing? 


When she came up to the cockpit, she ran through everything that she had just done - she went to the toilet, had a shower holding the shower head in her hand and then ran the shower pump.  It was more or less exactly the same thing that I do.  The flux gate compass for the autopilot is in a cupboard on the other side of the shower room bulkhead wall - perhaps she builds up a lot of static electricity and had discharged it when she switches on the light or something?


We ran through everything that she did in the front heads in great detail, where she stands, what she holds, how she braces herself while on the toilet and what she leans against when she's showering, etc.  The only thing that she did different to me was she leans against the bulkhead wall when she's showering.


I went into the shower room and banged on the bulkhead wall and to my amazement, the autopilot turned to port and the flux gate compass corrected itself.  Mystery solved - we must have a loose connection or an intermittent fault on the flux gate compass.  At least we know that all we need to do is bang on the wall if it goes wrong again...


At sunset, we had 100 miles to go, but the wind had dropped right off and we were only managing 3-4 knots through the water.  Fortunately, we had a favourable 1 knot current pushing our speed over the ground up to 4-5 knots, so there was  a fighting chance that we'd have less than 50 miles to go at dawn and we could motor the rest of the way.


It was a lovely moonlit night and calm enough that I could listen to my French language course.  We've been in spanish speaking countries for well over a year and I never got to grips with the language.  I could speak enough Spanish to be able to get by as long as I could wave my arms around and point, but I couldn't have a conversation other than "I want", "Where is", etc.  It was very frustrating not to be able to have a "chat" with the locals.


We'll only be in French Polynesia for three or four months, but I'm determined to speak French better than I can Spanish.  I learned French at school for four years and have spent many weeks on holiday in France, so I should be able to pick it up a bit easier - I just need to put the effort in...


At 0400, we were still plodding along at 3-4 knots through the water and had 50 miles to go, so we weren't doing too bad, but it seemed frustratingly slow especially with the sails slatting as we rolled in the light winds.