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Thursday, November 22, 2007

A day in the life - Part 1

16:30UTC 22/11/07 17'06N 031'24W Wind NE5/6

Well, yesterday I thought I would jot down what I did in the day. We have fairly relaxed days so I didn't reckon it would be too long a post, but here I am with many pages of text! So, if you have the stamina, below is 'A day in the life of Ty Dewi - Wed 21 Nov 2007 - Part 1'

We're sailing fast right now, good breeze and just broke the record for the 24 hour run since I bought her, 152 miles from noon to noon. All's well. Nick

'A day in the life of Ty Dewi - Wed 21 Nov 2007 - Part 1'
Today, my day starts at midnight. I'm dozing in the settee bunk in the saloon, drifting in and out of sleep as we get used to the rolling motion of the boat. Ian taps me on the shoulder. 'Your watch' he says.

It's warm, so I'm just sleeping in my shorts, in a cotton sleeping bag liner. I get up, swinging myself out over the leecloth, a fabric barrier that stops me falling out of bed as the boat rolls. Finding my t-shirt and a light jacket, I dress in the moonlit cabin, trying to time my movements to those of the boat.

We exchange a few words. No ships, nice night, boat going fast but the autopilot's making a funny noise. I'd been worrying about the autopilot, it had been tripping out during the day. We've previously christened the autopilot 'Georgina', and she's a full time member of the crew. Without her, we'd be hand steering, a dismal prospect for 15 days non-stop, 2 hours each, turn about turn. Now I've got to think about what might be causing the problem.

I put on my lifejacket and harness whilst Ian writes up the midnight log entry. Bidding him goodnight, I step up towards the cockpit, find a harness line and clip it to the steel loop of my safety harness. I remember that I'm not wearing my lifetag, so I reach to the grabrail in the saloon, peel apart the velcro strap and wrap the tag around my wrist. The harness should keep me on board if I trip or fall, but the tag is always sending a radio signal to a box on the boat. If I, and my tag, fall over the side the signal is lost and an alarm sounds.

Clipped onto the boat now, I step out into the cockpit and stand, legs apart to balance for the rocking, holding onto the sprayhood rail and watch the moonlit waves roll under the boat, feeling the rise and fall as we tumble our way across the Atlantic. I listen, the autopilot is noisy, working harder than it should and making a 'grrunch' sound every minute or two.

I sit down, unclip my harness line from the u-bolt near the cabin and reclip to the one at the back of the cockpit. Moving to stand behind the wheel I hit the button to turn off the pilot and take control of the boat myself. It takes a few minutes of one hundred percent concentration, judging the slew and twist of boat and waves before I'm into the groove and can relax, my movements of the wheel becoming more instinctive and automatic. And in those few minutes, the autopilot problem is clear to me. As I turn the wheel there's a delay, some slack, before I feel the rudder move. That final symptom helps it all click into place, there must be a shortage of hydraulic fluid, the pilot is pushing against some air bubbles and not getting a response. That's good, now I know how to fix it, we just need to wait till daylight. I hand steer for most of my two hour watch, enjoying a buzz from steering MY BOAT over this great ocean.

Finishing my watch at 2am, I wake Ed to take over, and head back to my bunk. I sleep fitfully, the noises and motion of the boat intruding on my rest. I don't hear the autopilot much though, so the guys must be hand steering a fair bit, just using the pilot when they come below to check the radar.

Around 7am, I wake to the first glimmer of a grey dawn. The wind has risen nicely and it's great sailing weather, but Ian and Dave are both up and on deck, Ian's enjoying hand steering just as I had been earlier. We all chat a little about the plan for the morning, then I go below to put the kettle on and get the morning emails.

Email comes via the radio. I open up the computer and jot a quick note to Gesa, file a position report and then prepare to dial into the email system. First thing to do is check the radio propagation. My email software has a screen that shows the chance of connecting to various stations at certain times of the day. Right now, the Belgium station shows green on 8422kHz, so I turn on the radio and modem, select the frequency and listen. Bleeps and chirps suggest that someone else is already dialled in on that frequency, so I wait. After a few minutes the sounds revert to the usual static and random beeps, so I click 'connect'. The lights flicker as the radio puts out full power and connects to Belgium. Two messages to send, and two to download, Gesa's news from last night and a weather file. After 3 minutes, all is sent and received, a tiny 10kbytes of data. It's nice to hear from home, Gesa's analysis of the weather looks good even if things back in Cambridge are a little stressful right now. I'll have to write something nice later to try and cheer her up.

Switching off the radio, I load the weather file into the viewer and get the news we want. As Gesa had already suggested, we'll get favourable strong breezes all the way to Saturday. Need to work our way south a little to about 17N in order to be well positioned for Friday but that'll be easy. The kettle's boiling, it's time for a coffee....

To be continued.

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Blogger Julia said...

I was wondering how you moved about on your boat, all the while keeping safe and sound. I love the 'day in the life', I can hardly wait until the next installment.


11:28 am  

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