April – third mate missing

We moved the boat back to our mooring in Cowes this month, but on the way our autopilot lost its sense of direction.

Whenever we are just two on board the autopilot is an extra member of the crew, and an essential third mate on longer passages.

With a big steering wheel for racing, it is hard to deal with the sheets on Spring Fever without putting the autopilot on. With Pepper, the smaller previous boat, we had a tiller, so on a solo watch I could if necessary steer for a while with my knees while trimming the sails or doing other cockpit jobs, and would not have to disturb the watch below – sleep is of course vital for safe crewing.

A small problem, we thought, so we asked Wroath’s, the Cowes electrical firm to check when they replaced our broken masthead light. But it turned out not only that the repairs would cost a large proportion of the price of a new one but that spares are hard to get for a 10 year old model. So that’s £2,000 extra on this year’s budget for a new autopilot.

Thankfully, we are running twice that much below our target for annual spending, with very low bills so far this year, so it’s not too much of a pain to install a new one ahead of our hoped-for cruise to the east coast in May.

Meanwhile, better news on Pass Your Yachtmaster, the book I collaborated on with the original author, David Fairhall. It looks like Adlard Coles, the publishers, have a solution to the copyright problem that held it up. Fingers crossed. The text was delivered complete last June and the book has been ready for printing for months.