Headed out to the South Pacific

Our stay in lovely Monterey has been longer than we anticipated, although if you have to pick somewhere to be “stuck” waiting on weather and parts, it is hard to beat Monterey California. ( More about that in another post).
The weather this year is far from “normal” with wave after wave of lows coming over the US West Coast, and a series of troughs over the California west coast, unlike anything that has been recorded before. We lacked a weather window* to get as far south as we would have liked safely, and did not have a window to head directly from here to the South Pacific until last Thursday.

So when after almost a month of waiting for a weather window one appeared we made a break for it. It was a beautiful day and we were sailing along with all the canvas up *and we were sailing on the course to the Marquesas at about 7 knots. We set the wind vane self steering and were feeling pretty good.

A loud pow sounded from below the cockpit when we were about 4 hours off the coast and the wind-vane quit steering. Simultaneously the autopilot started beeping and giving an error indicating that the rudder position sensor was not functioning. (While the instruments are on even if it is not steering the boat, the autopilot instrument is also a compass, and a rudder angle indicator.)

A quick look in the cockpit locker revealed that the bracket holding the self steering block (The nautical term for a pulley), had broken, the line from the block to the rudder tiller had then broken the bracket for the rudder angle indicator on the autopilot, and we were completely without self steering. Continuing on our course for the next 24+ days without self steering would have meant a crew member always steering the boat, this would be exhausting to all of us, and would also be significantly less safe for watch keeping. So we headed back.

The Carnage

We ordered some raw materials the next day, and prepped the area for a new solution to mounting the blocks for the Cape Horn wind vane steering.

The original gray fiberglass brackets were speced by the vendor that sold them to us as being a fully laid up epoxy fiberglass L similar to G-10. G-10 is a perfectly laid up epoxy fiberglass material with multi axes glass fibers running though it. It is very strong and very durable. Unable to inspect the internal layup of the material we used for the original brackets we took the vendor at their word. In a nutshell they lied. The material of the original brackets was a single axes glass layup and so they broke when we applied a significant load to them.

With the raw materials in hand, and our friend Rand from the bay area working with us, we made a new set of mounts (one on each side) for the windvane self steering blocks, and fabricated a new bracket for the autopilot rudder angle indicator. (We sent our wonderful crew member Bruce Bates off to spend some more time with his grand kids, as there wasn’t room for another person to work in the cockpit locker).

The Fix

Waiting for the NEXT weather window

Then we were again waiting for a weather window. We have a weather window today, May 20th, and are going to head off soon to the Marquesas. This will be the last update with new photos for a while but we are hoping to be able to send daily short text based updates your way.
You should be able to track us using the link in the updates we send.
Guy, Melissa, and Bruce

* Weather window: a period of wind and waves that would allow someone in a small boat to safely and for the most part comfortably make a passage from one port or harbor to the next.
* All the Canvas Up: All of the working sails for a boat hoisted and drawing wind.