I arrived at the yard today to find that Odyssey has now taken on the appearance of a real blue-water cruiser. Her transom (the blunt end) now sports a rather fabulous new Monitor wind-vane self-steering gear. I’ve droned on about it before, and it arrived yesterday. Ed and Chris made a start on it before I left for the beach and finished it off this morning. It looks superb, all shiny and steel and ropes and pulleys and vanes and paddles and things. All very complicated but beautifully put together.
They asked how it works so I tried to demonstrate it to them: basically it’s a device to steer the boat at a constant angle to the wind and is completely self-contained, needing no external power source or control systems. There’s a big wind-vane which sticks up in the air, and if the boat goes off course at all this vane tilts under the pressure of the wind, thus twisting a paddle which dangles below in the water. This in turn is pushed to one side by the pressure of the water flowing past, and the resultant force is transmitted back to the steering wheel by ropes. These ropes turn the wheel just enough to bring the boat back on course, so the wind-vane goes vertical again and everyone is happy. Wonderful! If you’re interested you can find out more on the manufacturer’s website:
My new autopilot also arrived, and is very different to the wind-vane. It has a big beast of a ram which attaches to the rudder post inside the boat, and is controlled by a big black box. Well, a grey one actually, with a very clever computer in it. This can steer the boat a constant course relative to the wind, just like the Monitor, but that’s not all. It can also steer a magnetic compass course, or aim for a given position anywhere on earth, using a network of orbiting satellites to navigate itself. Best of all is the wireless remote control for it so I can lie in bed and drive the boat in comfort!
Between the two of them these babies are going to steer me all the way home to England so I can do nothing more taxing that open another beer and ponder the wonders of technology. Well, that’s the theory anyway…
After all the excitement of seeing my new toys I thought I ought to do some work so I set up my vise in the shade under the boat and proceeded to grind all the rust off the chainplates and bolts which I removed yesterday. After a couple of hours I had them polished to perfection so I showed them to Rick, who declared them to be totally sound and good for another 25 years. Hooray! So the masts might not fall down after all 🙂
I left around 3 to drop off the sails at a local sailmaker’s to be cleaned and repaired as necessary before heading home. I arrived just before the onset of a humungous electrical storm which had been rumbling in the distance for hours before. It finally pounced on Fort Lauderdale and unleashed a torrential downpour accompanied by the most intense and persistent thunder and lightning I’ve ever seen in my life. Pretty soon the lights began to fade and flicker, and random appliances started turning themselves off and on again. Finally it all went POP and the power vanished completely, leaving us at the mercy of the elements.
Great fun, and luckily the power came on pretty soon after the storm moved away. All very exciting but it’s a timely reminder that we’re almost into hurricane season and the tropical storms are starting to brew down in the Caribbean, so my time here really is precious now.