Day 226, Year 5 Passage to Madagascar, Day 7
Date: Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Weather: Another Squally Night; Sunny Day, Winds ESE 28-30
Latitude: 10 degrees 54.810 minutes S
Longitude: 056 degrees 56.731 minutes E
Miles to Go: 479

My day started at 4:30 am with squalls packing heavy winds and rain. Then at 6:50 am when I was getting ready to turn on the radio to report our position back to folks in Chagos, I found Windbird heading in the wrong direction. One minute we were headed West and the next we were headed due East. I looked over at the Auto Pilot display unit and it was reading in digital Chinese and I couldn’t control the wheel as it was still locked in auto mode. I called down to wake Mark and he turned off the Auto Pilot so I could steer. He hand steered while I checked into the Chagos net and then I hand steered while he tried to figure out the problem. We suspected that water getting into the system could be the problem, but in order to check things out Mark had to take our aft cabin bed apart and take down part of the ceiling. The drive unit for the auto pilot is under our bed and the wiring going to the control unit in the cockpit is above the ceiling. By 9 am he had found a disconnected wire, fixed that, but still the main display until was reading in digital Chinese. He brought out the fancy little hand-held remote for the auto pilot and after a few tries that worked and is still working. Mark bought this unit at the Newport Boat Show last fall and I have given him all kinds of grief about the purchase saying that was just another boy toy-not necessary. Well, I take back all of those unkind words back because after hand steering in heavy seas and winds this morning for an hour, I certainly wouldn’t want to do that for the next few days until we reach Madagascar. So praises for Mark’s trouble shooting and for the little hand-held unit. Later in the day I was waking from a nap when I heard Mark say that he was going out on deck-right now! I jumped up to find that he had noticed that a very expensive and very vital bolt that connects our roller furling to the chain plate was loose and about to fall out. We lost that bolt once before and certainly didn’t want to lose it again, especially not in these windy conditions. I cannot express how lucky I feel today. Things could have and still could turn out another way, but for now we have an auto pilot and we have our head sail roller furling. All is well.

The conditions out here are tough. The wind averaged 28 knots all day today with gusts up to 40 and times when 32-35 knots was the norm. That’s windy, but it is from behind us and that helps. The seas are a good three to four meters or nine to twelve feet and they come at us from behind the beam. The good thing is that they are far enough apart to make the conditions not too rough. So we rock and roll a bit and once in a while we lurch so that walking down below is a hazardous sport. If predictions are correct, things are going to stay this way until we reach the coast of Madagascar, so we have settled in and are just happy that things are not rougher.

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