Autopilot and Other Fun Stuff

Sometimes we’re as slow as molasses about the things we do!

Mahdee, with her double arm worm gear, is so easy to steer whether we’re motoring or sailing that the autopilot hasn’t really been…shall we say…a high priority.  However, David installed it in the spring of 2010 and we did use is to sit in the chart house out of the rain and steer (by remote control) during our trip down the coast from San Francisco in the fall of 2010.  Then, well, we’ve been busy with other things.  The compass didn’t seem to work well–always had a tendency to steer off to one side into a circle.  We finally did the legwork for troubleshooting.  There were great instructions on troubleshooting in the manual and the manufacturer was very helpful on the phone.  The problem was identified, the replacement part (under warranty) sent by the manufacturer and, yea! we’re in business.

We can now steer using the compass heading.  However, doing that, there’s like…nothing to do…we can sit around and twiddle our thumbs (or take up knitting) letting the autopilot do its thing.   However, that will be really good when we’re sailing shorthanded into an anchorage and taking down sails! Or, when reefing the main, etc.

When I returned from Washington, DC a couple weeks ago, I immediately picked up a nasty cold/flu. I really didn’t feel good.  I sat around and did no-brainer tasks like cleaning up my file system on the computer and avoided overtaxing myself.  Then, as I was feeling much better and rearing to go on projects…yep…David got the cold.  He seems to have a “lesser” version of it but he’s in the “do no-brainer tasks on the computer mode” which means….David just wrote a Python program for the little Nokia N810; the program is an anchor watch which sounds an alarm when our GPS sees that we’re outside of a desired circle of water.  This means that instead of me sleeping with the Nokia in front of my face in the bed…we’ll have it sitting nearby able to give us fair warning of dragging anchor.

Why is that I have little to show for my no-brainer stuff and David has a nice little application programmed up?  Clearly my “no-brainer” and his are on entirely different planes.

Three Things

There are three things I seem to write about:

1.  Pretty birds, starfish, wildlife

2.  Projects

3.  Howling winds

Today, we’ll talk about all three.  We’ve had more than our share of lovely days with nifty little birds hanging around the boat.  I’m sure they’re wanting to be fed (we never feed these birds) but, still, they’re so cute.  I rowed David and his bike to shore so he can meet up with a friend (at a mooring field a few miles away) to practice sailing the friend’s boat for an upcoming race.  All I can say is “yahoo, we won’t have to race OUR boat!” even while David gets his go-fast-and-heel-too-far-fix.  On the way back to the boat, I was surrounded by the little loon looking birdies.  They look like miniature loons and certainly dive like them too.

Once back on the boat, I got to work on my part of the settee project:  more paint and varnish.  I had the two large pieces of plywood that make up the underside of the port-side pilot berth outside for painting whilst I painted the bulkhead adjacent the berth.  All the mahogany has 3 coats of varnish (or is it 4?) and thus I’ve moved on to painting the adjacent surfaces.  Once I got the big sheets of 9mm plywood covered in paint and delicately balanced on little scraps of wood on the fore deck, the winds decided to start blowing very hard and I wondered if perhaps my plywood was going to fly away.  I couldn’t weight it down but I did angle it so the leading edge (towards the anchored front of the boat) was positioned on low blocks while the trailing edge was higher so the wind would hopefully push the plywood down rather than lift it up.  It seemed to work.

That wind did really howl though.  Later in the afternoon, while I was below decks I heard a sharp toot on an airhorn and thought that either there’s a race starting adjacent Mahdee or someone is signaling me.  I popped up on deck and found David and Don flying by Mahdee in the 40′ or so sail boat they’ll be racing next week.  As they spun circles around me, I asked what they were doing here in the quiet anchorage rather than out in the windier bay or even the ocean.  “Too windy” they said with grins plastered on their faces.  I’d swear they were drinking but know that Don doesn’t keep alcohol on the boat so I figured they were just drunk with the exhilarating winds of the day.

Last  night the winds died into a lovely calm but today they’ve whipped back up into a nice little torrent of noise in the rigging and slapping waves on the hull.  Too much wind to put another coat of paint on the plywood so I had to resort to other projects–paperwork this go ’round.

So, there we have it–cute birds, projects, and howling winds.

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