Transat Diary - Day 5 - The butter has melted and maybe also did the autopilot
Day 5 (2023-01-08)
In theory, by the end of this day, we will be halfway to our destination but with decreasing speeds due to the Sargassum seaweed who knows?
The Sargassum seaweed has taken control of our progress, it’s evil golden claws trying to hold us in place…
No matter how we trim the sails we seem to be doing less speed than before and than expected, can only imagine how much of this seaweed we are trailing on the keel and rudder by judging the amounts the Hydrovane rudder is collecting.
Occasionally we get the chance of seeing on the stern crazy amounts of this weed passing under our hull in a much more broken and dispersed shape than the patches that we pass by.
It’s like a golden carpet of flowers is trying to keep us here.
The wind and sea state seem to have reduced slightly but the grey skies continue with us, not sure what that will do to our power production but I’ve switched off one of our freezers and moved all its contents to the main fridge front loader section while I blocked the crisper side to reduce its overall volume and hopefully it’s energy consumption.
Today's menu is bean curry at room temperature possibly with some crackers.
Slowly, slowly throughout the afternoon, the sun has managed to pierce through the clouds and eventually lift most of that high haze. I think for the first time during this passage we saw a bit of the blue sky, even if still shyly. The sea state calmed down quite a bit to our enjoyment, with our slow progress due to the seaweed we were dragging, we were being rolled by the waves a bit more than previously, so at least that felt less of an issue now. As we relaxed and enjoyed the afternoon, another breakage was just about to happen, and this one would impact us much more than not having 240v hot meals, tea and coffee etc.
Without any warning we simply saw The Dream change course, no alarms, not a sound, just that simple change of direction in the horizon followed by the headsail flapping.
John quickly got up and grabbed the wheel correcting its course. The autopilot seemed to simply have disengaged without any error message or warning. He tried to engage it again, and nothing, no action whatsoever.
I emptied the locker where the autopilot motor head is installed to inspect it, it was burning hot!
We quickly tried to engage the Hydrovane despite the big ball of Sargassum seaweed around its rudder. Now more than ever, we needed the windpilot to work so we could think about what to do.
It took us probably 30 minutes to get it to steer something reasonable, in the meantime, John frantically tried to get rid of some of the seaweed with the boat hook, not an easy task.
What followed next is no surprise, tears of frustration, swearing.
So much preparation, so much effort and money spent, and we had become one of those boats where important stuff fails. We could simply not believe this was happening to us.
There were only two options: one, hand steer for 6 days; two, nanny the Hydrovane for 6 days (hoping this Sargassum issue sorted itself before that of course).
This was going to be exhausting both physically and psychologically.
We immediately reverted to 3h on watch shift, probably one of the most exhausting schemes for double-handed sailing.
John took over the first watch while I tried desperately to fall asleep for 3 hours. This was interrupted a few times to assist John's efforts of clearing the rudder, not a big deal given I had good naps during the morning, so I wasn’t exactly being successful at falling asleep anyway.
It was a difficult night for both of us!
24h daily run 114 nautical miles.
***For anyone that is still a bit confused regarding our autopilot breakage during our Atlantic crossing and wants to know a bit more about the problems and challenges of the Sargassum sea weed bloom, the link below 👇🏼 is a good reading.
***In the spirit of sharing our dreams and experiences we have shared this blog post in the NOFOREIGNLAND.COMwebsite sailors community.