12/05/2009, 80 nautical miles NNE of Cape Verde islands
realized the first problem as I was doing the routine morning check
around deck. I noticed that the plastic pad under the lower fitting for
the wind rudder was damaged. Quickly I also realized that a bolt was
loose. We quickly had to remove the rudder to the wind vane to reduce
the load. There was also some water ingress to the boat through the
broken seal. We bailed out some 20 litres from the engine bay. However,
we didn't know the flowrate as we were not aware when the problem had
started. It didn't seem to be very serious and we could easily cope
with occasional bailing. However, we had lost our back up rudder and
self steering so we were more vulnerable.
We had just come to terms with this situation and decided to press on when the next problem hit. Suddenly we lost the use of the autopilot and all Raymarine instruments. Peter was in the cockpit and quickly took control of the boat. Hans and I were in the area of the course computer (the brain of the autopilot) when it happened. We expected from the start that we may have caused a loose wire somewhere. We had now a more serious problem as we didn't want to hand steer to Barbados.
The course was immediately altered for the Cape Verde islands, some 155 nautical miles to the South East. Peter was on the helm. In parallel Hans and I tried to solve the autopilot problem with the help of Peter McNair and Anders giving advice over the satellite phone. We realised that a "seatalk" fuse had blown and continued to do so as we replaced it. Finally some six hours later, Hans found some loose wiring that had caused the problem. Indeed it all worked again when we tried it.
All going according to plan, we should be in Mindelo on São Vicente by mid afternoon Saturday. It was a rough and wet (!) re-discovery to beat to windward instead of ploughing downwind. The wind had increased to 24 knots from ENE by now and we decided to reduce sail. In the reefing process, I had forgotten the runners, so one main sail batten got caught and broke. One problem seldom comes alone! On the other hand, the sat phone reception problem was solved when we altered course. I am sure our mast must have been obscuring the geo-stationary satellite.
It is now five past one at night and I am on watch. It is important to see these issues in perspective and we were very lucky that it happened only 24 hours sail from Cape Verde. It is not strictly necessary to go there, but I feel it is the right decision. It is prudent and easier to deal with these issues in a harbour. Indeed, we get the chance to see an exciting new place in the world and indeed have a good meal in town. Imelda emphasized that I need to see things in perspective, enjoy and learn when I spoke to her a short while ago. From Mindelo there is approximately 2,000 nautical miles to Barbados which we should be able to do in two weeks.